The Danish music scene is currently in the ascendant having seen quite the flurry of new fledglings flit across its airwaves last year. 2017 looks set to be no different with a plethora of new releases from the cobbles of Copenhagen having already hit our freshly wiped playlist spaces.
Multi-disciplinarian Sophia Maj, is the force behind new avant-garde solo music project ‘Ellis May’. A sound designer/engineer by trade, she has most certainly brought the weight of her technical nous to bear on its productions, the first of which, ‘Old Love’, has just been released.
‘Old Love’ is like a sonic confluence of childhood piano sketches, vintage projector reels and the kind of ‘reaching for’ demo sounds a young DM used to play around with in Hansa. The distorted interplay of ‘drunken’ staggering around the bass, and repetitive Nyman-like sequences pirouetting across the treble makes for quite the aural confusion.
The overall musical impression though is one of black & white vintage; a faded, scratchy, slightly damaged musical accompaniment to an early 1920s silent movie of a Germanic persuasion.
The vocal is another trip back in time, albeit a more extraordinary and ambiguous one. It has all the black and white smoky drawl and froideur of Marlene Dietrich strobed by quite an enthralling lilt redolent of the trademark tremulous falsettos of a youthful Martin Gore; a man who spent many years more in touch with his feminine side than most of the women he dated!
“To actualise the song’s authenticity I didn’t want to be a singer singing, I wanted to be a woman singing”. Unfortunately for me, there is a disconnect between the aspiration and the reality, for what is an ultra-womanly and absorbing vocal during the verse, slips into an asexual, banshee-like wail on the chorus. In so-doing, it loses that very same womanliness or femininity for which May was striving.
Yet, for all that, there is something utterly absorbing about May’s music and in particular, the pin-point precision with which such utterly quirky sketches have been arranged. It reminds me of an old saying of my grandmothers – “from the sublime to the ridiculous” – May’s track has both in spades.
I normally come down on one side or the other when it comes to music, but if May’s aim was to throw confusion into the thought-provoking mix, she has well and truly succeeded.