The poles are a very interesting region of the world. Many a story has been set on those desolate areas, so interesting for their scientific value, so amazing for their fauna. Doctor Who‘s The Seeds of Doom, The Thing and many other use the icy landscapes as a backdrop to tell one heckuva story.
So here comes I’m Kingfisher, a Swedish musician, who brings us a wonderful (but creepy) album called Arctic. Part of a conceptual trilogy, it’s folky but with some synth goodness to pull the rug (polar bear shaped, of course) from beneath your feet.
A very stark fingerpicked intro flows into a soothing, dreamy set of chords. The voice of Thomas Denver Jonsson is so good, full of longing and sadness. There really isn’t need of several instruments, just an acoustic and his voice. There’s a couple of overdubs (including a chunky guitar) but that’s it. It’s a slightly minimalistic approach although there’s no empty spaces in any of the songs. Great intro track.
‘Svalbard’ and ‘Feline Funeral’ are two contrasting tracks. In fact, they are not contrasting, they complement each other. The former is upbeat and full of pep. The latter is very melancholic (all about that violin layered to ‘s voice). It’s a stark moment that sobers you up from any happy thoughts that might try to take flight…and it does, for a few moments before crashing back into the icy floor. The brass section took me by surprise (oops, spoiler alert). ‘Feline funeral’ is beautiful and you can’t believe so many ideas fit together so well in less than 3 minutes.
That’s the beauty of Arctic: there’s enough darkness in the understated music, but there will be little surprises here and there to keep you interested in bite-sized portions. In fact, let me get geeky: Doctor Who‘s nemesis, the Master, has a weapon called Tissue Compressor Eliminator, which miniaturises people. Songs in these album seem to have been affected by such weapon: they are fully formed but short.
‘Deer theatre’ is easily my fave of the bunch (but it was a close call with ‘Willing night plants’ and its sexy keyboard). All songs in the album (except this one) are 3 minutes long (or less) but on ‘Deer theatre’, I’m Kingfisher goes to town. You get seven minutes of wonderful, terrifying musical ideas and the perfect score for a devastating horrible blizzard tearing the place a new one (or a monster chasing Kurt Russell…or Tom Baker).
The bluesy ‘Arctic Fox too majestic for this tundra’ is a playful little number a sweet moment of respite between the starkness of ‘Twin Sorrow’ and ‘The Whale Hunt’. Both numbers are pretty good, but you do need this moment of happiness to take on the sorrow-filled songs. Speaking of ‘The Whale Hunt’, the electronic atmospheres are simply wonderful, shining out like little Aurora Borealis out of your speakers.
So what is the concept of I’m Kingfisher’s Arctic series of albums? Hard to say on this first release of said trilogy, but it’s a good first act. Many an interesting real-life story (and tragedy) have the Arctic as the setting. Robert Peary and Fridtjof Nansen‘s exploration race (Arctic fox reference, maybe?). Sir John Franklin‘s doomed expedition (still breaks my heart). Captain America getting popsicled while saving us from some random Nazi. The Mighty Boosh and their tundra song. All good stories. Let’s hope I’m Kingfisher continues this one.