On Rykestrasse 68, Hanne Hukkelberg doesn’t rely on nearly as many dissonant jazz and avant garde influences as she did on her debut, but there’s still plenty of unconventional instrumentation employed throughout, including a percussive typewriter on the otherwise grand and orchestral “The Northwind” that gave me the sudden, inexplicable urge to whisper the word “cunt”—an unfortunate thing since the album was released in the singer-songwriter’s native Norway months before the release of Atonement. “Fourteen,” a cornucopia of spoken word and found sounds (including a bouncing ball) that recalls Laurie Anderson’s avant sonic experiments, and “Obelix,” a ode to a friendly feline that consists of bass, carriage wheel and eggslicer sounds, and of course, a purring cat, are the album’s other offenders, but most of Rykestrasse is so finely emotionally tuned and expertly pieced together that you can’t help but indulge Hukkelberg’s few eccentricities: “The Pirate” is a noir-ish tale of a suicide at sea, the rich reverberation of a cello rising like an undercurrent as she sings, “The rocks pull his body down/But brings his soul even higher,” while the Björkian “Ticking Bomb” is a terrorist anthem that, lyrically, bests the Icelandic icon’s bizarrely rationalized “Hope.” Hukkelberg comes off like Beth Gibbons’ shier (if that’s possible) younger sister, even when she belts “I’m a horny loser!” on a cover of the Pixies’ “Break My Body,” which is faithful—in a folky kind of way—to the band’s signature contrasting loud/soft dynamics. With a voice as fragile as the dry, crispy paint flakes she picks off a wall while gazing at the bullet holes hidden by potted plants on her neighbor’s balcony on the album’s opening track, it’s no wonder she chooses to surround it by the more delicate sounds of glockenspiels, celestes, and yes, even kitchen utensils.
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