Posts Tagged ‘She/Beast’

11th December 2020 – PNKSLM Recordings

Christopher Nosnibor

Trapped in a box, a loop of ever-diminishing life, it’s not difficult to comprehend why amidst the confusion, the sadness, the frustration, and anxiety, and general bewilderment, nostalgia should grow its presence. Your life sucks, and it probably always has, but it’s easier to cast a hue of fondness over the past than to accept that if the present’s bad, the future is worse. It’s a natural part of the ageing process, too, of course: kids get younger and the music and fashions get worse by the year.

Katja Nielsen, singer and bassist with Swedish punk act Arre! Arre! had been suffering from bipolar disorder a decade before diagnosis. With the outbreak of a global pandemic, band activity curtailed: she found that writing songs helped her process, and so She/Beast was born, with ‘In the Depths of Misery’ being the first of a brace of EP, both of which derive their titles from quotes from Vincent Van Gogh, another bipolar artist.

The liner notes recount how the songs were ‘written and arranged entirely in Nielsen’s living room’ and ‘mark a dramatic departure from the furious pace of Arre! Arre!’s output, instead evincing a lo-fi, pop-rock sound’.

How it translates is as all the dark side of the 80s distilled into a neat package: it’s very much bass-driven, propelled by a drum machine that thumps away mechanically, with economical programming – no fancy fills or extravagant cymbal work – and laced with stark synths. Throw The Cure, X-Mal Deutschland, Skeletal Family, and all the fringe artists from that 1979-83 period who ventured into the darker realms of post-punk, into a blender and you’ve got the sharply piquant flavour of She/Beast.

It’s poppy, but it’s heavy on shade. ‘I don’t know what to do with myself’, she sings lost and aimless on ‘The Sadness Will Last Forever’. The bubbling ‘Born to Fight’ is exemplary of the way Nielsen brings everything together. A looping buoyant synth line that would have sat comfortably on an early Depeche Mode single is welded to a thudding four-four Craig Adams style bassline that dominates the rhythm section, while Nielsen spins a message of self-affirmation in a dreamy style, her voice compressed and floating in reverb.

The loping drums of closer ‘A Fragile State of Mind’ are murky in the mix, but the snare cuts through in the way that’s characteristic of that 80s sound. It’s so, so evocative that it carries almost as much weight and impact as the tune and the lyrical content combined – meaning that in context, this short, five-song EP speaks and resonates on levels far beyond its constituent parts.

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