Norwegian singer/songwriter Silje Nes is disorienting. Not in a frightening, kidnapped in the trunk of a Lincoln Continental sort of disorienting, but rather, a pleasant kind of curiosity. Listening to Silje Nes is a bit like following the white rabbit down its hole only to discover a surreal sort of wonderland on the other end. Yet where Alice entered a fantasy world of hookah-smoking caterpillars and bloodthirsty, croquet playing queens, Silje Nes invites the listener to a land of amorphous shapes, ambiguous colors, but no bodily threats of which to speak.
Ames Room, Silje Nes’ first album for FatCat Records, starts off with sounds soft and fluid, a sort of womblike atmosphere containing gentle noises that float around with loosely defined structures and an even looser sense of direction. “Over All” is childlike and playful, yet bizarre, like Mark Mothersbaugh’s Rugrats soundtrack remixed by Animal Collective. From this strange beginning, however, Silje Nes’ music becomes somewhat more intelligible, more concrete. That’s the beauty of this fantasy world—though entirely foreign it may be at first, one quickly warms to its blurred charms.
“Drown” is, by contrast, much more conventional sounding indie folk, but still gorgeously executed. “Shapes, Electric,” however, blends soft, sweetly melodic sounds with strange electronic clicks and gurgles, masking its simplicity with a convoluted gauntlet of glitch. Not that it isn’t sublime in its confusion of musical bells and whistles. The title track becomes the prettiest by far, with a waltzing haze of glorious sound. It’s almost more hymn than song, with an ascendant quality that few pop songs of her peers are likely to possess. And with a dirty, straightforward style, “Giant Disguise” even comes close to, kind of, rocking out (?).
Over repeated listens, Ames Room begins to make more and more sense. Deeper into the album one dives, the songs become more accessible, though still in a foreign, shaded sort of manner. It’s never clear exactly where Silje Nes is going to take you with each song, but the evidence most certainly dictates that it’s worth taking a blind leap.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.