Recently, XS Noize featured the song Serious Lover from Copenhagen –based Choir of Young Believers as its Track of the Day and it was a promising and interesting tease to their third album, entitled Grasque which is released via Ghostly International on February 19th.
The background story to this release is that at the end of 2013, Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, frontman and principal player felt worn out and a bit lost and confused as to the future and musical direction of the band. He had been touring with the last album – Rhine Gold for the best part of a year and had lost interest. So, he took himself off for a bit of travelling, postponing writing in favour of just seeing where his creative energy would take him. He wasn’t feeling very inspired by the guitar and piano so he started experimenting with a small pocket sampler that his Mother got him for Christmas, using it to make soundscapes, beats and collages.
He quickly recorded both Græske and Face Melting with Aske Zidore, who had also produced Rhine Gold, and when Choir of Young Believers reconvened to tour with Depeche Mode, he wrote a few guitar-based songs to play live. Gradually, he realised all of his new ideas and music could melt together with Choir of Young Believers. A couple of months later, he and Aske went to a small Swedish farm for a week and came back with more than 10 hours of new music. The album overall certainly has an experimental vibe about it , none more so than on the track Face Melting – a piano-led slow jam set against Jannis’ trademark haunting and solemn vocal. It has ‘80s inspired” drum fills accompanied by smouldering “Come Ornnns” which sound like a nod to Barry White.
Then the languid tone of the track fades halfway through and transforms into an edgy synth sound with a cool house beat. It takes a few listens to fully appreciate this song as it is so organic but like most of the album, it’s a grower. Jeg Ser Dig sung in his native Danish tongue, literally meaning “ I see you” is a echoey, ethereal delight , a chilled R&B number with a glacial synth sound and glistening keyboards.
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The album continues to pull in all of Jannis’ musical 80s and 90s Pop influences and Cloud Nine which has a stuttering start soon morphs into a sun bathed soul number combined with dreamy electronica and ice cool vocal. With Perfect Estocada, there is evidence of the time that Jannis’ (of mixed Danish, Greek and Indonesian parentage) moved to the Greek island of Samos for a while. The song begins with dreamy synth waves, a sultry drum beat and a guitar which supplies the Greek- influenced goodness. Interestingly, Jannis’ vocal sounds very much like a “Scandinavian Sade “which makes it an intriguing listen to say the least.
The album, on the whole is a bit hit and miss as his songs can all sound wintry and desolate but it is clear what Jannis’ intention was here, to create an expansive and explorative piece of work. In the main, he has achieved that. His time away has proven fruitful with songs taking on a different musical influence whilst still maintaining the essential “Nordic” sound that is Choir Of Young Believers. It will be interesting to see how the album translates onto the live arena, when the band commence their European tour in April, especially as the band rotates with its cast of supporting players. The set up on stage can be a duo comprising of cello and piano to an ensemble of eight backing musicians playing strings and percussion.
See Choir of Young Believers live:
8th April – Oslo, London