From the opening notes, we are enveloped in sonic folds gauzy and evanescent. Guitars swirl with synths and merge with skittering percussion. Skimming lightly above the surface are the gently sparkling vocals of Kari Jahnsen.
This is Farao. What sets these songs apart from the masses adopting the color-by-number electronica-plus-breathy-vocals approach is Jahnsen’s play with structure — her ability to introduce twists and turns that keep things slightly off kilter.
Take opening track “TIAF,” for instance. Beneath the lush layers of synth and the haunting intonation of “till it’s all forgotten,” the drums spike in angular little bursts, seemingly a beat behind or ahead, as if warning us against resting too easy: We can’t talk to you, we can’t see it through.
Farao’s debut LP has the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist wielding a vast array of tools from guitars and sitar to synths, organs, and glockenspiel. The shifting layers, while evoking a sense of mystery and uncertainty, never turn murky. It is testament to Jahnsen’s uncanny sense for textures, her ability to translate into sound the visualization of the wild and dramatic Nordic landscapes. Working with producer Andrew Scheps, whose star-studded credits range from Adele to Metallica to Jay-Z, Farao has put forth a striking, otherworldly set of songs.
If all that doesn’t convince you, give a listen to “Hunter” and get swept downstream in the cascade of synths and soaked in melancholy beauty. Are we the hunter or the hunted, and do we ever stop chasing each other around in endless cycles of control masquerading as love?
Pick up a digital or physical copy of Till It’s All Forgotten (Arts & Crafts) here, and catch Farao on tour. I have a general rule against commenting on women musicians’ appearances because it’s about the art, dammit. But because I never get to use these two words together, I’m making an exception: You might see her cosmic jumpsuit. Up next are Boston, MA (9/25) and Portsmouth, NH (9/26), before Farao heads west to Los Angeles (9/29) and San Francisco (9/30).