It’s been a couple of years since Sweden’s I Break Horses last visited Portland. After having opened for M83 at the Roseland Theater in April 2012, they made their way to the Sasquatch! Music Festival before venturing back to Portland for MFNW that September. But this April 30 marks their first headlining tour of North America, where they will be playing at Holocene and featuring songs from their second album, Chiaroscuro, released in February.
I Break Horses is the musical project led by Maria Lindén. From her Stockholm base, the Swedish artist released a warmly received debut album, Hearts, that was equally experimental and cerebral, utilizing a pervasive synth foundation with sparing guitars, effectively injecting an atmospheric energy into the somber-themed introspection.
Forward two years and I Break Horses' is riding high on a gracefully refined sophomore effort. The album is awash in a mindfully polished presence. The latest chapter for I Break Horses will definitely exceed expectations of loyal fans and newcomers alike.
Expressing sentiments about her latest project, Lindén reflected, "My only aim when starting to write this album was to ignore any possible second album expectations." The result is a poised confidence and evolved sound with a heightened, dramatic expression.
Upon first listen to Chiaroscuro, you are submerged into the somber, floating synths that are the inviting escort throughout the album. Lindén's lilting voice is melancholy yet sanguine, spirited and sultry all at once and by itself. The result was a combined effort between Lindén, writing almost all the music on piano, and her lyricist partner, Fredrik Balck.
The title of Chiaroscuro, meaning 'light-dark', is where Lindén sourced the atmosphere and mood of the new release, allowing her to mine her innermost thoughts and feelings. The album journeys through a stirring pair of ballads, the lead track You Burn and ending song Heart To Know, that are kindred book ends to the aural experience.
Yet Chiaroscuro weaves seamlessly, shifting between the albums beginning moody introspection of You Burn, to the bouncy synth-pop tempo of Denial and Disclosure. Again the albums shifts to the dreamy, drifting lullaby of Berceuse and the dissonant aria of Medicine Brush, that ventures further into emotional drift.
The most animated track to surface is the expressive, pulsating techno beat of Faith, and its percussive surging synth-rhythms. The track Ascension continues with whimsical shoegazing, swirling in rich 80s synth-pop fashion while Lindén's vocals melting into the lush, sonic soundscape.
I Break Horses are one of those exceptional bands capable of producing visceral emotion through sound and offering something that is ultimately life-affirming. This will be a prime opportunity to be immersed in their exquisite synths, as they expand the industrial rafters of Holocene.
Tickets are $12 in advance and day of the show, 21 and over. Doors open at 8:30pm.