Classically trained but rebellious from an early age — she was a member of an all-girl punk band back in Oslo — Havnevik lends an orchestral ear to a pop mentality on her debut album Melankton. Influences as diverse as jazz guitar, string quartets, punk percussion and sweeping electronica find some middle ground underneath her almost childlike (and, yes, a little Björkian) vocals. Despite the mix, the songs can sound eerily familiar and samey, particularly if you’ve recently purchased either of Frou Frou’s Details or Imogen Heap’s Speak For Yourself (and if not, why not?). The link is songwriter Guy Sigsworth, Heap’s other half in Frou Frou and all-round electronica-with-heart genius who writes with Havnevik. Sadly, Melankton comes across as a slightly under-par combination of his last two projects. That’s not to say that there isn’t anything good here, rather that, with competition like Heap, it’s got to be better than good to qualify.
From the minimalist album sleeve to the stark synth of opener ‘Unlike Me’, the similarities with Speak For Yourself are clear. It’s also clear that Havnevik can sing; she has a good range but doesn’t flaunt it unless it’s appropriate. ‘Not Fair’ could be a contender for the next Bond theme, all sweeping strings and dramatic chorus, but the album doesn’t really get interesting until the quirky pop of ‘You Again’. Frustratingly, the next four tracks give us a glimpse of what might have been; ‘Serpentine’ and ‘Sleepless’ are solid album tracks with good hooks, but it’s ‘Kaleidoscope’ and ‘Suckerlove’ that remind you that this is a debut from someone with promise. If she can write more like these two, Havnevik has serious future potential. ‘Kaleidoscope’ in particular is glorious, far and away the best track on Melankton — simple structure, great melody and a hook you’ll find yourself humming over and over again long after its finished, wondering where it came from.
Which is the point, I suppose. Another four or five ‘Kaleidoscopes’ and you’d remember exactly where it came from. The rest suffer from predictable over-experimentation and forgettable melodies, despite some promising starts and the occasionally appealing middle-eight. Recent collaborators include Moby, Röyksopp and Noel Hogan of The Cranberries and if Havnevik can harness their talent for a tune, her second effort will be a must-buy; until then, download ‘Kaleidoscope’ and ‘Suckerlove’ and hope for the best.
[Continentica; September 25, 2006]
Tagged kate havnevik