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Music Review: Kate Havnevik – Melankton

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Kate Havneik sings ethereal, moody songs that drift off into dreamy places. Her voice is reminiscent of Bjork and Dido. Like those women, she has an unidentifiable European inflection that gives everything a slightly alien feel. On some songs, this creates really memorable moments, on others, she drifts a bit too close to generic trip hop territory.

When I first listened to the album, I wasn’t particularly impressed. It played and the songs bled together in a sea of ambient trip hop. I like a lot of work in the genre, but not so much that I feel there is a need for someone who isn’t doing anything particularly new.

After listening the album a few more times, I started to get into it more. She doesn’t have the immediate song hooks of someone like Dido, instead her songs focus more on atmosphere. The album’s highlight, “Kaleidoscope” doesn’t have a traditional chorus, it’s just her repeating “In your kaleidoscope… kaleidoscope… kaleidoscope,” but this simple chorus is mixed with a more traditional verse and driving instrumental backing to create a fantastic single. That track really stands out, and would fit perfectly on a cool down playlist, alongside some air and Bjork for after you get back from a club.

That song has a more electronic flavor, others like “Sleepless” go for a slightly orchestral feel. There’s still a lot of electronic textures, but plucked strings and xylophone are what shimmer above the surface, providing the hook for your ear. It ultimately gets a bit repetitive. It’s a moody piece, but it doesn’t go anywhere. That’s the major issue with the album, at an hour long, there’s too many tracks that just hang there. It’s good for background listening, but doesn’t stand out on its own.

“I Don’t Know You” is a hookier song, full of drama and swirling strings. That track is fantastic, and makes me wonder what the album could have been like if she had gone for more dramatic song structures all around, and dropped the more ambient tracks. I do like the ambient stuff, but there’s moments when the album really gets going, then it’s slowed by the more relaxed stuff. It’s not an easy problem to resolve, frontloading the more melodic songs would make the second half drag, but interspersed it can be frustrating at times to get, then lose momentum.

Even though I prefer the more driving, emotional songs, there’s great textures throughout. Once you get a few listens in, it’s easier to latch on to things within the song and follow even the more minimal stuff. Her voice can be quite powerful and reach a variety of sounds and textures. It’s not the most groundbreaking music, but it’s a fine addition to the genre. “Kaleidoscope” is definitely worth a look, and the rest of the album isn’t bad either.

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