Release Date: Apr 10, 2012
Record label: Ghostly International
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
“Melancholy” is a good word to begin a discussion of Choir of Young Believers’ sophomore album Rhine Gold…but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Expanding on the theatrical tendencies of its reverb-drenched debut This Is For the White in Your Eyes, the darks are darker, but there are also lighter lights. “Paint New Horrors” breaks from the album’s orchestral pop tendencies for a swinging 1970s-flavored refrain where leadman Jannis Noya Makrigiannis’ mournful voice doesn’t just resonate—it soars.
Danish outfit Choir of Young Believers' second LP mines breezy folk, synth pop, progressive narratives, and electronic experimentation for inspiration, somehow wrapping it all tightly up in a streamlined package that threatens to spill out from its modest trappings. It probably shouldn't work, but it does—incredibly well, to boot—all while tapping into this overwhelming sense of spaciousness that's somehow still eerily intimate. .
There's a chilly rigour to the orchestral compositions of Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, the singer/writer behind Copenhagen's Choir of Young Believers. But then, this is an unusual "choir" – one that projects a feeling of isolation rather than uplifting togetherness. Makrigiannis is already a star at home, the recipient of a Danish Grammy, which says something about that country's appetite for music that would remain under the radar in the UK.
A dour precision creeps through the synthy layers of Rhine Gold. On his second record, Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, the Danish Grammy-winning musician behind Copenhagen’s Choir of Young Believers, plays with dissonant orchestrations—weaving his designs with harmonic strumming and pulsing string work, while only occasionally treading towards the light. The opening moments of the record’s first track, “The Third Time,” embrace a glossy, psychedelic charm.
Up-and-coming songwriters wanting to make a Big Art-Rock Album with broad appeal are faced with a number of quandaries, apart from how to get the 12-piece synthesizer rig into the tour van. How to balance grandiosity and chops with catchiness? It's no easy task: The four-plus decades after Procol Harum and Soft Machine are littered with countless failed attempts to merge pomp and pop. But it's one that Copenhagen group Choir of Young Believers are up to on their second LP, Rhine Gold, a hook-laden prog-pop opus for indie rock's post-"Holocene" moment.
Choir Of Young BelieversRhine Gold[Ghostly International; 2012]By Zak Padmore; April 9, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetWe should hope that Denmark’s Choir Of Young Believers haven’t arrived a few years too late. The idea of such beautifully melancholy vocals backed by continuously ‘epic’ arrangements may sound a little formulaic in 2012, following the well received and wildly ubiquitous releases from Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver in recent years. The backlash towards such widescreen ambitions has begun to bite in certain quarters, but it would be a disservice to level any accusations of cynicism at a band already so wildly acclaimed in their homeland; this is by no means a group going for the jugular of mainstream success.
It’s a grower. If you had asked me to describe Rhine Gold in three words, those would be the ones I’d use. I didn’t quite know how to react to the album at first; it’s unique enough that my dastardly tendency to classify the album failed, and it was odd enough that I wasn’t sure or not whether I was actually enjoying the music. The album presented something of an intellectual challenge for me.
Denmark; the place that launched a thousand television dramas. Polluting our airwaves with their addictive story arcs and unnerving ability to portray strong female characters, such superior productions are even creeping into the hallowed territory of ITV 4, leaving the iconic Neal Morrissey - and numerous lesser, more forgettable actors - on the precipice of a Thespian Scrapheap. Most countries would’ve been satisfied with the glorious trophy that is The Killing perched on the national mantelpiece - but not Denmark.
On Choir of Young Believers’ debut, This Is for the White in Your Eyes, it wasn’t clear whether the album’s symphonic sounds would eventually get out from underneath Jannis Noya Makrigiannis and company. For the outfit’s sophomore record, Rhine Gold, they address that concern by switching their sound up almost entirely. The folksy strings are now infused with a distinctly ’80s-inspired aesthetic, resulting in ultrapoppy cuts like “Nye Nummer Et”.
Denmark's Choir Of Young Believers are musical magpies, heaping numerous familiar melodies and '80s pop references over top of a gorgeous palette of moody orchestration. Whether it's a deliberate pastiche or musical cryptomnesia, it ultimately doesn't matter. "The Third Time," the opener on Rhine Gold, their second album, begins with eerie strings, brass and Jannis Noya Makrigiannis's (also of Chimes & Bells) powerful, pleading vocals.