Posts Tagged ‘Maria Lindén’

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Stylistic shifts have been the norm for Sweden’s I Break Horses – from the traditional rock sound of Hearts, their debut from almost a decade ago, to the electronic synthpop of its follow up Chiaroscuro in 2014. Both commendable releases, they were always an act searching for a sound that truly fit their ambitions, a search this sepia-tinged, darkly cinematic release has concluded.

More than ever a solo vehicle for Maria Lindén, this is the most focused I Break Horses record to date and follows a troublesome gestation period with a back story of failed collaborations and music lost on broken hard drives. Initial sketches for the record were created as imaginary scores while watching her favourite films with the sound turned down, and these dramatic ambient pieces were used as a blueprint for the record. The original intention of an instrumental album is evident in its wide-reaching ambition and tricksy intricate detailing pushed to the fore by Lindén; her voice is used more as an atmosphere, a distant hush throughout. “Warnings” has a desaturated gloom. A feeling of colour rushing from you and filling the sky. Its long halls of reverb and empty spaceships of delay somehow encapsulates the stillness you get before a panic attack and that calm as you faint.

At times, it’s a record that luxuriates in wondering what if you had wandered up a crumbling path to a parallel world. A place that’s now just out of reach.

In almost any other year, this would be my album of the year and it was definitely my salvation for many weeks of it. Maybe the only reason it isn’t top of the tree is because the 500% slowed grooves matched my mood almost too well… and I wish it didn’t resonate so deeply. 

Lyrically musing on love and loss, on opening track “Turn” she delivers one of the year’s most direct observations on the futility of keeping a broken relationship alive: “Maybe we’re fucking with absent minds / While our hearts are breaking.” Musically venturing into new areas such as thunderous trip-hop beats, propulsive arpeggiated basslines, swirling dreampop with hypnotic synth chords, introspective coldwave, and on highlight “Neon Lights” she takes the flatness of krautrock and sprinkles it with an ’80s pop fizz, all done with a deft touch. 

If I Break Horses’s third album holds you in its grip like a great film, it’s no coincidence. Faced with making the follow-up to 2014’s plush Chiaroscuro, Horses’s Maria Lindén decided to take the time to make something different, with an emphasis on instrumental, cinematic music. As she watched a collection of favourite films on her computer (sound muted) and made her own soundtrack sketches, these sonic workouts gradually evolved into something more: “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” says Lindén, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.”

That album is Warnings, an intimate and sublimely expansive return that, as its recording suggests, sets its own pace with the intuitive power of a much-loved movie. And, as its title suggests, its sumptuous sound worlds – dreamy mellotrons, haunting loops, analogue synths – and layered lyrics crackle with immersive dramatic tensions on many levels. “It’s not a political album,” says Lindén, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.”

As Lindén notes, the process of making Warnings involved different kinds of dramas. “It has been some time in the making. About five years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home…”

Yet the pay-off for her long-haul immersion is clear from statement-of-intent album opener ‘Turn’, a waltzing kiss-off to an ex swathed in swirling synths over nine emotive minutes. On ‘Silence’, Lindén suggests deeper sorrows in the interplay of serene surface synths, hypnotic loops and elemental images: when she sings “I feel a shiver,” you feel it, too.

Elsewhere, on three instrumental interludes, Lindén’s intent to experiment with sound and structure is clear. Meanwhile, there are art-pop songs here more lush than any she has made. ‘I’ll Be the Death of You’ occupies a middle ground between Screamedelica and early OMD, while ‘Neon Lights’ brings to mind Kraftwerk on Tron’s light grid. ‘I Live At Night’ slow-burns like a song made for night-time LA drives; ‘Baby You Have Travelled for Miles without Love in Your Eyes’ is an electronic lullaby spiked with troubling needle imagery. ‘Death Engine’’s dark-wave dream-pop provides an epic centrepiece, of sorts, before the vocoder hymnal of closer ‘Depression Tourist’ arrives like an epiphany, the clouds parting after a long, absorbing journey.

For Lindén, Warnings is a remarkable re-routing of a journey begun when I Break Horses’s debut album, Hearts (2011), drew praise from Pitchfork, The Guardian, NME, The Independent and others for its luxurious grandeur and pulsing sense of art-pop life. With the electro-tangents of 2014’s Chiaroscuro, Lindén forged a new, more ambitious voice with total confidence. Along the way, I Break Horses have toured with M83 and Sigur Rós; latterly, U2 played Hearts’ ecstatic ‘Winter Beats’ through the PA before their stage entrance on 2018’s ‘Experience + Innocence’ tour. Good choice.

A new friend on Warnings is US producer/mixing engineer Chris Coady, whose graceful way with dense sound (credits include Beach House, TV on the Radio) was not the sole reason Lindén invited him to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures.’ And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”

If making Warnings was a slow process, so be it: that steady gestation was a price worth paying for its lavish accretions of detail and meaning, where secrets aplenty await listeners eager to immerse themselves. “Nowadays, the attention span equals nothing when it comes to how most people consume music,” Lindén says. “And it feels like songs are getting shorter, more ‘efficient’. I felt an urge to go against that and create an album journey from start to finish that takes time and patience to listen to. Like, slow the fuck down!” Happily, Warnings provides all the incentives required.

Releases May 8th, 2020

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I Break Horses is the musical project led by Maria Lindén. From her Stockholm base, the Swedish artist delivered an extraordinary debut album in the shape of ‘Hearts’, released by Bella Union in August 2011. Having last week announced their return via the track ‘Death Engine’, today I Break Horses have unveiled a visually striking video for new single ‘I’ll Be The Death Of You’ from their upcoming third LP Warnings, released 8th May via Bella Union Records

There’s a certain thrill in putting a playlist of your favorite songs on shuffle and eagerly anticipating what comes up next. But as I grow older and less exciting, I’m finding that there’s also a certain thrill in listening to the same song repeatedly—a practice made particularly easy when the song is approximately five minutes long, generally hypnotic, and never really progresses at any point. “I’ll Be the Death of You” is this idyllic type of song in its purest form, comprised of lullaby vocals and flatlined synth beats upbeat enough to never get stale. The softcore homicidal lyrics are pretty cool, too.

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The Swedish dreampop artist I Break Horses (aka Maria Lindén) will release new album “Warnings”, It’s her first in six years, on May 8th via Bella Union/PIAS. “It’s not a political album,” says Lindén, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.” With this news comes the album’s first single, the ethereal and rather epic “Death Engine,’ as well as its video which Linden made herself.

She says: it’s been a while since the last album. Some of you might say it’s taken ages, others might not have been giving it much thought at all. Time is a slippery bastard.

However, I needed time to focus on what I really wanted. And that was to create the most intimate and sincere songs I felt I had in me. And I wanted to give them to you.
So this one is for all of you out there who have ever shown your appreciation for my music. If you have ever expressed your love in any of the channels, have been part of the audience at one of our live shows, or ever downloaded one of my tracks to help you get through the day.

This is the first track from the forthcoming album “Warnings”, released on Bella Union/PIAS on the 8th May 2020