Imagine a House

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Testbild's latest effort finds the quartet aiming at the kind of spare, fragmented story-song portraits that groups like Bark Psychosis and notably Hood helped create and perfect -- songs that effortlessly blend electronics and acoustics, while the understated sung-spoken lyrics capture states of bliss and collapse in equal measure. That said, Testbild is more immediately warm and straightforward than those forebears, though, and Imagine a House almost suggests sonic reconciliation more than anything else, a comfortable snuggling inside a familiar sweater rather than facing colder winds. "Inside Raindrops" is near classic Swedish indie pop as such, for example, with its easy vocals and shimmering melody, and throughout the album much of the singing is in an elegantly melancholic vein, like a somewhat blissed out if saddened Association. Half the tracks, meanwhile, are strictly instrumental, suggesting film soundtracks in settings that match the cover art, suburban and sepia toned -- not to mention the accompanying film Where Did This Begin? included on the CD, done by bandmember Pontus Lundkvist. If Hood suggest rural settings, Testbild is more of the city, and the rainy day stroll feeling of pieces like "Caryatides" and especially "Phanopoeia," keyboards sounding like distant foghorns or sirens, is often very effective while throughout, sounds and recording quality suggests empty rooms or wind blowing past a closed window on winter nights. A nice exception to this rule: "Ipsifendus," which is almost their take on backwoods Harry Smith-recorded archival folk.

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