When I was 14 I found my first dead squirrel lying on a road, when Hilde Marie Kjersem was 14 she played her first gig. Now she's 27, her 13 years of experience making her a veteran by music industry standards, and releasing quality albums such as this year's `A Killer For That Ache,' a diverse compilation of songs revolving around her powerful, dulcet voice and its accompaniment of creative instrumentation. Over its 11 tracks Kjersem takes us on a journey that begins at innocence, moves to personal doubt and social outrage, but then ends victoriously with affirmation in the face of scepticism.
It all begins in rather understated fashion though with the first couple of songs, `Sleepyhead' and `Mary Full of Grace,' with their focus on winsome vocals and spare backing, and one may be forgiven for being initially underwhelmed, but `A Killer For That Ache' is undoubtedly one of those albums that reward repeated listens. It's full of hidden treasures that creep up on you and cast each song in a new light, such as the tense, foreboding trumpet in the verse of `Midwest Country,' or the spacey moog that closes `Fantasy' in a surreal vein. No song sounds like the one preceding it, and often individual songs contain striking transitions of their own, like that heard in `It Is Easy,' which begins with lamenting piano and guitar but then switches to lively jazz clarinet before collapsing into a manic section of downwards-spiralling flute, frightened yells and paranoid, reverb-laden guitar.
But musical shape shifting is not what `A Killer For That Ache' is primarily about. Above all, these are songs of quiet internal triumph over externally insurmountable difficulties; songs, such as `Marie Antoinette' and `London Bridge,' that set artfully understated overtones of exaltation against their apparently calamitous underpinnings. Chief among them is the penultimate track, `Catching A Star,' which, from two opening verses of wistful acoustic guitars, horns and autoharp, gives way to an uprising of celebratory electric guitar and a defiant, rapturous final verse, with Kjersem singing, "I cannot be-aware of what lies ahead/ I can only find out for myself instead." With this line she ends the album on a high, knowing that triumph is not about the actual acquisition of an object, but about resolving to act and to persevere.
And persevere is what everyone should do with `A Killer For That Ache,' because they will definitely find themselves inspired. It is an album that, lead by a stunning voice, runs through a formidable array of emotion, sounds and styles; and anyone who truly delves into it once, will delve into it again and again. (Simon Chandler)
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