There seems to be a new, irresistible, if rather gentle force blowing in from Sweden. Downbeat electro-pop duo Niki And The Dove are amongst the hottest tips for 2012, Lyyke Li has produced one of the albums of the year with Wounded Rhymes, while Robyn is now the poster-girl for feel-bad heartbroken disco.
Ane Brun is from Norway, but is pretty much an honourary Swede, having lived in Stockholm for the past decade. Her fourth album, It All Starts With One, could well be a major breakthrough for her, coming as it does on the back of tours with the likes of Peter Gabriel and Ani DiFranco.
Brun’s sound has developed from her original folk and blues influences, with more orchestration present and, on the single Do You Remember, a frantic burst of tribal percussion. Yet it remains Brun’s voice that’s the focus, a marvellously clear, sometimes tremulous instrument capable of transmitting so much emotion with a single syllable.
The guest spots on the album help to flesh out the sometimes spectral, minimal atmosphere. The aforementioned Do You Remember is a particular surprise, with a truly massive drum sound and backing vocals courtesy of the young Swedish folk siblings First Aid Kit. Its irresistible rhythm is reminiscent of Lyyke Li’s Get Some, which isn’t so surprising when you discover that Li’s drummer Per Eklund has a credit.
Even better is the appearance of José González who lends his unmistakably downbeat vocals to Worship. He blends beautifully with Brun’s similarly paced voice and, over a stately six minutes, gently produces one of the best moments of the album. The similarly gorgeous Oh Love is also a standout, an acoustic ballad lifted to a higher plane by a lovely, subtle string arrangement.
Although the mood is generally sparse and low key, there’s a dramatic flourish to One which brings an almost cabaret feel to proceedings – that segues nicely into sister track The Light From One, both tracks being inspired by the Arab Spring wave of demonstrations earlier this year.
Undertow closes the album, simply Brun’s voice accompanied by a stark piano and occasional rolling drums. It’s the perfect end to a blissfully gorgeous album – one that showcases Ane Brun as being at the forefront of the new wave of Scandinavian pop music.