From heartbreak to elation and suffering to forgiveness, I Break Horses navigate life’s challenging contrasts on their spectacularly cinematic third album, ‘Warnings’.
The artwork for I Break Horses’ first album in six years features a blurred dual image of project mastermind Maria Lindén’s face. One expression is of a woman who appears relaxed, as though she’s effortlessly drifting through time. The other exudes a sense of concern from a woman lost in a train of thought. She is contemplating what was, what is, and what may come. This contrast is reflected throughout Warnings, Lindén’s engrossing third album that fuses synth-pop, dream-pop, and shoegaze into a gorgeous cinematic affair.
From heartbreak to elation and suffering to forgiveness, Warnings covers a range of push-pull emotions and unassailable struggles. Many attempts to cover such vast ground have lead to murky, incoherent results. But in the deft hands of Lindén and her long-time collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Frederik Balck, the outcome is an unforgettable, awe-inspiring escapade that begins with the sweeping epic, “Turn.”
Few artists would dare open a record with a nine-minute track, but “Turn” brilliantly sets the tone for the remaining ten songs. The majestic synth-driven dream-pop atmosphere is serene, providing the contrast to Lindén’s grappling with the end of a relationship. She states, “Am I losing my mind / Turn / Let me follow you down.” On the opposite end is the album’s ultimate track, “Depression Tourist.” Stripped back with the exception of Lindén’s voice distorted through a vocoder, peace and hope are found. Our heroine has found her way out of the turmoil.
The contrast cuts across tracks as well as within them. While somber in its effect, the organ-like synths and Balck’s shoegaze guitar create a widescreen effect on “Silence.” Within the stunning, sonic vortex, Lindén poetically describes her companion’s torment: “In your eyes, where you keep silent with fire.” A similar calming effect is replicated on “Baby You Have Travelled For Miles Without Love In Your Eyes” that echoes the stirring work of Chromatics. Meanwhile the vibrant “I’ll Be The Death Of You” is a cosmic adventure. Beneath the track’s windswept ease – the result of a masterful interplay between synths and horns – burns a fierce intensity in Lindén’s voice.
“Cause I am upside-down
I wish I could get out in time
You keep pushing on to get into my side
And tell me how it feels and how I made it in
I’ll be the death of you”
Equally sparkling is the euphoric “Neon Lights” that sounds like an anthem from the distant future. Synths shimmer like stars, brightening this bleak world we inhabit. Within this array of glittering sound, Lindén offers a little hope, optimism, and realism. She cleverly says she is “the demon in your righteous hand.” The religious imagery continues on “The Prophet” which is Break Horses’ church of the future with Lindén as the minister. The synths and keys become the organ that fills the cavernous nave. Instead of heavenly sounds, though, the music is spatial with each note emitting a celestial shine. Throughout her sermon, she tells of a false prophet who takes his faithful followers to the abyss:
“You are calling out for someone to believe in
Let me be your guiding light
‘Cause we can stop this feel (we can stop this feeling)
I’ll give you all I have
And I keep on giving
You will get on your knees and listen to me
Why do you preach my music?”
The album’s centerpiece is the breathtaking, astral-like ballad, “Death Engine.” From the hum of Lindén’s angelic voice, the song is all-consuming. Despite the beauty, Lindén’s tale of a close friend’s suicide attempt is knee-buckling:
“Running on a suicide
Oh you run so slowly
Straight into the light
You’re my sweet death angel
Running on a suicide
Time moves so slowly
I must remember tonight.”
Those who listen to Warnings will discover that I Break Horses have created a masterwork that equally affects our mind and soul, revealing that within darkness there is light and vice versa. They brilliantly demonstrate that the contrasts of our lives define our very existence.
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