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Two Poetic Duos

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Siril Malmedal Hauge and Jacob Young
Chasing Sunsets
Oslo Session Recordings
2020

Siril Malmedal Hauge and Jacob Young are no strangers to finding beauty in simplicity. They made a sleeper highlight of 2018 when they first teamed up for Last Things (Oslo Session Recordings), and their second outing offers more of the same in subtly different ways. Again the format is simple: merely guitar and voices with only a couple small additions—multiple layers of Hauge's lovely crooning here, subtly bright saxophone there—and again the mood is quiet and peaceful as a sunset.

There are some interesting not-too-obvious selections through the list, including the most warmly languid reading that Burt Bacharach's "I Say a Little Prayer" has probably ever gotten. Their original pieces make up half the set, though, and if anything it's the stronger half. There are light bouncing choruses or slinky noir sprinkled around to liven up the pace just enough. Three shared vocal leads demonstrate how Young and Hauge's actual voices blend just as beautifully as their figurative ones. Bare-bones as the affair is, it still doesn't need any more dressing than it has. The performances make it an experience worth luxuriating in all on their own.

Snowpoet
Wait for Me
Edition Records
2021

If most poets tend to live in a world of their own, Snowpoet can claim a small galaxy. The outfit has existed in a lush sort of electro-folk dreamworld for an EP and two full-lengths, centered around Lauren Kinsella's unpretentiously evocative words and a voice just as alluring. Still, even the rich slow-grower Thought You Knew (Edition, 2018) doesn't quite prepare the listener for what this follow-up offers straight from the first hypnotic swirl. With a scope of sound more expansive than ever on Wait for Me, they reach a new level of gorgeously strange.

Kinsella is in exquisite form as she muses, narrates, sings, scats and builds beautiful vocal layers of all kinds. This time it's also fitting that she and Chris Hyson share the cover, as his co-writing and soundscapes deserve every bit as much credit. The natural tones of piano and violin are often surrounded by multi-layered voices and synthesizer around the fringes, always making an organic kind of logic even as the pieces continually take unexpected turns. Kinsella's words build an exotic collage of images and feelings, while all the backing coos and sonic shimmers are likewise chosen with care to add to the immersive experience.

It makes for a delicate mix of eloquent sophistication and otherworldly charm, enhanced by their willingness to use any element out there. Snowpoet's flights of fancy call for gentle strings in some spots and full techno trance (in a skewed-yet-catchy 7/4, no less) in others. It's a suitably wide-ranging production for a recording themed around confusing times, and yet this dreamy experience is a positive and hopeful one when it has time to unfold.

Tracks and Personnel

Chasing Sunsets

Tracks: Chasing Sunsets; The Lovesong; Nobody Else But Me; Wake Up; High Alert; How Can I Advise You; I Say a Little Prayer; The Ceiling; Someone to Watch Over Me; Time; My Ideal; You Are So Beautiful.

Personnel: Siril Malmedal Hauge: lead and backing vocals, flute (5); Jacob Young: electric and acoustic guitars, lead vocals, delay guitars; Knut Riisnæs: tenor saxophone (4).

Wait for Me

Tracks: Roots; The Wheel; A Chance to Hear the Rain; Sky Thinking; FaceTime; Early Feelings; Tiers; With You; Here's the Thing; Burn Bright; Floating Practice; Wool Cotton Lace & Snow.

Personnel: Lauren Kinsella: vocals; Chris Hyson: piano, synths; Matthew Robinson: piano, synths; Josh Arcoleo: saxophone; Dave Hamblett: drums; Lloyd Haines: drums; Alex Haines: guitar: Alice Zawadski: violin.

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