Album of the week: Soft as Snow – Deep Wave

There’s a raw urgency to Soft as Snow’s debut album, which when you hear in the context of their previous two EPs, might sound like an evolution in their work. It’s only when you hear Oda Egjar Starheim and Øystein Monsen perform these songs in a live setting that you realise that urgency has been there all along and it’s only now fully realised in the recorded format for the first time.

“I think we got closer to keeping the music how it was conceived” Oda told me in an interview last week on this blog, and it was during their live performance in Jæger’s basement, during the performance of  “Tropical Speed” that the connection between the intensity of the record and its origins were obvious.

Monsen’s broken-beat rhythmical pattern on that track is all down to an potent physical exertion that is relayed exactly like that on the record too. On the record, “Tropical Speed” communicates this perfectly and it has the unnerving effect to manifest itself in the listener too. It’s very much the climax of an album that builds to that incredibly intense point, a contrast from the start of the album, where a simple beat ushers in the album, somewhat inconspicuously.

Starheim’s background as a performance artist, and Monsen’s ascent through the Oslo noise/rock scene is more distinct than its ever been on the previous albums. Layers of jagged distortion jut out from the surface of tracks, while Starheim’s voice splutters and croons in a very cognitive way. There’s a fluidity between her voice and the various synthesised textures, that embeds her vocals in the fabric of the music, rather than offering traditional accompaniment-vocal arrangement.

As a debut album it consolidates the nature of their live act in the presentation of the recorded format, and where their previous EPs Glass Body and Chrysalis were tentative steps towards finding their feet in the studio, “Deep Wave” is them planting their feet firmly in that context. It’s a bold,unforgiving album, that demands the listener’s attention, and like their live show is completely alluring and incredibly potent.