Hanne Hukkelberg-Trust.

Label: Propeller Recordings.

From an early age, children are taught that the best way achieve something is to start at the beginning. That is the gospel according to countless generations of teachers and Julie Andrews in the Sound Of Music, who believed it’s: “a very good place to start.” However, that isn’t always the case.

It certainly wasn’t for Hanne Hukkelberg when she began work on her eagerly awaited fifth album Trust, which will be released by Oslo-based Propeller Recordings on the ‘10th’ of November 2017. The impetus and inspiration for Trust was the release of Hanne Hukkelberg’s critically acclaimed fourth album Featherbrain in 2012. This marked the end of a musical cycle for Hanne Hukkelberg, who by then, had realised that it was time for her to change direction musician.

By then, Hanne Hukkelberg was thirty-three and one of Norway’s leading singer-songwriters. She was also an innovative and influential artist who was inspiring a new generation of musicians. She had come a long way since releasing her Cast Anchor EP in 2003. Nine years later, she had just released her fourth album, but was already thinking about the followup. Hanne Hukkelberg explains:“This album really started with the last…I decided that I wanted to make something more than, and something very different to, ‘Featherbrain’ and was writing with [longstanding band member and collaborator] Mai Elise Solberg.” The result was Trust, which is cerebral and thought-provoking album of melodic music that  marks the start of a new chapter in Hanne Hukkelberg’s career.

Hanne Hukkelberg was born on the ’17th’ of April 1979, in Kongsberg, Norway, and by the age of three, she started singing and playing various musical instruments. By the time she was a teenager, Hanne Hukkelberg was already a versatile  vocalist and was capable of singing everything from jazz and rock to free jazz. Later, Hanne Hukkelberg Hanne Hukkelberg joined the doom metal band Funeral whilst at high school. 

By the time Funeral recorded the demo The Passion Play, Hanne Hukkelberg was studying at the Norwegian Academy of Music.  In 2002, Hanne Hukkelberg added the vocals on Funeral’s sophomore album In Fields of Pestilent Grief. It was Funeral’s first album in seven years, and the only one to feature Hanne Hukkelberg who had graduated, and was about to embark upon a solo career.

In 2003, Hanne Hukkelberg’s solo career began when she released her Cast Anchor EP, which was the first release on the nascent Proper Recordings’ label. When critics heard the Cast Anchor EP, comparisons were being drawn to Joni Mitchell, Björk and Nina Simone. Hanne Hukkelberg’s debut album was eagerly awaited.

Nearly two years later, Hanne Hukkelberg returned with her debut album Little Things, which showcased a talented singer-songwriter. Critics believed that Hanne Hukkelberg had a big future ahead of her. 

This proved prescient, when Hanne Hukkelberg’s critically acclaimed sophomore album Rykestrasse 68 won a Spellemannsprisen, which is the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award in the Open Class category. By then, Hanne Hukkelberg was already receiving praise and plaudits from critics in Europe, Britain and America.

Three years passed before Hanne Hukkelberg returned with her third album Blood From A Stone in May 2009. It was partly inspired by Hanne Hukkelberg’s time as a member of various rock bands, and the music she had listened to growing up. This ranged from the Cocteau Twins, Pixies, Einstüerzende Neubauten, Siouxsie and The Banshees and PJ Harvey. They influenced and inspired an album where Hanne Hukkelberg married rock music with a variety of field recordings. The result was an ambitious and captivating album that found favour with critics.

Just under three years later, and Hanne Hukkelberg returned with her fourth album Featherbrain. It was, without doubt, the most ambitious album of Hanne Hukkelberg’s career so far. Featherbrain featured carefully crafted, genre-melting soundscapes that showcased Hanne Hukkelberg’s vocal prowess on an album that combined elements pf experimental jazz, avant-garde and ambient music. Critical hailed Featherbrain as the finest album of Hanne Hukkelberg’s career.

While most artists would’ve wanted to bask in the glow of critical acclaim, Hanne Hukkelberg was already thinking about the followup to Featherbrain. She had decided that it was going to be a very different album, work would soon begin working with band member and collaborator Mai Elise Solberg. 

The pair decided to head in what were new and untried directions for Hanne Hukkelberg. Her music had neither incorporated elements of nineties rave nor club music. None of Hanne Hukkelberg’s four previous albums had featured the hardcore rhythms and big bass melodies of dubstep and trap. Maybe her fifth album wouldn’t either? That was all in the future.

Over the next few years, Hanne Hukkelberg was involved with a variety of different projects. This included touring extensively with Wilco, Andrew Bird and José González. Then in 2014, Hanne Hukkelberg was invited to join Bryan Ferry when he covered Johnny and Mary for his fifteenth studio album Avonmore. Hanne Hukkelberg also collaborated with some of the leading lights of Norwegian music, including Todd Terje, Jaga Jazzist, Bernhoft and Morton Qvenild. Still, Hanne Hukkelberg found time to write the soundtrack to the film It Was Mine, which was based on a short story by Paul Auster. Hanne Hukkelberg also co-produced Racing Heart’s 2016 album What Comes After with Jenny Hval. However, there was still the small matter of Hanne Hukkelberg’s fifth solo album Trust.

By the summer of 2017, Hanne Hukkelberg and her band had written and recorded the nine new songs that became Trust. It was the most cerebral and thought-provoking album of Hanne Hukkelberg’s career. She looks at everything from the digital age, cyber society, virtual reality and the differences between  networks and community. 

Hanne Hukkelberg explains that: “the album is a combination of personal experience and a wider observation of society and how I feel people are living their lives. It’s strange to think we are the last generation to have experienced the world without Internet. The question of identity has changed from being something you are born with to a task–you have to create your own community. The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish. You feel in control.” That is one of things that is apparent on Hanne Hukkelberg’s new album. 

There is also a thread that runs through the album…Trust. Hanne Hukkelberg states that: “Trust is something that will never expire, it’s a quality that we’ll retain in both real and virtual life.” It’s omnipresent through Hanne Hukkelberg’s new album which features nine new songs.

The nine new songs were written and recorded when Hanne Hukkelberg working on the other projects that had kept her occupied since the release of Featherbrain. Just like previous albums, Hanne Hukkelberg collaborated with Mai Elise Solberg who He has been a member of her band for some time. 

One of the first songs  that Hanne Hukkelberg and Mai Elise Solberg wrote was A Machine’s Heartbreak, which initially, commissioned by a US music library. When it was recorded, Hanne Hukkelberg and band pushed musical boundaries to their limits as they unleashed an array of synths and samples that replicate human life in the digital age. This set the tone for the what is the most ambitious, album, cerebral and thought-provoking album of Hanne Hukkelberg’s career…Trust.

Trust opens with Europium Heights which is a dystopian, but hopeful; “letter to the future” which was inspired by writers, scientists and philosophers including George Orwell, Noam Chomsky, Zygmunt Bauman, Naomi Klein, Yuval Noah Harari and Simon Sinek.  Straight away, what sounds like an array of industrial sounds join  wistful horns and a drum machine as they usher in Hanne Hukkelberg’s vocal. Effects are added to her thoughtful as she begins to deliver her hopeful; “letter to the future.” Later,  drums pound and combine with synths as they create an arrangement whose roots are in dance music. Meanwhile, Hanne Hukkelberg’s vocal has grown in power as she delivers a vocal filled with hope for the future, as this  melodic and memorable song reaches a crescendo.

On IRL which was one of the singles released from Trust,Hanne Hukkelberg no longer feels in control, and explains how: ‘the Internet and social media have such an impact on my life, and I’m often made aware of how addicted I am to this ‘digital beast’. How can something that is not part of our basic nature be so consuming? I experience hollowness, emptiness and overexposure, which is offset by superficial fun and distraction.”

All this becomes apparent on IRL, where field recordings are deployed as the song unfolds. A crackling sound gives way to the eerie sound of an owl, before keyboards, synths and a vocoded vocal play their part in this carefully crafted fusion of dance music, electronica and pop. The arrangement ebbs and flows but is stripped bare when Hanne Hukkelberg’s vocal enters. It’s a mixture of confusion and despair at the effect the “digital beast” is having on her life. From there, hooks haven’t been spared on a track that is anthemic, dancefloor and full of social comment. It’s also one of the highlights of Trust, and showcases Hanne Hukkelberg’s vocal prowess.

Just like IRL, The Whip was released as a single. It features guest artist Ingrid Helene Håvik of Highasakite. She and Hanne Hukkelberg examine the pursuit of perfection and encourages the listener to trust others.  Glistening keyboards add an element of drama before Ingrid Helene Håvik adds a tough, feisty vocal. Meanwhile, synths join with a drum machine in creating a slow, almost moody backdrop. Soon, Hanne Hukkelberg enters as the tempo builds before dropping. From there, the genre-melting arrangement ebbs and flows, before growing in power and drama. At the heart of the drama is the array of synths and drums which provide the perfect backdrop for the emotive vocals. With just under thirty-seconds remaining, the arrangement dissipates leaving just the memory of another carefully crafted fusion of music and social comment.

Embroidery was originally written for one of Norway’s leading singer-songwriters Emilie Nicolas. She makes a guest appearance on Embroidery, which deals with  trust. Especially trusting oneself.  Straight away, waves of music assail the listener. When they drop out, just drums accompany the tender vocal. Soon, the arrangement builds with keyboards, synths and drums creating an arrangement whose roots are in dance music. Hanne Hukkelberg’s vocal veers between tender and emotive, apart from when effects are added. She brings the lyrics to life as synths growl and glisten while drums pound. While they play their part in the sound and success of this carefully crafted track which is one of the highlights of Trust.

Fall is a song that came to Hanne Hukkelberg as the day dawned. She explains: “this song came to me when I was sleeping. Quite literally, it was the alarm tone on my iPhone,…I was slowly waking up, and had the whole song and lyric in my head, ready to record it. It starts with a kiss from Albert, my youngest son, and the lyric is simply about getting up again and again, and to keep hanging on.”

On Fall, Hanne Hukkelberg  delivers a tender, hopeful vocal sung against a slow backdrop of synths, percussion and handclaps. Later, Hanne Hukkelberg’s vocal becomes triumphant sound as she sings: “And I fall, but I’ll rise, I’ll rise again” on this melodic and memorable marriage of electronica and pop.

From the opening bars of Raindrops, what can only be described a hook-laden dancefloor friendly anthem unfolds. It’s an irresistible track that is sure to appeal to both dancers and DJs. Banks of synths and drums provide the backdrop for Hanne Hukkelberg as she’s transformed into a dancefloor diva. It’s a role she embraces and seems to relish, on a dancefloor filler where the hooks haven’t been spared.

Silverhaired is another song about trusting oneself. Hanne Hukkelberg explains how: “I actually started writing and recording this song more than ten years ago, and many of those original elements remain on the final recording today. It’s about being young, and how frustrating and painful that can be. Given the chance, I’d travel back in time and just tell myself everything is going to be OK.”

The sound of bells ringing and clocks chiming are just two of the samples used on Silverhaired, before Hanne Hukkelberg hums and her vocal is panned. It gives way to an ruminative vocal while the arrangement scurries along. Bells ring and combine with ethereal harmonies on Hanne Hukkelberg’s  letter to her younger self.

Effects have been added to Hanne Hukkelberg’s vocal which opens Alone Together. Soon, it becomes tender as an organ accompanies her. Then it’s all change as drums crack and synths  combine to create a backdrop for the vocal as tempo rises. Just as quickly, the tempo drops and Hanne Hukkelberg’s tender vocal sounds like Suzanne Vega. From there, the arrangement is like a roller coaster, with the tempo rising and falling. Suddenly, the understated arrangement is transformed and heads in the direction of the dancefloor. By then, Hanne Hukkelberg is into anthem territory on a track that shows the different sides to one of Norway’s leading singer-songwriters.

Duper which closes Trust, is a beautiful five-minute acepella where Hanne Hukkelberg’s vocal is full of emotion. The song was inspired by the Norwegian liturgical psalms that were part of life for Hanne Hukkelberg growing up. She explains how she recorded Duper: “this is just me and my Roland VT3 Box, sitting in my studio feeling very emotional. I had a fight with my son, and came to work and just wrote this song instantly. It became more about life cycles, and watching others grow while still growing myself.” It’s a beautiful, poignant song that is the highlight of Trust, which was the thread that ran through Hanne Hukkelberg’s eagerly-awaited fifth album.

On the subject of Trust, Hanne Hukkelberg says that: “we have to be human, and we have to stay human. We can’t just replace everything with technology and be immune to life, and joy, and suffering. We need to value, and fight for, these things that make us real.” That is the case in this ever-changing world where technology plays an increasingly important role in everyday life. 

The world is even a very different place to it was when Hanne Hukkelberg embarked upon a solo career in 2003. Despite the importance of technology and networks which seem to be replacing traditional communities, Hanne Hukkelberg realises that: “trust is something that will never expire, it’s a quality that we’ll retain in both real and virtual life.” 

That is apparent throughout Hanne Hukkelberg’s impassioned plea for society Trust. It’s the most ambitious, cerebral and thought-provoking album of Hanne Hukkelberg’s five album career. Trust is also a very different album to any of Hanne Hukkelberg’s previous albums.

Much of the basis for Trust is dance music and electronica which Hanne Hukkelberg combines with pop, avant-garde and experimental music. Banks of synths, keyboards, drum machines and a myriad of field recordings from the past twelve years were used during the recording of Trust. Some of these field recordings date back to 2005, and are credited on Trust. This ranges from:  “an owlish sound from my son’s animal book” to a  “didgeridoo synth,” “Brooklyn bathtub,” Hanne Hukkelberg’s grandmother’s piano and an almighty door-slam that closes IRL.” They all play the part in the sound and success of Trust. 

So do co-producers Mai Elise Solberg, Martin Langlie, Eivind Helgerød, Thomas Hukkelberg and Kristoffer Bonsaksen. They all played their part in the reinvention of Hanne Hukkelberg on Trust, which is a truly ambitious, cerebral and thought-provoking album that features melodic, memorable, anthemic and hook-laden music. Trust is also a very personal album from Hanne Hukkelberg that features beautiful, poignant music from the one of Norway’s most innovative and influential singer-songwriters who constantly seeks to reinvent her music.

Hanne Hukkelberg-Trust.

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