Album Reviews

I Break Horses – Warnings

(Bella Union) UK release date: 8 May 2020


I Break Horses - WarningsAccording to Maria Lindén, the latest album from I Break Horses came about almost by accident. Whilst putting together a new project where she began to soundtrack her favourite movies, which she watched with the sound turned down, it became evident once she began to put words to her creations that the music she was making lent itself to her more equine pursuits.

The gestation period of Warnings has been long and arduous, with crashed hard drives and deleted recordings leading to Lindén starting from scratch at least once during the writing process. The result of her hard work is an album that is unmistakably I Break Horses, but which occupies a different headspace and sonic sphere to the work the precedes it.

Warnings is a much slower burn than previous albums and in part this is due to the cinematic sketches that form these songs. I Break Horses has always been an atmospheric project, but these songs are essentially soundscapes first and foremost. In fact there are some purely instrumental sections peppered throughout the album that give a woozy sense of place. It could be argued that these breaks in the album disrupt its flow, but the likes of a b s o l u t a m o l l p u n k t e n offer a pure glimpse of Lindén’s original vision and occasionally these instrumentals beg the question – what would have a pure soundtrack styled album have sounded like? On the evidence of what remains, it might have been something along the lines of an electronic Loveless. Perhaps, in time, more of these instrumentals will surface, but for now, these brief snapshots will have to suffice.

Working with producer Chris Coady, I Break Horses embrace the power of slowing things down considerably. Many of the songs rarely get as speedy as a trot, and indeed, the opening track Turn, takes a good nine minutes to slowly detail a dissolving relationship. This, then, is music to get lost in, even when the content is at times worrying and dark.

There are moments when things gee up. I’ll Be The Death Of funnels Kraftwerk through Vangelis and sprinkles a little Duke period Genesis on top for good measure. Kraftwerk also influences the Neon Lights, the other fleet footed track here. The skittering beat and beautifully combined vocals and synths make it one of the more immediate songs; purely because it delivers a dose of energy around the midpoint. Yet it feels a little out of place on an album that embraces slower tempos and hazy musical narratives, something that becomes apparent when it leads into the dreampop of I Live At Night, a song that’s barely there at times.

When Lindén hits the sweet spot, switching between the atmospherics and uplifting tempo and melodies, such as on Baby You Have Travelled For Miles Without Love in your eye the result can be incredibly effective. For the most part, the real gold is to be found in the detail and the more introspective moments. They’re there in the quite majestic Death Engine, which combines the likes of M83, Cocteau Twins and School Of Seven Bells, whilst addressing the subject of suicide and mental health. It’s an emotionally dark and troubling song, but also uplifting and hopeful. It underlines that when I Break Horses get it right, as they often do on Warnings, they can be quite staggering.


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