reviews- Inga Liljestrom’s elk

CD of the Week “The debut album from Inga Liljestrom is set to blow a lot of people away; dripping in emotion it is nothing short of magic. Liljestrom has a voice that is very rich in texture and that wouldn’t seem out of place with Lou Rhodes or Beth Gibbons. Backed by an amazing band, the album shows the depth and maturity that well seasoned muscians are capable of. The album will etch itself on your soul and leave you falling in a dream world created by poetic, but very audible, lyrics. There is not a bad or below-par track on this album, each track fitting with each other perfectly. Phoenix is the stand out track; imagine being tossed around by a storm of strings, bass and drums, all held together by a voice that expresses so much with so little effort. Inga’s voice is a fresh sound that is crying to be heard; this album will not disappoint.”(Benjamin Chinnock, The Brag Magazine, Australia)

Brilliant composing, unbelievable string arrangements…Inga’s emotional voice shines on the new movie-like album Elk…”(Trip 404, Finland)

CD Of The Week – 4 Stars. With her sultry vocal delivery set against a cinematic musical backdrop, Inga Liljestrom effortlessly takes jazz syncopations and marries them with the racier elements of pure electro to create what is one of the finest local releases of the year. Liljestrom’s breathy tone is the catalyst to the expansive nature of Elk. It’s lush and atmospheric, dripping with melancholy but never weighed down by its emotive delivery. The opening track ‘Film Noir’, is the standout – the layered production the perfect foil for Liljestrom’s descriptive lyrics. But really the album is consistently good across all twelve tracks, suggesting that we have a new star within our midst.” (Zolton Zavos, The Brag Magazine, Australia)

4 Stars “Inga Liljestrom’s voice tickles angels’ ears…Whether it’s flirting with string crescendos that bound over the subtlest electronic programming (Film Noir) or delivering haunted folk over lonely guitar (All Of This), her sultry voice of yesteryear is the mesmerising centerpiece. It slides from dark grooves to delicate whispers, turning simple poetry into the ultimate dark romantic soundtrack. From the subtle manipulation of Knotted to the delayed echoes of Lira, this jazz-trained Sydney singer raises gooseflesh.” (Chloe Sasson, Metro, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia)

Inga Liljestrom

“…What a triumph! …This… is just something else… A long player… of timeless beauty [that] proves Liljeström as a talent who could well stand proudly next to a LouRhodes or similarly ‘difficult’ (in the pop sense) chanteuse. The instrumentation on the album is phenomenal thanks to the likes of Cam ‘The Chameleon’ Undy and a host of others like Tim Rollinson, Sloth and Haydn Walker. Has anyone noticed how the phrase ‘it’s good for Australian’ is now redundant?” (DJ Huwston, 3D World Magazine, Australia)

“…A beautifully layered atmospheric pop album….She manges to balance her dark and emotive songwriting with an orchestral depth, with neither dominating the other… In a league of her own…” 5/5 (Hamish Ta-Me, Crema Magazine, Australia)

“Australia’s Inga Liljestrom makes utterly gorgeous electronic music. The aptly titled opener Film Noir sees her lovely vocal competing for attention with some strings that resemble those on Bjork’s Vespertine. Lira sees her singing to a trip hoppy backing. It sounds a lot like the aforementioned Icelandic star. The acoustic All of This adds a nice folky touch to the record. The bare accompaniment brings out the best in Liljestrom’s voice. Diamond Horseshoe is like a torch song for the modern era with some flawless singing and a nice whistled bit. This record is fabulous and Inga Liljestrom deserves to be heard by many.” (Anna Maria Stjarnell, Collected Sounds, USA)

“Sydney-based Inga beat London-based Goldfrapp to this noir-shrouded matinee romanticism by several years, and so it is chronologically incorrect to compare her to the more well-known act. Earlier trailblazers were Marianne Faithfull with (more barbed, austere) Brecht forays, and Kate Bush with the darker side of her wuthering heights. The first two tracks are alluring, candlelit songs with the chorus quite clearly signposted, and so shouldn’t end up in the too-hard basket at FM radio. At core, this is swathes of moonlit texture sometimes propelled by machine pulse drums and acoustic bass, rippled with thematic strings and chimed by slide guitar, over which Inga whispers, croons and intones lyrics that are a collision of ethereal and existential. Crushed roses and drawn velvet curtains melancholia, but in the worthy cause of risque passion. Just when you think it’s a bit staged, a trifle mannered, and could she conjure this atmos in a stripped unplugged environment, she does just that. On the stark ‘All Of This’, with a sprinkling of acoustic guitar, and later on ’29 Poisons’ with picked jazzy guitar, and over shimmering tremolo guitar in the first verse of ‘Bullet’, an exquisite portrayal of unrequited yearn; and the closing track, ‘Stolen’, an eerie eclipse of sun-warmed strings over frozen emotions. A record that unravels slowly but is instantly inviting and intriguing, and should bring this singer a wider international audience.” (Leslie Sly, Sound & Image Magazine, Australia)

“Having a track record for sterling vocal contributions on albums for groups and artists such as ENS, Friendly and Gerling, Inga Liljestrom has a lengthy resume and she refocuses her efforts on the creation of this solo recording. This refocusing has produced some powerful, emotive results… The dreamy qualities of ‘Lira’ for instance create a mightily seductive musical world with rich colour and texture. Equally ‘Deer’ featuring some gently floating loops and hypnotic harp work from Clare Cooper, evokes a strong sense of cinematic audio.” (Lawrence English, Time-Off magazine, Australia)

“Sydney-based singer-songwriter Inga Liljestrom wears her influence on her sleeve: ” Imagine Bjork, Portishead, Lamb & Goldfrapp all bleeding from the same lips,” proclaims the sticker on the cover of her CD, Elk. Inadvertent menstrual images to one side, this accurately sums up the music Liljestrom draws on and aspires to; Bjork’s sudden divergences, Portishead’s moodiness, Goldfrapp’s vocal styling, and Lamb’s jittery, broken beats. There’s no doubt Liljestrom’s ambition. Like Bjork at her genre-bending best, Liljestrom tries to unite disparate elements into something fresh and new. Swooping orchestral fragments are spliced to jagged beats, and soundtracky atmospherics are wedded to a witchy aesthetic. The results are mixed, but always interesting. Triple J listeners will have heard Liljestrom’s first single, Phoenix, a rich, dramatic song. Cello, honeyed vocals, and odd Twilight Zone background effects create a layered, attention-grabbing four minutes. This is Liljestrom at her best, and it’s tantalising… Vivid and inventive…(Simon Williamson, Beat Magazina, Australia)

“Inga Liljestrom’s … release, Elk, is about as far as possible from the sound of the Australian summer we’re about to enter. Although Liljeström is a native, musically she is somewhere north of Norway. A fog of ominous strings swirls around fractured electronic beats, jazz-tempered double bass glides below like dark shapes under an ice floe and voices echo sonar-like from afar. On top of it all is one of the most arresting voices I’ve heard in a long time. Comparisons with Bjork are inevitable, but inadequate; Liljestrom’s voice does recall her fragility and other-worldliness but is richer and more sensual – imagine Martina Topley-Bird fronting Portishead. The clue to the mood here is in the first song’s title: Film Noir. There’s a prevailing darkness in the songs, tempered by impressionistic lyrics of love and longing and the shaft of light from the single, Phoenix. The sound is lush and three-dimensional – musical cinema. Elk is un-Australian (in the best possible way), but one of the most exciting releases of the year.” (Dave Curry, The Canberra Times, Australia)

8/10 “From the first sigh of the violins that open this mesmerizing album, you will be trapped and enchanted by Elk. Inga Liljeström attracts comparisons to Portishead, Björk, Lamb, Goldfrapp, Beth Orton; all are warranted. Her talent is immense. From the delicate, fragile and otherworldly poetry of her lyrics, to her ghostly, sensual voice, to the skillful and evocative arranging, Liljeström displays an imagination and inspiration that sees her take Elk to soaring heights and sultry depths. Phoenix is dazzling: cello and violins arcing over industrial sighs and breathy silences, all held together by Inga’s astounding voice, gracefully reaching clear highs and husky lows. Your skin will quiver and your heart will rise with the soaring chorus: it is an incredibly beautiful song. Liljeström has worked with an array of musicians, combining an orchestral element with the wonders of electronic sounds. Stunningly mastered, Elk is as clear and crisp as a sharp wind through forest, without sacrificing any mystery or atmosphere. It is not surprising to learn Liljeström has worked as a cinema composer. Her songs have a rich visual element, and are extremely evocative. Liljeström has worked in the Australian music scene for many years: with Elk she is bound to receive the critical acclaim and public appreciation she richly deserves.”(Shannon, 3D World Magazine, Australia)

“You may not have heard of Australian singer/composer/arranger Inga Liljestrom, but you have probably heard her vocals on Gerling’s Dust Me Selecta. She has also worked with other Australian dance acts but when it comes to her own music, it couldn’t be further away from that style. Welcome to Elk. Right from the sticker on the album cover you are advised of comparisons to Bjork, Portishead, Lamb and Goldfrapp and these are not unfounded, however, I also detect a kinship with Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Moloko (at least vocally). If this isn’t enough, the record company press release suggests further musical benchmarks (Marianne Faithful, Dead Can Dance, David Lynch film scores) and although there are reminiscent elements at work here they are simply doorways in to her music which demonstrates vast talent and originality. The music on Elk consists of impressive and complex arrangements, rich with dark orchestral flourishes that suggest film composers such as Ennio Morricone, Angelo Badalamenti and Bernard Herrmann (it comes as little surprise to learn that Liljestrom is also a film composer). Although her style is cinematic and opulent it is also beautifully restrained. Orchestras swell and drop away completely, fragmented beats are mixed in as needed and as quickly torn out of the mix. She organically melds the orchestral elements with her less-is-more approach making for engaging listening. The complexities of the music are fascinating and deserve an instrumental companion album. It takes a while to warm to the breathy intensity of Liljestrom’s voice yet it suits the delirious soundtrack perfectly. She cleverly balances the drama of tracks such as Phoenix (the first single) and Knotted (should be the second single) against minimal acoustic songs such as 29 Poisons and All Of This. Elk is an intriguing and impressive work that grows with every listen, Liljestrom a talent to watch. (Wayne Davidson, Impress Magazine, Australia)

Highly Recomended “Elk is a sublime concoction of equal parts atmosphere and musicality. Drenched in a narcotic otherworldliness, it’s as much an interior journey to the deepest extremes of Inga’s musical well – a sort of seductive one-on-one with an inspired mind – as it is an exploration of outdoorsy soundscapes, from widescreen cinematic title sequences, to broad sweeps of upland tundra. Through it all, for all its uber-modern beats and trip-hoppy motifs, there’s a balancing earthiness, a handmade, almost folk-like simplicity that is completely satisfying. She creates sparse, restrained elegance and ecstatic climaxes with equal facility, often in juxtaposition and always dovetailing moods and sounds with savvy ease. Taken as a whole, the 12 songs are like weather stations in a sea of emotion, to chart a course thru shifting moods and dreamscapes. Elk is many-layered and simple at the same time, impressionistic resonances and overtones as important as the detail. That unique voice of Liljestrom is what brings it all together. Blessed with a fragile/strong feel that can whisper intimacies even when filling the soundscape with primal cries, it’s a voice that focuses listeners and draws them in. Perhaps the company she keeps is a pointer to adequately describing Liljestrom’s style. Lloyd Swanton and Cameron Undy play acoustic basses (indeed if Swanton’s The Necks added vocals the result might feel something like parts of this album) and guitarists Tim Rollinson, and Michael Lira, co-arranger Haydn Walker and co-producer Liberty Kerr all represent a substantial musicalness missing on too many contemporary (read fashionable) albums. Sophisticated string arrangements by Inga and others (real strings, even a real harp, no synthesized doodlings here) add filigree touches, never clichéd or pompous. Solo guitar accompaniment contrasts with lush booming voicings. And on it goes, all of it good. That Elk is a (largely) self-penned debut is quite astounding. Liljestrom’s been compared to the likes of Goldfrapp, Portishead and Bjork, but though these might be touchstones, they’re only references. Inga Liljestrom has something sensual and artistic all her own. Highly recommended. (Perry Kilmer, Drum Media Magazine, Australia)

“Latin-American dancing. It was the furthest thing from my mind as Elk slid from my hands, through my hi-fi, into my conscience. Hypnotically fading in from black with Film Noir, the opening track, Inga Liljestrom sets the scene for the next one hour using the language of film and Latin dance. Sydney-based Inga Liljeström might be familiar as the guest vocalist on innumerable records from the likes of Gerling, Friendly, Itch-E & Scratch-E, Ens, and d.i.g. But Liljestrom is more than a jobbing session vocalist, having now written and programmed two albums. With her production skills she is certainly updating the term “singer-songwriter” for the 21st century. As the textures and pulses of trip-hop envelop the soundscape, the comparisons to the voice of Björk, the lo-fi musings of Portishead, and the lush cinematic washes of Goldfrapp’s debut album are inevitable. But while Goldfrapp have moved towards a more pumpin’ synth-based sound with their latest album, Liljeström makes use of the six-piece band that she has assembled. The picked guitar arpeggio in All Of This is arresting in its simplicity, and already feels like I’ve known it a lifetime. Liljeström’s caressing delivery here tells a story more powerfully than the lyric itself. One of the most engaging and evocative tracks is Diamond Horseshoe, reigniting the flame of old Hollywood music that has long since faded from our screens. Very convincing as the theme to a lost James Bond film, the addition of Peter Miller’s forlorn whistling again recalls a certain duo from Bath, England. Shifting film genres to perhaps the introspective Western, 29 Poisons opens on a Spanish guitar melody that is bathed in the aesthetics of both Morricone and Villa-Lobos. Liljeström’s voice again adapts to a track that takes its cues from another interesting source. There’s a range of other songs waiting to discovered on this album. Phoenix, currently on Triple J rotation, is an excursion into electronica where programmed beats and reversed samples are rounded off with double bass. Lira is also captivating with its magical rhythm and intriguing samples. A very diverse album that is sure to sound and feel different on multiple listenings. Just let your mood guide the way.” (Skidkid, IntheMix)

“Bjork can take her latest album Medulla and shove it. After worshipping the Icelandic vocal goddess for years, we need a new one. Enter home grown talent Inga Liljestrom. The songstress has the same breathless angst but without the abrasiveness. Elk’s cinematic swoon will have you dancing in the dark and taking seductive bites from peaches, it’s so sensual…”(Cat magazine)

Inga Liljestrom is Australia’s new, brilliant diva…Her voice is strange and lovely, lilting and powerful. Her sound is evocative, it sets you to thinking, to listening to the voices in your head that remember, and wonder. She is also a wonderful arranger, programmer, composer and listener. If you pay very careful attention to her music, you can see that she has been listening, to that which is around her, to those strange notes that the night provides us all. But mostly you come back to that amazing voice. Comparisons have been made to Bjork or Lamb, but I say think Ricki Lee Jones if she studied Ella Fitzgerald. She is breathy and dynamic, using her pipes as a tool, as the instrument that they are. Maybe even more of the vitality of Janis Joplin, the emotional grit…. ” (Epinions Site)

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