Just about every review I've read of the record mentions another great female singer on Rune Grammofon, Susanna Wallumrød (Susanna & the Magical Orchestra), and though both she and Langgård both have gorgeous voices and make music that's almost as quiet as it is gentle, the similarities kind of end there. Some reviews bring up Nico, Sandy Denny, Vashti Bunyan, and Kate Bush, and while I can understand those points of reference, they don't get at the specific, peculiar beauty of Phaedra either. Langgård, a graduate of the Oslo National Academy of the Arts who's worked previously in film, photography, and installation work, got help on The Sea from Frode Jacobsen of popular Norwegian rock band Madrugada. The elaborate but generously spacious arrangements are distinguished by their delicacy, and the sound palette reaches far beyond folk.Nino Rota created for Franco Zeffirelli's version of Romeo and Juliet, particularly in the way period ideas were hybridized with modern melodic motifs.
Of course, even the Rota is inadequate as a reference point, but does it really matter? This is one of the year's loveliest, most striking albums, unlike anything I've heard in years. And The Sea is the first in a planned trilogy of albums—bring 'em on. Below you can check out the arresting opening track.
Phaedra: "Death Will Come":
Fred Hersch Trio, Whirl (Palmetto)
Ben Monder and Bill McHenry, Bloom (Sunnyside)
Zola Jesus, Stridulum (Sacred Bones)
Cibelle, Las Venus Resort Palace Hotel (Crammed Discs)
Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch, What Is Known (Clean Feed)