It’s been just over a month since Ane Brun dropped her first collection of original new material in almost five years, with (TLOBF album of the week / October’s release) AfterThe Great Storm. In a show of relentless work ethic, which has contributed to making the songwriter such a household treasure in her native Norway, Brun has announced yet another new album, How Beauty Holds The Hand Of Sorrow.
While After The Great Storm saw Brun reveal an emphatic and upbeat sound, this latest offering does something of the opposite, catching her in a more sombre, reflective mood. The former was written with modern compatriots such as Anderson Paak in mind, but, as Brun confirms, How Beauty Holds was inspired by something more sedate - material Brun listens to while “winding down, such as Sufjan Stevens or Nils Frahms.”
On How Beauty Holds, the percussion throughout is sparse, with delicately plucked guitar and the kind of graceful piano playing that Brun has capitalised on previously embraced to the fullest. Both the haunting “Closer” and the Dustin O’Halloran collaboration “Lose My Way” attest to this perfectly.
However, at times the compositions are fuller - almost cinematic - and never more so than on opening song "Last Breath". Listening to the string arrangement from Johan Lindström playing out the end of the track, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d tuned in to a film score. Onwards from here, we hear something similar on the enchanting “Trust”, with Brun’s voice proclaiming unfalteringly “I throw myself into the open air / Every particle will catch me there,” as well as on the dialled down, piano rendition of “Don’t Run and Hide”.
“I’ve chosen to let myself be free to create whatever genre I’m interested in at the moment, to keep things interesting and inspiring,” Brun explains. “Over the years I’ve explored so many different sides to my musical self, and I feel lucky to have had the freedom and resources to experiment like this. But the ballads and the singer-songwriter style will probably always exist in my music-making and my performances, especially since I rework my more pop or electronic songs when performing alone or with a stripped-down ensemble. I love being in that intimate space.”
As Brun has demonstrated over these last two records, whether experimenting or sticking closer to home, she remains essential listening.