reviewed by Cissy Suen
It begins with a wave. A stunning wave of strings
and keys. That’s the start of Lang Amma by Montreal’s Syngja. The debut album is a dazzling interweaving of pop melodies and a soft love affair between strings and electronics. It’s not just the captivating sounds that will draw you in, but the omnipresent whispers from sisters Tyr Jami and Zuzu Knew which tell an enticing story. Partnering with Aleks Schemer who also produced the album, the album is a reinterpretation of Icelandic folk songs, or folk poems, which the sisters’ late grandmother would sing, record on a tape, then send to her relatives as letters. The album is dedicated to their Lang Amma, Ingibjorg Johnson.
The trio’s six years of hard work begins with “Pink Prism”, a powerful opener that falls into the lullaby interlude of “Fluency Aware”. The sea of cellos ironically drowns you into the third track “Surface of the Seas”, a ballad powered by unique sequences on the drum machine. You’re constantly held afloat by the electronics and delicate voice of Jami.Our next track “Remember” ups the tempo as we’re presented with a dichotomy between the bass and tenor cello lines. The bubbly keys add stress, accurately encompassing the passion that is found in Icelandic folk culture – passion bred by the cycle of long days and long nights, relaxing summers and harsh winters.
We continue the passion in the ominous “Monster Trucks” and “Go To Sleep”, the latter a transition into the lower tempo “Close To The Edge”. This theremin-laced track uses the unique instrument’s spacey sounds to further push us closer to the edge of the musical forest, the interlude of Trees. The sisters near the end the album with the strong “Romantic Part”, then undoubtedly return to folk roots, in the string-centered, six minute track “Easy”.
As an avid listener of Icelandic music, what I love about this album is how well it reflects the transition in the modern Icelandic music scene, but also in the global indie music scene, of electronica incorporated folk. The sisters do a wonderful job of throwing the classics of Icelandic folk into a psychedelic and spiritual world that is distinctly their own. If you ever get a chance to catch their live show – the next of which occurs on July 22 at the Divan Orange in Montreal – you won’t be disappointed. The enticing album is accompanied by stunning projections and dance numbers, directed by Knew, who is also the artist of the beautiful album cover. Every inch of this album is definitely what you need.
Top Track: “Pink Prism”; “Close To The Edge”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)