Death does not merely lurk behind Phaedra’s debut album, The Sea (Rune Grammofon). The Norwegian songstress places death on stage, openly examining the abyss and mystery in earnest throughout her stunning collection. Although one of the outcomes of the mythological Phaedra is death of guilt, the tone on this album is one of peace, wonder, and exploration.
Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Ingvild Langgard builds her own mythological setting through extremely sparse-but-diverse musical landscapes and a direct vocal delivery. Although one might argue that she successfully builds her own folklore throughout the disc, she does so without the standard trappings of any genre. Instead, Langgard opts at various points for backwards electronic effects, Fender Rhodes, synth bass, and chimes (among other instruments). When strummed acoustic guitar enters the mix, it sounds radical and novel.
Placed in front of the subtle background, Langgard’s vocal delivery is haunting, often coaxing the listener into a clearly defined relationship with the music, one of surrendering individual will and direction, therefore allowing her to lead the listener through her landscapes. There is much to be learned about the vocal delivery, lyrics, and their relationship to the music, but the listener will frequently be paralyzed and mesmerized throughout the course of the album.
The stunning relationship between vocalist and instrumentalist on this project has the added benefit of rewarding the listener with new lessons and new discoveries on subsequent trips through the album.
Once she leads you through this album once, you will be compelled to return and the second time through, you will be able to draw your own conclusions from the instrumental passages and diverse segments. In this regard, Phaedra perfectly captures the experience of myth, one of gentle leadership and guidance, and ultimately individual discovery and interpretation.