I Break Horses – Chiaroscuro

Album Review by Gary Kaill | 07 Jan 2014
  • I Break Horses – Chiaroscuro
Album title: Chiaroscuro
Artist: I Break Horses
Label: Bella Union
Release date: 20 Jan

Chiaroscuro: the technique of managing light and dark in pictorial art. As titles go, this one’s a statement of intent with substance and weight. This second album from these pioneering Swedes reads like a chill rebuke to the horde of boy/girl electro duos currently making waves, if not inroads. At every turn, they unseat expectations: Maria Linden's vocals buried somewhere in the distance; the brittle nu-rave warp of Faith tussling with the hyper balladry of Denial; the glassy, swirling mix (shades of Vangelis and Donnagio) pricked by astringent, fractured sounds.

Their approach is closer to the sonic provocations of Crystal Castles than the pop refinements of Chairlift or Beach House. The epic Berceuse (so named after a composition in 6/8 time, resembling a lullaby) is preceded by its own mini overture, and ascends. Fearlessly, I Break Horses respect and invigorate the form. Throughout this remarkable album, they celebrate their developing artistry and seemingly boundless ambition. [Gary Kaill]