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I Break Horses reins electronic stride at Portland's Holocene

I Break Horses live at Holocene, April 30, Portland OR


Playing their first headlining North American tour, I Break Horses treated a captivated audience to an intimate performance at Holocene April 30. Led by singer/keyboardist Maria Lindén, I Break Horses ambitiously performed the majority this year’s release, Chiacurusco.

I Break Horses
Maria Lindén of I Break Horses

The dimly lit confines of Holocene were an apt setting for the emotional, aural offerings of I Break Horses. Opening with the dramatic synthesizer swells of Medicine Brush, Lindén’s eerie vocals, calling, as if summoning an invitation to a midnight ritual, before she shifted into the yearning introspection of You Burn.

The projected glowing, electric-white geometric symbol from Chiacurusco's album cover provided a stark contrast against the deep purple and blood orange stage lighting. The symbol pulsed like a matrix of electrons, providing a mesmerizing visual and enhancing the otherworldly quality of the band’s music that effortlessly sailed through swells of sound.

Fellow band mate and lyricist, Fredrik Balck, provided the percussive spine with metronomic austerity, accented by his SPD sampler. His nuanced accompaniment guided the synth-driven experience and was accompanied by an additional layer of sonic fabric contributed by keyboardist Kristofer Jönson. Their chemistry and musicianship infused the performance with intensity, enabling the trio to artistically capture the full effect of their recorded effort.

The demure Lindén briefly paused between songs, thanking the crowd for coming, and surprisingly enough, was mindfully aware of the Trail Blazers playoff hopes and offered well wishes. One would be hard pressed to find many I Break Horses fans as keenly aware of the city’s major sport team, let alone, their aspiring hopes of advancing in the NBA playoffs.

Next, Lindén guided the trio into the levitating shift of Load Your Eyes, while a vintage, black and white video of a Nordic landscape streamed behind them, filled with cloudy skies and snowy mountains, yielded a dreamy sense of traveling the countryside by rail.

But as the scenic travels slowed to its final destination, the sonic journey continued. Slowly simmering with a buzzing bass intro, the vibrating synthesizers gave way to the sunrise burst of Ascension, before smoothly lapsing into the soothing sway of Berceuse.

I Break Horses broke stride from the evening’s ethereal atmospheric charm, charging through the last two tracks of the main set with Weight True Words, stirring an energetic Lindén to dance and sway to the pulsating beat. As she announced the last song of the main set, Faith, the cornerstone track of the night, Lindén solemnly attested to its power before concluding their set, behind its driven, hypnotic trance.

But loud applause and cheers brought the Swedish group back to the stage for two more songs, the dynamic, hopeful yearning of Hearts and idealistic embrace of romantic caution of Winter Beat.

As the evening came to an end, I Break Horses’ revealing performance of richly layered and rafter-soaring synthesizers, leaving a memorable impression.

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