Album of the week (September 9, 2019)

III by Sorten Muld (Denmark)
Whereas the previous album, Mark II, relied on electronics and voice, this time they've brought plenty of "real" instruments into the mix, giving a much wider variety of tonal colors and textures. But the sonic heartbeat remains the electronics, whether samples, loops, or beats. They avoid the obvious rhythms -- you won't find any house or drum'n'bass here, for example -- and give the song what it needs, rather than trying to push it into any pre-planned formula. As before, they rely on traditional texts (and often traditional tunes, too) from Denmark and other Nordic countries, and they keep the blood and gore ballads as their specialty -- more killings and intrigue per verse than gangsta rap. Singer Ulla Bendixen's voice has developed during their hiatus. It can still be both seductive and commanding, but it's taken on more nuances and emotions, able to convey everything more clearly and subtly. But the whole band's come a long way. By comparison, Mark II was very raw, the kind of album that beat you over the head. This one brings you inside, every bit as powerful, but more thoughtful and measured, an approach that works well with this material. Think of them as electronic punks who've grown up and developed into resourceful, skillful musicians who are renewing the past for a club generation.

(Review by Chris Nickson)