At the time of writing, Norwegian quintet Highasakite are currently Number 1 in their homeland. Hopes are high then, as they make their way across to the UK with debut album Silent Treatment. On the face of it, it’s plain to see why they’ve enjoyed such success back home. Their songs are, for the most part, melodic, ambitious and expansive over the course of this album, though their frequent indulgences and idiosyncratic quirks become slightly wearing.
Highasakite’s music is unmistakably “big”. This is music to traverse through caverns and across mountainous landscapes, soundtracking epic television dramas. Songs like the six-minute long Hiroshima are indicative of their everything-goes approach, and it’s a dense and expansive sound that they create.
Despite their focus on building up their sound, by far the best thing about Highasakite is the poised and characterful voice of singer Ingrid Helene Havik, whose voice is at the centre of everything that’s good about Silent Treatment, particularly on the stirring, wistful opening ballad Lover, Where Do You Live? This lovely moment of relative subtlety is rarely repeated however, as the band indulge themselves in ever more florid and grand arrangements. I, The Hand Grenade’s booming ’80s style drums provide backing for a morose epic, while single Since Last Wednesday makes every effort to take off riding in on a pounding beat, yet its ebullient skipping nature cannot mask the feeling that they’d be better stripping everything right back to basics. The song is fettered with rousing strings, superfluous organ and all manner of instrumental flourishes akin to early Arcade Fire, when really all you want to hear is Havik’s voice unadorned.
As the music is enveloped by an all-encompassing approach to sound, the lyrical content can be easily missed. Harvik has described the album as being a romantic record. While the lyrics often describe relationships both tortured and blissful, the effect is ever so slightly lost within the cluttered, fussy arrangements. The influence of choirs and orchestras is very much felt within the expansive music here. You’re left feeling either overwhelmed or, even worse, disinterested. Perhaps it would have been better for Highasakite to make their UK introduction with something a little less grand and ornate.
For, when Highasakite do try a little restraint, they are far more successful. The strangely titled Darth Vader is a perfectly formed piece of joy, showing how they can construct a nice, annoyingly catchy pop song. All the endearing quirks in Havik’s voice come to the fore here. It’s disappointing then following this high that the album peters out with the drab and dreary emoting of The Man On The Ferry and Science & Blood Tests.
Somewhere within Highasakite there is an excellent pop group seeking to get out. Silent Treatment is an album that is certainly bursting with ambition, but that ambition seems at this point in time to be to the detriment of the songs.