The striking, bleakness that opens Ida Wenøe’s ‘Lyla’, the lead single from her new album Time of Ghosts, is breath-taking – a whip of cold wind that sucks the air from your lungs. It is no surprise to learn that Wenøe is Nordic. There is a stripped down, bareness to her sound that seems fitting to the modern perception of what it means to be Nordic. Yet, Wenøe’s dulcet voice offers a warmth and solace despite the melancholy lyrics.
Wenøe skilfully combines the sounds of Americana with English folk undertones, all shadowed by the noir-ness of her Nordic background. Time of Ghosts is a journey through a new kind of folk. One that puts to rest the Mumford & Sons pop-edge in favour of a bare honesty. Opening track ‘Changing of the Seasons’ is a soft and pleasant, albeit quite long, introduction to Wenøe’s sound. That particular melding, heavy on the Americana in this instance. Not only sonically but also in its themes; changing seasons, train stations, journeys.
‘What Is In The April Moon’ makes use of harmonies to create an almost spiritual sound, what you might expect to accompany a group of women in a forest casting spells for protection. The eponymous track blends a nostalgic 90s sound with the new epic sound that folk has learnt to command. Soaring vocals, strumming guitars for the chorus, with a conversational tone to the verse’s vocals. Wenøe’s distinctive lilt saves it from sounding too familiar.
The mood of Time of Ghosts is definitely haunting. Not only for Wenøe’s sometimes-breathy cooing juxtaposed to her more powerful moments, but also for the imagery of her lyrics. ‘How Cold The Winter’ is chock full of snowy and cold imagery, but it keeps clear of more trite metaphors for loneliness – “Now I don’t know if the wildflowers might grow, but I’ll keep on searching and hope it will show.” The harmonies in this song are complex, keeping the sound refreshing and surprising.
By far the most heart-string-tugging track is ‘I Am On Your Side’. Whether as a song for someone else, or an anthem for self-care, it is a beautiful plea and promise. It is the most concise and clear of the album, and its simplicity allows for the listener to imbue it with whatever meaning they need. ‘The New Surreal’ follows in a similar vein of simplicity, but the imagery far more earthen. It, too, is a pleasant listen.
‘Death With (Of Nicholas Urfe)’ slips back into the heavy noir sound that Wenøe does so well. It brings us back into a world of mysticism, undoubtedly helped by the reference to postmodern novel The Magus (worth a look up, but luckily for Wenøe a lack of knowledge of the book doesn’t detract from the starkness of the song).
We are brought back to the feeling of breathlessness with ‘Let You Know’, only this time the melancholy that fills up your lungs. The deep cello that underpins Wenøe’s mournful lyrics is so heavy that the only thing we feel is sadness, longing, and in the few soprano notes she sings, a flicker of hope. It is perhaps the most obvious love song on the album, but it is a far cry from happy. It is where Wenøe shows off her most powerful vocals.
Time Of Ghosts is out now.