14 April 2012
Review: CHOIR OF YOUNG BELIEVERS - Rhine Gold
Album: Rhine Gold
Label: Ghostly International
Genre: Indie Pop/Folk/Experimental
Release date: 9 April 2012
When I think of Denmark I think of vikings, traditional village towns, Princess Mary, and Lars Von Trier. I don't usually associate Denmark with good indie music. But it looks like I'm going to have to change that, after listening to Choir of Young Believers' sophomore album, Rhine Gold. It's a symphonic, avant-garde and strikingly beautiful record. To be fair, it does seem a little cold and isolating at first. But once you get to your third or fourth listen, the many layers of warmth, charm and intense artistry wrapped up in the record start to reveal themselves.
The album opens with the fragile, dark, seven minute long track, 'The Third Time', which takes a long time to unfold. But when those strings kick in, around two and a half minutes in, you know that sticking out for the whole length is going to be worth it. After that, listeners are treated to the album's most upbeat track - 'Patricia's Thirst'. It's a rather unexpected turn of events, because Choir of Young Believers really prefer to slow things down, if the rest of the album is anything to go by, only lifting their gloomy, pensive facade for a few blink-and-you'll-miss it moments. Only on the tracks 'Sedated', 'Paint New Horrors' and the folksy, jangly 'Nye Nummer Et' (which translates to 'First New Song' in Danish) do the band really return to this faster pace.
My favourite track on the album is easily 'Have I Ever Truly Been Here'. It's a desolate, ambient, ghostly song, that punctuates the middle of the album, almost dividing it in half. It demands your attention. In it, lead vocalist Jannis Noya Makrigiannis sings of rejecting material comforts in order to be free - "You showed me medicine/Cause you wanted to know what it meant to me/It means you were never free/Rip, rip it out in front/Throw it all away/Throw as far as you can." It connects beautifully with the overall themes of the record - introspection, melancholy, and the inevitability of change.
Overall, Rhine Gold is a wonderful treasure of a record, that I will definitely be looking back to whenever I'm in the mood for wistfulness or rumination. Choir of Young Believers are clearly overflowing with talent, and they have almost entirely redefined how I view music from Denmark, all on their own.
Final recommendation: People who will enjoy Rhine Gold are those who prefer their music to be a little more highbrow and cultured than the usual masses. But despite that, it still comes highly recommended. It's worth investing some time in to, because it gets better with repeat listens. Easily the best experimental, slow-burn album I've heard so far this year.
Choir of Young Believers - Nye Nummer Et by ghostly