First drama-loaded album from Swedish quintet Thus:Owls, Cardiac Malformations is a masterly directed, dark and poignant, sad yet heart-warming pop record.
The velvet curtain slowly unfolds. Still in a vast desertic plain stands the dark tent of a macabre circus. Swedish ringmistress Erika Alexandersson has convoked her gifted troupe, while the demons of Danny Elfman and Sufjan Stevens glide and twirl in the distance. The bluesy guitar of Erika’s sweetheart Simon Angell (from Patrick Watson’s excellent Wooden Arms) fades in winds and woods. Grief is heavily palpable, though we ignore whom or what is mourned. “I’m so very far from home”. Where’s home anyway? Montreal? Stockholm? Asgard? Dragging drum rolls, choral laments. Even when colors get brighter, the tone remains grave. Hearts burn with love.
Listen to “Climbing The Fjelds Of Norway“:
“Sometimes” hands clap, moods swing. Erika ushers, playfully squeaks, heartily screams. She’s a child again. “Sometimes I find myself shrunk half my size, screaming things I never meant to.” As she grows up again, she kindly proposes: “leave your head in my knee, leave your thoughts in my knee, and let your shoulders rest from the weight.” Isn’t she lovely? Sweet lullaby. Gling Gló?
Halfway through the experience, a strong, straightforward piece: “When She Arrived”. Who’s “she” anyway? Woman, child, seducing, caring, feeling, acting and telling stories, sneaking away just when you think you could catch her. While it’s more than easy to be charmed by the frontwoman’s great vocals, Thus:Owls really is all about the symbiosis of its 5 accomplished musicians. Erika’s choirs are just one of the fine ingredients at play, just as is the pulsing double bass of Martin Höper or the piano of Cecilia Persson. Backed by the low percussions of Ola Hultgren, the whole slowly build up to a brass momentum.
While electricity has been unleashed on “Let Your Blood Run”, tormented spirits are eventually eased by a gentle xylophone that nicely weaves an enthralling pattern with the bass drums and a bowed double bass. “A Volcano In My Chest” (Cardiac Malformation?)– Where the worlds of Sidsel Endresen, Björk and Heliogabale collide. Beware of the ashes! Thus:Owls obviously have a stunning ability to swing from sweet jazz ballads to pinches of harsh noise to cabaret in no time. And to elevate themselves again into pathos-loaded fields again. “Once you left this land, you arose to the gods.” Final scene – The wind loudly whispers, caresses the waves and vanishes in “The Atlantic”. The curtain slowly falls, exorcised demons have gone back to Muspelheim, you can lay your head back on my knees and rest in peace.
Buy Cardiac Malformations from Almost Music (Digital) or from your usual record store.