Choir of Young Believers

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Grasque Review

by James Christopher Monger

The third studio long player from the Danish pop collective led by Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, Grasque originated as a largely ambient Makrigiannis side project before evolving into a full-on group effort. At its core, Choir of Young Believers has always served as a solo vehicle for the mercurial singer/songwriter, and Grasque is no exception. Less immediate than 2012's characteristically esoteric, yet hook-filled Rhine Gold, the 12-track set was created during a period of post-tour detachment, and it rolls out with the urgency of molasses from a frozen spoon. Makrigiannis' sumptuous, narcotic tenor is perfectly suited for the group's unique blend of electro-soul and European pop grandeur, but Grasque proves to be the group's most elusive outing to date, favoring icy, often formless melodies that come and go as they please, and existential lyrics that periodically dissolve into ghostly, wordless repetition. It's heady stuff for sure, and not without its own sort of cosmic opulence, but it's a hookless sort of wonder that always keeps the listener at arm's length. It also doesn't help that Grasque's biggest set pieces ("Serious Lover," "Face Melting," "Does It Look as If I Care") are essentially slow jams -- they're impressive on a technical level, but become increasingly indistinguishable as the LP progresses. Late album gem "Cloud Nine" has an amiable, laid-back summer vibe to it, but it's an outlier only in tone, as it doesn't deviate from the laconic gait that serves as Grasque's foundation. Throughout it all, Makrigiannis manages to remain a transfixing figure and it's hard not to be impressed with his ability to effortlessly infuse Sigur Rós-inspired cinematics and '80s pop with a not-so-subtle shot of post-midnight R&B, but one wonders whether the album would have benefited from a bit more structure. Makrigiannis admits that after finishing the Rhine Gold tour that he "felt confused, adrift and didn’t feel like playing music," and Grasque reflects that, but it also feels suitably cathartic, though probably more so for Makrigiannis than the listener.

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