Heartless is available at:
March 20th, 2015
The album, Smoke in My Veins is available at:
IN this rare instance I get to look away from the…
usual themes I discuss and concentrate on an artist (and sound) that is new to these pages. Before introducing K-Syran; I wanted to look at artists coming out of Norway; acts that take their influence beyond music- completing with a bit about Dance music and mixing genres into that sound. When I get to venture beyond U.K. and U.S. artists; I tend not to focus too heavily on countries such as Sweden and Norway. It is perhaps a shame, as these nations are housing so many fascinating and compelling artists in music. Not just confined to Indie, Alternative and Pop music: There is so much more adventurousness and direction when you assess a Scandinavian act. When we think of Norway; I guess a lot of us will envisage Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal acts and a darker side to music. That may be true of Sweden, but as I have shown in past reviews, this is an oversite and ill-judged assessment. Norway has a lot of those artists playing- they have spawned everyone from Wardruna to Burzum; Immortal to Taake- but there is a lot more subtlety and depth. If you want to hear the best black Metal the world has to offer, head to Norway- make sure you dig deeper and look at artists with more heart and passion. Whilst there is a constituently impressive music scene in Norway; few ears tend to spend much time here- assuming there will not be any treasures at all. If new bands like Team Me have proved- an Elverum-based Indie/Pop band- there are mainstream and accessible acts a-plenty. Aurora has recently burst onto the scene- her rather cover versions are rather unspectacular and bland- who will impress more when focusing on her own material. A sweet-voiced singer that has enough heart to overcome her limitations: Someone who can make an impression in music shortly. Away from female Pop you have Rap artists- Norway does have a few, interestingly!- Awill; Indie band Comet Kid; Farao and Highasakite are darlings of Norway right now- showing how many different acts are playing in the country. Throw in some magic from Jenny Hval, Truls and Samsaya and you are rather spoiled for choice! I guess you just have to dig deep if you want to unearth great musicians. Norway is a national that does not get a lot of focus from media in the U.K. to be honest: A sin of omission that should be rectified given the musicians breaking through. K-Syran is one of the most impressive and multi-talented coming from Norway right now. A human who is not just content to let her music impress- her charity and ambassadorial work is laudable; I shall mention that soon- has put her in focus. Before coming onto my next points, let me bring K-Syran to you:
“Norwegian born K-Syran is a singer-songwriter who has received acclaim for her acting achievements on stage and screen, including ‘Voyage in the Dark’ at The Young Vic. However, her tender vocals always got her noticed and singing in each of her productions. With a professional drummer as a father, she was deeply inspired by music from a very young age.
Her new album, recorded at the legendary Metropolis Studios, ‘Smoke in My Veins’, is a fusion of Classical, pop, rock, jazz and techno influences together to create her distinctly unique sound. K-Syran nurtured her voice as lead vocalist for a number of groups, but it is as a solo artist that she is enjoying the greatest success.
Running parallel to her catapulting music success, K-Syran has also made considerable waves on the global arts and humanitarian scene. Earlier this year, she took her own play, ‘Breaking The Silence’ to New York. The play was nominated ‘Best Play’ at the Global Summit To End Sexual Violence In Conflict organised by Angelina Jolie and William Hague. K-Syran is also raising much needed awareness for Human Rights Watch through her work”.
It is surprising that someone of K-Syran’s calibre and influence has not accrued more followers across social media (they are in the hundreds at the moment). I have witnessed a lot of acts- to be fair, fly-by-night examples- that amass a huge following and are talked about in honeyed tones. Whilst their name will escape the lips of many very soon; someone like K-Syran is going to be around for a long while- as a musician and as a humanitarian. It is the worst side of social media- and perhaps modern society to an extent- that those noble and worthy receive the least; have to struggle to get their name heard. K-Syran does not threat over social media numbers and ranks: Her work is shouting loudly and here is a serious proposition. Whilst Smoke in My Veins is the latest album from the Norwegian; I wanted to focus on a previous track- a little window into her past work- and how she has progressed musically. Before arriving at that, it is worth talking about (given K-Syran’s humanitarian work) musicians that do more than music alone. It might not seem worth discuss- I would respectfully disagree- but I feel a great pride when musicians involve themselves with humanitarian/charity efforts. K-Syran is deeply committed to promoting human rights and is someone trying to bring about (positive) change in the world. Too many artists simply arrive and record their music; see how it does and then carry on regardless. I am not suggesting every new artist needs to involve themselves with other people: It would be nice seeing more go out their way to make the world a better place. Not only does it give music a great name; it inspires others to follow suit and continue that example. K-Syran has that passion for improvement and humanity: lt is hugely impressive discovering a musician that wants to affect change in society. Blending Dance music together with Pop, Jazz and Techno; here is an artist with so much depth and endeavor. Previous efforts have shown K-Syran bring immediacy and passion together in songs that have universality and reflection. Smoke in My Veins is a bold testament and insight from a musician that has a promising future ahead. She will surely translate across the land- break from Norway/London and gain plaudit further- and is making huge strides already. In addition to playing in London (this coming March) I will be excited to see where the Norwegian star is headed. Her sound (and album) has that ubiquitousness and mainstream appeal; there is subtle nuance and hard-hitting emotions- everything the serious music lover looks for.
Smoke in My Veins is the latest album (K-Syran’s second album) effort from an artist who has been around for a few years now. Tracks like Heartless and Intimacy show two sides to a hungry and talent musician that will linger in the mind for a long time. It is hard to compare the Norwegian to any other act- not instantly race to mind- so the best thing you can do is assess the tracks on its own merits. Smoke in My Veins is a confident and multi-genre release that signals a musician that has plenty more albums in her. I know K-Syran is a playwright- spending a lot of time promoting human rights- and someone who will not sit still and is always working. This work rate and itinerant passion will see more music emerge from one of music’s brightest propositions. Whether any future albums continue along the lines of Smoke in My Veins- blending Dance, Pop, Techno and Jazz together- I am not sure. The immediacy and confidence are there right from the start; each of the album’s tracks say something new and are synonymous with directness and nuance. You find yourself being hit and affected upon first listen: Further investigation reveals new light and sides to the music.
Heartless is the second track from Smoke in My Veins and is the finest track the Norwegian artist has produced. Reading interviews with her; you get insight into a musician that possesses wisdom, humanity and a great affection for the music itself. Not an artist that simple turns up and puts the bare-minimum into the sound: Heartless showcases the depth of imagination and daring genre-fuse that has defined her previous work. Beginning with teasing beats and something exhilarating. You get control and discipline in the percussion- it never needlessly explodes and wanders off- remaining tight and focused. Those hissing undertones parabond with the striking percussion core to get the feet tapping and propels the introduction forward. Synths. and electronic sounds linger in the background to make the composition richer and more varied. Lush and emotive colours nestle inside the black-and-white directness. The listener has no idea where the lyrics and song might lead after those initial seconds. When our heroine approaches the microphone, there seem to be some recriminations and accusations emerging. Despair and heartache would have been erased had the subject (the hero or heroine of the piece) looked our heroine “in the face”. Whether these words look at the splits in a relationship or the breakdown of a friendship I am not sure. There's certain universality and ubqiutousness to the sentiments; so it is hard to know the exact origins behind the song. Riding the wave of bristling electronics- those tense and teasing beats continue to play- the vocal has an air of anxiety to it that makes you wonder what has occurred. Perhaps there has been a lack of trust prevailing; our heroine is going to take her tears and take this person down. In the early moments of the song- and the sound of the composition- you get recollections from ‘90s Dance acts- the likes of Sasha and Corona- that takes you back to a golden time of music. Whilst some of the vocals have that processes/machine-fed sound to them- they create a mood and urgency rather that paper over a limited voice- you never feel like you are listening to an average artist.
A lot of Pop/mainstream contemporaries process their voice to deceive the listener. K-Syran has a fine voice but uses technology to add a certain jaggedness and directness to the voice. The so-called “heartless man” is not working with our heroine and seems like a deplorable sort. Boasting an endlessly dramatic backdrop- that mix of ‘90s Dance and modern-day edginess is perfect- no one is immune to the song’s strength and meaning. I get the impression K-Syran is attesting a past love and somebody who was not right for her. Maybe there was deceit and cheating- maybe there were some mind games and cat-and-mouse double-cross- but whatever the situation; the man is being given a dressing-down in the track. That central voice keeps strong and passionate- never succumbing to moodiness and ineffectiveness- and ensures the song remains focused and buoyant. The future would be so much brighter were this man (to let our heroine) into his dreams. There seem to be conflicts and some contradictions in the track. On the one hand, you have that accusatory tone and a lot of anger surfacing. There is that need to eviscerate a rather unsavoury character: Digging deeper, there are lingering passion and feelings. Complexity and conflictions lie in our heroine’s heart; Heartless is a song that evokes a wealth of emotions and possibilities. That composition is not merely there to boast the foreground. I love those ‘90s vibes and the floor-filler potential that bursts from the speakers. The modern-day club-goer will find much to love and will no doubt revel in the ecstasy and attack of the composition. Others will find classic strands in the music that recalls heady days and Dance artists from the past. As the song progresses- and before that chorus comes back- our heroine keeps her campaign burning bright. A heart that is more open and pure will become stronger and more human. The blend of direct and oblique lyrics never reveals names and situations: It gives each listener a chance to theroise and imagine. As the feet and voice rise and sway; the mind imagines and the soul tries to uncover truths and the crux of the song. Past the half-way mark of the song, there is a chance for calm and reflection. Our heroine launches through the chorus- seeming more determined and attacking than ever- and allows her voice to really push and pervade. The emotion and directness that comes through- bite and venom linger within the notes- cannot be ignored. As the song progresses, your attention- perhaps just me in this case- starts to concentrate more on the vocal and composition. I have perhaps dug as deep as I can with the lyrics- the ideas of infidelity and dishonesty; that man who is heartless and despicable- and pay attention to beats and electronics that get more direct and strike. The final moments of Heartless repeat the chorus and ensure the central message is understood and reinforced. By the end, you reflect on the song just past and what our heroine has had to go through. An exorcism as much anything- there seems to be little lingering hurt and anger- it is a direct and compelling testament that perfectly highlights Smoke in My Vein’s ideas and sounds.
Smoke in My Veins is just one side to a musician that is a lot more than the music alone. Concerned with affecting change in society- her plays and involvement with humanitarian work is to be applauded- you have a human that cannot rest and is always looking to make things better. While it may seem separate from the music (human rights involvement) it gives inspiration for those musicians coming through; people that want to find idols and heroes. K-Syran’s latest album shows a rare talent that will be on the music scene for a long time yet. Heartless appears on the album and is just one- the album has 12 originals plus a few remixes- side to a mercurial artist with a terrific voice and direction. I started this review by raising points about Dance music- splicing genres around this core sound- the nature of the life-improving musician; the great artists coming from Norway. When I was approached with the prospect of K-Syran- via her management company- and the term ‘Dance music’ was leveled my way- I got a slight sense of unrest. I am not a huge follower of Dance and have to pick carefully when investigating artists of the genre. Luckily, K-Syran uses Dance as a core and expands and stretches the sound to great effect. There is that pulsating and insatiable base- that gets the heart pumping- together with softer Pop moments; Techno savageness and Jazz seductiveness. A mellifluous-cum-direct concoction arrives from one of Norway’s most stunning musicians. Few of us look towards Norway when we want to find a great musician to follow. We all tend to stay in the U.K. and U.S.: Occasionally we look further afield but are somewhat limited in our horizons. I am culpable of this and am glad to have been brought to the attention of K-Syran. Her music has compelled me to look at Norway’s music scene and study the best the nation has to offer. I stated a few examples above- the likes of Awill and Truls- and there is plenty of variation and quality. That stereotypical view of Norwegian music pervades: We assume there is nothing but Death Metal and rather bracing music. While there’s a great deal- and rich heritage of- Death Metal; it is unfair to say that is all Norway has to offer. Rap artists are shining whilst some great Pop moments are being produced. Young Indie and Rock bands are nestling alongside the best from this country: Norway is a nation we should all be looking to for some seriously great acts. K-Syran is putting Norway into focus and showing just what excellent and range can be found here. Her stunning music is just one side to a fascinating character that is making changes in the world and setting her sights high.
A playwright and spokesperson for human rights- committed to using her voice to spread positive messages- a truly modern musician that is going to inspire many others to spread themselves and think more deeply about the world. If we look at the music itself- the album Smoke in My Veins especially- you have a talent that is getting stronger and more assured with every release. I have looked at K-Syran’s previous tracks- some of which appear on her new album- but the sense of immediacy and quality is apparent the second you start digging into the album. I have spent a great deal of time looking at Pop, Rock and Alternative acts these past few weeks. K-Syran takes a hard and effusive Dance beat and marries a variety of sounds to create something stunningly evocative and blood-rushing. If you have not encountered K-Syran; Smoke in My Veins is a perfect starting place and a wonderful representation of where she is right now. That confidence and talent radiates in every song: You cannot imagine K-Syran slowing down anytime soon. I know our heroine comes to London in March to play: Let’s hope there are more U.K. gigs booked- K-Syran resides in London now- as so many here would love to hear that music up-close and personal. Heartless hits you from the first seconds and does not relinquish its grip until the final notes. In the midst of the rabble and push is a heartfelt nature and openness from a musician that wants to involve the listener and bring them into the moment. My next week will see British and American acts come together and appear under my radar. Having heard K-Syran- and searched for some like-minded acts- I have immersed myself in the Norwegian music scene and will champion some of the best from the country. If you want something bracing but deep; immediate and nuanced: K-Syran is a musician that provides all you could ever want. Heartless is a window into a talent that has a lot more to say. Snap up Smoke in My Veins and support a fertile young musician who…
WANTS to make the world a much better place.