[sic] Magazine

Cornelia – Balun

Haunting, spellbinding, enchanting. These are all words which could easily be used to describe Cornelia Dahlgren. Hailing from Sweden, she relocated to the UK several years ago. Her voice is literally up there with the best female voices I’ve heard in recent years.

At only seven tracks, Balun is considerably shorter than many albums, but there’s also variation by the bucket load and the overall quality of songwriting and production is really high. Let’s start off by talking about ‘Cruising’, the second track on the album. Check out the video which accompanies it – it’s amazing! It was filmed using a drone flying across Santa Monica, LA. When you get to the shot of the fun fair at night – that’s Santa Monica Pier right there – which is where Forrest Gump completed his run. Like Forrest, the song itself is full of twists and turns. This definitely isn’t pop in the ‘usual’ sense (but then again, neither was ‘Video games’ by Lana Del Rey upon its release), but the moment the voice kicks in, you’re instantly transfixed. It’s a voice which makes you want to know more. Half Clare Grogan (Altered Images) and half Kate Bush, it’s pitch-perfect, sexy and sultry all at the same time. The chord structure of ‘Cruising’ actually feels really rather odd – like it shouldn’t work, and yet it does. There’s an underlying minor key in the ‘even’ lines of the song which balances off nicely against the major key of the ‘odd’ lines. The vocal dances along on top and joins the dots really well.

The overall album is heavily geared towards the vocal – it’s not littered with drums or guitars, so it allows lots of space for the vocals to breathe. There are lots of electronics – but everything sits really well. ‘Birthright’ has an 80s feel; those synths come across like The Human League. As a track, it initially feels slightly disjointed, with the vocal on the ‘off’ beat, but it cleverly pulls everything together during the second verse. It also has a really nice feel and benefits from being so stripped back.

If ‘Birthright’ is stripped back, then ‘Not In Love’ is most definitely the opposite. ‘Not In Love’ should be a big hit by the end of 2015 if there’s any fairness in this world, if it isn’t I’ll eat my proverbial hat. If I can locate it, that is – I think I took it to Glastonbury in the 1990s and haven’t seen it since. ‘Not In Love’ is the most poppy track on the album – if you don’t like it, you’re likely tone deaf. Or dead. It screams ‘dancefloor!’. Its entrance comes as a real surprise after the first half of the album. Like Kylie and Emiliana Torrini sharing a bath together. ‘Oh Well’, which follows it, takes us off on a completely different tangent. It could be Lily Allen in a ‘feeling sorry for herself’ kind of mood. Dahlgren manages to weave together an album where songs such as ‘Oh Well’ would feel kind of – well, out of place – on some records, but it certainly feels like it belongs here.

My only real reservation of this album is that at just seven tracks, I’m left simply wanting more. I’m really excited about where Dahlgren goes from here – voices such as hers are a rare commodity.

Rather interestingly for this release, Balun is available as a highly limited ‘audio poster’ release which hangs on your wall and plays the tracks through an inbuilt speaker.

Balun is released on June 15th on Camp Mozart Records.

Official website