A German-language band name that’s hard to pronounce. An album title that’s hard to pronounce. A voice that’s so flamboyant in delivery that’s it hard to comprehensively decipher. Lyrics that conceal as much as they reveal, obliging to a theory of “expression always should have unanswered questions and multiple possibilities of interpretation”, which the band mentioned in a recent interview with DIY Magazine.
No wonder lead vocalist Jonas Smith admits that he’s “speaking in tongues my love” on the track “Tranquil Curtains“. Copenhagen-based (originally from Kolding, a seaport near Germany) art rockers Blaue Blume don’t like to make things easy for their listeners. Yet there’s a rich reward gained from investigating the definitions of their vocabulary and committing to their elegant take on ethereal-wave, post-rock and dreamy folk-pop.
A Syzygy (the debut album’s title) was defined as an “union of opposites” by the poet Carl Jung. Contrast is something that the Danish quartet adhere to. They admitted in an interview with Line of Best Fit that they like to “challenge beauty in bloody fist fights all the time”. Evidence of this contradiction is firstly noticeable in the music video for “Sky” – nature growing through the walls of a dying building.
Secondly is Jonas Smith’s extraordinary vocal range. Musicologists with an ear on the Danish scene will hear an uncanny resemblance to the falsetto of Nikolaj Manuel Vonslid (Denmark’s Antony Hagerty) of the orchestral dance group When Saints Go Machine – it’s worth noting that Blaue Blume recommended seeing the band at the Ja Ja Festival in last November in a promotional article. “Tranquil Curtains” and “New Year’s Eve (Reprise)” are also identically peaceful to When Saints Go Machine’s heavenly “At Ends”.
Yet what stands them apart is Jonas Smith’s sudden submergence into baritones. Although a switch in tone is a common occurrence, it’s best exemplified by the captivating single “Sky”. Within 4 minutes 4 seconds, Smith goes from sounding like the whismical Hayden Thorpe (Wild Beasts) to Peter Steele from gothic metal band Type O Negative – via a John Grant-style vocal plunge – although in other tracks (including “Thinking Of Roxy“), the deep descent is similar to Editors’ Tom Smith.
It’s as if he’s having an engaging duet with himself. Additionally the contradictory lyric: “I can give you everything but it’s nothing at all”, plays with the notion of opposites romantically. Smith also whispers with wafer thin breeze to compliment the Enya-flutter and effervescent atmosphere. The oxygen of the Blaue Blume universe.
The theatrical enthusiasm of Smith’s effeminate voice wouldn’t be alien in operas or classical works. But like the experimentally gifted Klaus Nomi, he applies his vocal capabilities on unexpected genres. It magnificently soars over the top of gloomy laid back melancholic guitars (bringing back drone ethereal-wave but in a dreamy ballad shape), Foals-esque tropical-prog technique (“Candy“), borderline folk (“Gently Lovely Baby”) and a take on early-90s jangle rock in “Before The Sun Blows Up Our Lungs” – which could easily be the title of a lost The Smiths record. In fact it’s most fitting place is in “Epoch“. Jonas Smith’s performance in this sustained post-rock environment is akin to Jónsi in Sigur Rós.
“Buoyant Forces” continues Blaue Blume’s complicated yet intelligent use of the English language – a Buoyant Force being the upward movement of an object that is submerged inside water. It sounds subterranean anyway with its nod to the selective emptiness of M83’s ambient rock “Wait”. With the Blaue Blume flower of the band’s name being associated with the “unreachable” and “limitless” it speaks volumes about their mentality.
Additionally, “Buoyant Forces”, “Epoch” and “New Year’s Eve (Reprise)” – a track that’s lived on from their EP 15.01.12, feature enigmatic murmuring. In a Question And Answer session organized by Nordic By Nature, a fan asked what was hushed in “Buoyant Forces”, Jonas Smith replied with “we’re raving that you can not really hear it. Her speaking say whatever you want her to say”. Thus leaving audiences with a Lost in Translation type riddle.
This is heightened by the poetic words on their album cover, “you kissed my ear and whispered something and threw yourself into the flames” – like the way Savages displayed their manifesto on Silence Yourself to tease one into the album. It’s graceful and intriguing with Blaue Blume continuing to embrace blurry definitions. Blaue Blume’s Syzygy was released on October 23, 2015, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Mat Hobbs