Husky Rescue started off as the one-man project of Finnish artist Marko Nyberg, whose cinematic and expansive music aimed to capture the dual qualities of photography and imagined film scores with the use of ambient and atmospheric flourishes. The ensemble as we know it was formed by Nyberg for 2002′s debut album, Country Falls, with newly married Reeta Vestman joining on vocals, Ville Riippa on keyboards, Anssi Sopanen on drums and Miika Colliander on guitar.
Despite this expansion, Nyberg’s early intentions are clearly in evidence on third album, Ship Of Light. These ten songs have a widescreen feel, full of space and ambient atmospherics, but it’s meshed with a synthesised pop mentality that prevents proceedings from becoming too ethereal, pinning the eerie sonics down with traditional pop song structures and Vestman’s precise enunciations.
The instrumental opening track ‘First Call’ is something of a red herring; the electronic beeps, whirring bass and sparse percussion sound like the musical equivalent of a lonely figure lost in a snowstorm. But the album quickly shifts gear, morphing into more commercial sounding pop on second track ‘Sound Of Love’, with its throbbing bass, strong melodic hooks and pseudo-disco pretensions, and on ‘Fast Lane’, with its moody guitars and retro rock feel.
The overall effect is less esoteric ambient electronica and more like Nordic counterparts The Cardigans during their Gran Turismo days. It is only by ‘Wolf Trap Motel’ that the pace changes back again; a mournful sonic atmosphere is slowly built up with clavichord-like instruments, acoustic guitar riffs, drum rolls, horns and rippling electronica until the song proper kicks in around the three minute mark. The sense of drama here is expertly crafted, Vestman’s fey vocals sounding all the sweeter when they eventually arrive, providing the album with one of its musical highlights.
‘Man Of Stone’ is one of the strongest offerings, with glissandos of glass harp-like instruments, relentless guitars, drum beats that almost stutter into drum ‘n’ bass rhythms, and a captivating refrain as Vestman describes a world full of strange stone people. With its droning bass and acoustic guitars ‘When Time Was On Their Side’ again calls to mind The Cardigans (in this instance Vestman might even be mistaken for Nina Persson), while ‘We Shall Burn Bright’ is a perfect choice for first single with its evil synth/guitar riff and immediate hook.
The album edges to its close with the sumptuous acoustic guitar-led ‘They Are Coming’, its melancholy refrain whistled through the introduction atop vocals so brittle they might just snap, and ‘Beautiful My Monster’, which has an almost nursery rhyme-like quality that ends the album on a wonderfully whimsical note.
Showing an encouraging progression from previous Husky Rescue releases, Ship Of Light adds up to an unusual mix of pop music, climatic electronica and serious musicianship that’s perfect for the last months of winter.
[Catskills; February 1, 2010]
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