As Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago has this year already demonstrated, isolation can produce some beautiful music. Anyone in need of further convincing need look no further than to Our Broken Garden, the solo project of Efterklang‘s Anna Broensted.
Her acclaimed EP Lost Sailor was borne of a voyage across the Atlantic in a sailing boat, and this much anticipated follow-up, When Your Blackening Shows, was conceived of against the equally desolate backdrop of an abandoned village school in the Danish woodlands.
The album is anchored in much the same theme as Lost Sailor, its nautical symbology and slow, lilting rythmn giving a lingering impression of floating on the very calmest of waters, buoyed by alluring siren-like vocals.
Though Broensted can claim the credit for these, and indeed for the composition of each track, the album’s mesmeric tendencies owe equally to the minimal yet eloquent orchestration of bandmates Søren Bigum and Moogie Johnson. Like a half-remembered dream, delicate melodies drift by in a haze of strings, chimes and electronic effects courtesy of a Hammond organ, the sparse soundscape conveying an overwhelming sense of the isolation it was conceived in. The effect is by turns poignant and profoundly unsettling – especially in the standout title track, which, as its name might suggest, is the darkest of this melancholic collection.
Yet this is the only real distinction that can be made: while Broensted’s hauntingly childlike vocals are affecting (and in this way strikingly reminiscent of Björk), she hesitates to stray from a limited range. As such each song is barely descernible from the next; the relentless serenity and languid tempo blurring boundaries still further.
A little diversity could have made this record something wonderful. Instead it only ever achieves a quite pleasant ambience: a beautiful blur of mournful introspection it is, but – dare I say it? – it’s also just a little bit boring.