When pop is done well, it can be highly infectious, but when its production is exceptionally well executed, it becomes potently addictive. Such is the case with ‘BonBons’, the debut album from Norwegian trio Antler, just released through independent Trondheim label, NO FOREVERS.
Mastered by Jørgen Træen, and mixed and co-produced (*in conjunction with vocalist Natali Garner*) by Øra/Greener‘s Karl Klaseie, this is an album with more slick than a Brylcreemed Teddy at a Slow Shuffle spectacular. With ‘BonBons’, Klaseie & Garner have taken eight tantalising electro-pop tunes and expertly moulded them into highly polished euphonious sounds. The Trondheim man’s midas touch when it comes to well recorded productions, intuitively engineered with finesse, is what has made him Norway’s indigenous go-to-sound- guy. Having worked with several other NO FOREVERS acts, including Kari Harnshaug and Østfrost, it comes as no surprise to find that he was the mixer of choice for emerging electronic act, Antler.
Fronted by silken voiced, Natali Garner, Antler keep it clean with their instrumental hinging solely on synths and percussion. Johan Lindvall (Synth) and Axel Skalstad (Drums) make up this newly formed three-piece, who came together when they met in the jazz halls of Norway’s renowned music academy. Having started as an acoustic outfit, the trio started mixing it up by adding in experimental synthesiser sounds and finding that it gave their music greater scope and added depth and texture, quickly moved into the realms of electro-minimal pop. Speaking of the continuous evolution of their sound, Garner explains:
“Our music is very influenced by our background in minimalistic improv. Since there’s just the three of us, we work with every element, keeping it simple yet interesting, we hope! Instead of building everything up and drowning everyone in loads of sound and beats, we want to let every element stand strong by itself but yet be super groovy and intense at the same time. When we were in the recording studio we started producing the songs a lot more, so the sound has grown and become more dense. But we still try to let the music talk for itself and in the studio also added simple, but strong elements.
These days we find it really hard to define our musical style. It’s alternative synth pop with a dash of art pop. Sometimes thing can’t be easily sorted into boxes, so the best thing is just to let people hear, and define it, for themselves! Words and explanations often come in the way given that people often interpret them differently.”
‘BonBons’ comprises eight tracks including the three Antler singles, ‘Animal’, ‘The Dip, and self-titled, ‘Antler’. Throughout, intricate layers of electronica create an intense icy weave around Garner’s delectable vocal, while Skalstad’s dynamic and jazz infused percussive techniques take Antler’s sound beyond everyday cold electronica.
With a voice that can scale the heights of Kate Bush, Garner’s come hither delivery has all the delicate breathiness of Haley Gibby draped in the allure of Nadia Ali. What is most unique about her style is the fact that it is unforced and unpretentious – more ingenue than agent provocateur, with a timbre that is naturally predisposed towards the evocatively suggestive. Nowhere is this more evident than on the track ‘Born’, one of Antler’s strongest compositions, on which Garner gives an utterly spellbinding performance. Conversely, on ‘The Dip’, we are treated to a captivating vocal of such purity it sparkles brilliantly against the laboured monotony of repetitious synth chords and fervid choppy percussion.
Instrumentally, tracks like ‘Born’ benefit from Lindvall’s cleverly pared back spacious chords laced hither and thither with intricate criss-crosses of electronic noises that have been set against Skalstad’s impressively tenuous percussion. Lyrically and electronically, their most interesting composition is ‘Nude’, on which Lindvall showcase’s his synthtastic wares. Opening with shards of dry electronic flares and a melee of random noises, ‘Nude’ sidesteps into a lush musical oasis during which Garner and Skalstad sync with understated perfection, before returning to its original rawness, eventually tailing out with sensual deliciousness. The song focusses on our obsession with physical perfection and warped view of ourselves in comparison with the assumed perfection of artificially enhanced, media beauties.
“You’re the spitting image of pure beauty, your flaws are right, my flaws are wrong … I’m not beauty just because it’s me”
Self-titled album opener ‘Antler’, exemplifies everything that is unique and special about this young band. The deftness of Lindvall’s adept playing of what sounds like a synth spaghetti junction, is genuinely impressive, while Skalstad’s understated, slick percussion, underpins the instrumental eloquence of his synth-wizard bandmate. Garner’s intense and inviting vocal adds further sheen to what is an already superlative production.
The finely tuned instrumental skills and innovative improv techniques that come from having studied jazz shine through Antler’s music, setting them apart from most of their electro-pop peers. They are impressive in their ability to offer up a very self-assured and mature delivery of a cleverly arranged, and lyrically colourful compendium of an infectious fusion of alternative electronic-jazz pop.
Having seen Antler perform live, I know that the sound of this album is not just the waxed up result of Klaseie’s well honed mixing skills, although it is all the better for it. There’s is natural talent here, in spades – it’s just had some of its rawness filed down, and loose ends tied up, before being boxed up and shipped out, in all its sharply produced perfection.
This isn’t any ordinary electronic pop album – this is a deliciously moreish and addictive confection, carefully and imaginatively crafted by prescient musical savants; an evocative sonic seduction of such hypnotic power, it will leave you in a state of satiated trance.
Antler is: Natali A. Garner – Vocals, Johan Lindvall – Synth, Axel Skalstad – Drums, and you can follow them on Facebook