Release Date-Apr 2, 2007
Review-Rykestrasse 68 is the new album from the Norwegian singer-songwriter, who received critical admiration for her 2005 debut, Little Things.
Having relocated to Berlin to record this, her second album, Hukkelberg has maintained the melodic delicacy and sleepy seductiveness and - no doubt inspired by Germany's capital - bolstered them with crosscurrents of emotional turbulence, conflicts and turmoil.
The scene is set as opener Berlin ("my neighbour's balcony / old bullet holes / behind wild botany") weaves ambient street recordings through a subtle mix of strings and woodwinds, while Hukkelberg's elegant voice breaks casually through the din.
Returning from his work on Little Things, veteran producer Kåre Vestrheim encourages Hukkelberg to incorporate stray objects into the dense arrangements, allowing the additional sound effects to flourish and retain their natural form. Under such an adventurous arrangement disparate objects like a typewriter and a cat are allowed to achieve maximum dramatic impact. Such composition works best on the atmospheric The North Wind, which is deftly augmented by clacking typewriter keys and glistening wine-glass glissandos.
The dusky version of Pixies' Break My Body writhes fiercely under Hukkelberg's deliberate jazz-inflected intonation, giving fresh intensity to the song's abstract violence. More abstract still is Ticking Bomb, which transposes a thick cipher of distress across a shifting canvas of acerbated piano, Mule Variations-style percussion and broken beer bottles.
As a vocalist, Hukkelberg is at her best on the deceptively scruffy groove of A Cheater's Armoury, as she utters, "you gamester / you fool us / we watch your spinning wheel / and the longer it takes for us to heal". It's left deliberately unclear whether she's admonishing a lover, a friend or a political leader. Then there's the existential narrative of The Pirate, where the woozy blend of accordion and piano effectively mirror the downcast lyrics with a seasick lurch.
Just as with the immaculate Little Things, Hukkelberg proves willing to allow a little discord into her carefully orchestrated surroundings, and her captivating work is all the richer for it. But, perhaps as a product of her relocation, Rykestrasse 68 is grander and more continental than her debut.
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