While the British Protestant tradition sees hymns come as complete entities, with specially-composed words and music, in the Nordic countries they do things a little differently. There’s a long history of mixing the hymn words with folk tunes. It makes sense: the tunes were simple and memorable, people already knew them, and they’d be likely to take up the new words (the oldest text dates from 1572, just to give you an idea). It’s this history mingling folk and church that Phønix jump into on this new album and they do it with glee.
The band had been around quite a while now, and in recent years they’ve been pushing hard to explore new things – tours to China and working with a dance group, for example. But rarely have they sounded as happy as they do here. In part, that’s because singer Karen Mose’s keyboard is now a fully-integrated part of their sound, fleshing it out more. But add on to that a veritable choir of backing singers on several tracks and arrangements that treat the hymns almost as if they were pop music, and you have something that grins and fizzes.
Some Phønix studio albums have seemed a little austere, but this album can never be accused of that. It exudes warmth and joy from first note to last. Of course, there hasn’t been the same need to separate church and state as in other countries. It’s certainly something very different for Phønix, but it works on every possible level to become one of the most enjoyable and embracing albums they’ve released. – Chris Nickson
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