Freshly rebranded as Einar Stray Orchestra – now no longer just known after the ubiquitous band-leader and multi-instrumentalist – the Norwegian fivesome have returned for their secon LP after a spate of high-profile tours and EPs. Their debut full-length, Chiaroscuro, was a sonic exploration into the worlds of pop, folk, post-rock and filmic OSTs; their follow-up, Politricks, promises to mine the same vein, but add further depth, lyrical gravitas and a raft of tangy aural twangs.
“Honey” opens like Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their most cartographical, but shimmering guitars soon make way for fantasy-realm synths and the dark plod of bass. It's quite the entrance to Einar Stray Orchestra's second album. It traverses the worlds of light and dark, reflecting the records' moods, before ramping up into a vast Godspeed-inspired denouement of scratchy, wailing tones and grandiose post-rock statements. Sodden with cinematic strings and clarion keys it acts as an overture for the Politricks symphony that soon blossoms open into a beautiful, melodramatic, if not slightly chaotic, world.
Therein lies the records' singular charm and single flaw; it's bursting at the seams with all these ramshackle notions and highfalutin ordeals, so much so that there's no 'blank space' to let your ears rest. Even when things take a turn for the skeletal, as on “For The Country” – a track with galvanised allusions to Anders Breivik (“I don't know why but I have to/fire my gun at their hearts/I'm not sure why but they told me/It is for the country...”) – the thematic content and emotional heft leaves little respite. But this overcooked approach to Politricks plays to the strengths of Einar Stray. You may want to take an impromptu interval midway to catch your breath though.
The scope of styles on the record is mind-boggling. The quintet veer through Lamb-esque trip-hop on “Aleksander”, garage-rock and Arcade Fire rituals on “Montreal” and minimalism crossbred with electro-pop on “Thrasymachus”; despite the genre-flitting, there's a cohesive gloss that envelops Politricks. As an overtly theatrical record, almost magical like Sin Fang or Of Monsters And Men, the wild careening between genres works to advance the over-arcing narrative and embody characters – not that there are any, per se.
It is a gorgeously oversaturated record. There's so much going on that it's difficult to glean much upon initial listens – it's probably a little alienating, but if you do manage to persevere and penetrate the gloopy outer shell, you'll be rewarded with an opulent, everchanging chimera of a record. It bears links to the likes of A Midsummer Night's Dream, as it evokes visions of amber-lit forest floors, gem-encrusted scarlet velvet, imperial frolicking and the bath-bomb fizz of young love. It's produced by Hasse Rosbach (Moddi, Team Me), but given the monumental scale and 19th century grandeur, finding out that Baz Luhrmann was on knob-twiddling duties probably wouldn't surprise anyone. Politricks is the Moulin Rouge of Scandinavian indie-folk.