The murmured lyrics of the song sound so familiar, but it’s played at such a slow speed and with so subtle an electronic accompaniment, that identification – it turns out to be Dolly Parton’s classic ‘Jolene’ – is accompanied by a shock of recognition. It’s no longer a fluttery country number but a song where the emotion is stretched to the end of its tether. Even the voice sounds abandoned.
Susanna Wallumrod and her magical keyboard player Morten Qvenild are the latest musicians to join the select band of artists who are making Norway such a huge presence on a purposely ill-defined music scene that takes in jazz, dance and experimental music. Many of them – singer Sidsel Endressen, improv band Supersilent or the multifaceted Kim Hiorthoy – are grouped around Rune Grammofon, a label that combines an iconoclastic breadth of musical vision with peerless design sense.
So far much of the label’s output has been acclaimed niche material. List of Lights and Buoys, the Magical Orchestra’s ambitious début album, has an inventive delicacy that could capture the Björk market. Given a lightness of production by Andreas (aka Jaga Jazzist) and Helge ‘Deathprod’ Sten, List nevertheless punches above its weight. Its dramas and nuances are subtle in the extreme, and songs like ‘Believer’ and ‘Distance Blues and Theory’ work on the less-is-more principle.Louise Gray