Sophie Hunger has never been anything other than an intriguing proposition, ever since her debut release Sketches On Sea, back in 2007. Then, the Swiss singer/songwriter specialised in hushed acoustic folk, but since then she’s very much evolved.
Over the years she’s changed her sound so much that Halluzinationen skews far more towards experimental electronica – the fact that it was apparently recorded in live continuous takes lends it a sense of urgency that becomes quite captivating to listen to. There may be no guest spot from Eric Cantona this time around (the footballer and sometime actor made an unlikely appearance on 2015’s Supermoon) but Hunger still manages to make an album quite unlike any other you’ll hear this year.
It’s a multilingual record for one thing, with several tracks being sung in German, and she’s as adept at switching musical styles as she is languages. The opening tracks, Liquid Air and Finde Mich pull you into the record in a louche, beguiling manner, mid-tempo piano songs that almost bring to mind Air.
But it’s when the nervy, skittering beats of the title track kick in that it becomes clear how big a step forward Halluzinationen is for Hunger. Dan Carey, embellishing his growing reputation as one of the country’s foremost producers after recent work with Fontaines DC and Kae Tempest, seems to imbue the more frantic tracks with a nervous energy that pulses through the speakers.
Possibly the album’s standout track, Alpha Venom is a good example of how Hunger feeds on that nervous energy. There’s an almost relentless propulsion to the song as she sings “don’t forget who makes the music” before the pay-off line of “I’m the one who makes the music” as all manner of sounds squelch and squeal behind her.
The album’s quieter moments work just as well. Maria Magdalena is a swooping piano ballad, reminiscent of Regina Spektor not just in melody but also in Hunger’s vocal delivery. Sometimes the swing in styles can be jarring, like when the hushed and sad Rote Beeten aus Arsen suddenly gives way to the upbeat synths of Everything Is Good. Even then though, the latter is so infectiously catchy that you just get swept along with it.
Stranger ends the album on a hushed note, a deceptively pretty track that concludes with a choir of multi-tracked vocals from Hunger providing a choral backdrop. Halluzinationen is a complex album, with much to offer to those who are willing to spend some time with it. Hunger’s seventh album marks out an artist sticking to her own path and sounding stronger than ever.