Release Date: Feb 19, 2016
Record label: Ghostly International
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Indie Folk
Choir of Young Believer's third record, Grasque, began life as another project entirely. Frontman Jannis Noya Makrigiannis originally imagined the album as a new side-project, but changed his mind somewhere along the way. He kept the new project's band name, Grasque, and took Choir back to its roots as a mainly solo effort. This is only relevant because, on its face, Grasque is a hazy and beautiful mix of mismatched ideas.
Who’s filing the building permits for all these cathedrals of sound bands insist on crafting? After two albums of solid string and guitar melodic rock under the name Choir of Young Believers, Jannis Noya Makrigiannis has stepped away from the pack of pop spiritualistic, building a release that will still be rightfully smeared with the all-purpose word “Epic.” (Capital “E” intentional, obviously.) The result will never be mistaken for orchestral pop. The connective tissue between Grasque and previous Choir of Young Believers albums holds strong, proving at its core this is still the singular vision of the same man. Autumnal, emotive lyrics delivered via hangdog croon in English, Danish and Greek? Yup, still there.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. From faux-live opening to dark lounge curtain call, Grasque is an overwrought drama pop curio with an icy substance where its heart should be. Sure, a few tracks outstay their welcome, but the record as a whole is not without notable successes. 'Balearic Cavernous Step meets the Pet Shop Boys' is the closest I can get to an adequate description of the form of a record that defies easy categorisation.
Heady with the thick musk of Escada pour homme, the sophisti-pop groove of Grasque is a post-everything album: post-bedtime, post-genre, post-structure and post-definitely-irony. Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, frontman and principle songwriter of this Copenhagen group, creates soundscapes as indebted to the smoky 1980s melodrama of Careless Whisper as they are illuminated in the laptop glow of chillwave. Admitting himself that his music is “more like trips, or feelings” than traditional songs, the group tune out of the orchestral-pop majesty of previous albums and replace such frivolities with the surreal art-pop favoured by Chairlift: all ambience and sensual serenity.
The third studio long player from the Danish pop collective led by Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, Grasque originated as a largely ambient Makrigiannis side project before evolving into a full-on group effort. At its core, Choir of Young Believers has always served as a solo vehicle for the mercurial singer/songwriter, and Grasque is no exception. Less immediate than 2012's characteristically esoteric, yet hook-filled Rhine Gold, the 12-track set was created during a period of post-tour detachment, and it rolls out with the urgency of molasses from a frozen spoon.
Choir of Young Believers are driven by the muse of Danish songwriter Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, who takes on board a rotating cast of musicians to deliver his vision, most famously on the theme to the TV show The Bridge, album to album. Upsettingly, this time the vitality of earlier releases is missing; the tempos slow and excitement a novelty. Grasque, sees COYB mining the underappreciated tones of the 80s charts for raw materials which are then shaped to their own pop template.
Though Jannis Noya Makrigiannis fronts a band called Choir of Young Believers, he could put up a fight with any full choir on the strength of his angelic pipes alone. No matter the stylistic variations Choir of Young Believers undergo, Makrigiannis’s vocals always soar, often forming lush layers of multi-tracked harmonies. This Choir has seen many supporting players over the years, but Makrigiannis remains the sole steady member, a multivoiced choir of one.
Jannis Noya Makrigiannis originally intended the material on this R&B flavored, electro pop album as a departure from Choir of Young Believers. Its title, Grasque, was supposed to be the band name. And yet it’s not much of a departure from 2012’s Rhine Gold, in its sleek roboticized dramatizations of small songs, its early MTV synthetic romance redolent of Wham and Spandau Ballet.