A Belarussian chanteuse now resident in Sweden, NarreN weaves a mesmerising web of intrigue on new album Aura.
A stylistic butterfly, she covers a lot of ground on Aura; After a brief intro, second track As A Sail lodges itself comfortably in a sort of stripped-back Jansen-era Nightwish vibe, but don’t get too comfortable if that descriptor is already pricking your ears… Height visits London’s West End or maybe Broadway with a sort of Oriental, Madam Butterfly-via-Miss Saigon feel, making the listener second-guess any conclusions they may have arrived at after that opening track.
But wait, there’s more… NarraN then pulls out perhaps her finest performance on track four, Roses & Thorns, a lavish trip back to the sixties and the baroque pop of Scott Walker as seen through the filter of a nineties Britpop act like Jake Shillingford‘s My Life Story. It’s compelling, convincing stuff, to be sure, but it’s perhaps hard to see somebody who loved track two being completely convinced by track four. My head was spinning, and I loved every minute of it!
As if to compound the confusion, our heroine then travels even further back in time for a dose of sleaze, Weimar Republic style, in the form of Love. It’s a metalled-up take, you’ll be pleased to hear, but the singer thoroughly adapts her chameleonesque pipes to the job at hand with a husky, sultry transformation that really transports the ears back to inter war Germany. Exciting stuff!
The second half of the album isn’t quite so demanding on the listener in terms of space/time travel as NarreN settles into what appears to be a comfort zone of dramatic balladry; of these tracks, Other Side is simply superb, a heartfelt, epic swell of emotion that you could easily imagine appearing as the backdrop to something awful happening on The Good Doctor. It’s thoroughly modern in relation to the more classic sounds loaded onto the album’s front end, but again this merely signals NarreN’s versatility and ease with any musical style.
A mixed bag, then, but don’t let that put you off. This is great stuff, and certainly worthy of being heard by the wide audience the breadth of ambition inherent in the songs deserves.