Promise & The Monster is the musical pseudonymn for the work of Billie Lindahl. On her latest album Feed The Fire she’s joined by Love Martinsen, who produced the album as well as sharing the instrumentation with Billie.
Handily unlike most musicians Billie has been very open about the sound she wished to achieve on the record, “we aimed at combining the elegance of old Sixties recordings with something darker and more mechanical,” she recalls, “like you would play a Lee Hazlewood song on top of Nico’s late Eighties records”. A handy jumping off point even if it has now inevitably been included in every review of the record. Certainly there’s an element of the Sixties sound; the drums on Slow & Quiet, the guitar line from Hammering The Nails, however there’s also some considerably more modern influences as they incorporate electronic washes, dense percussion and pulsing synth lines.
Promise & The Monster are the latest product of the very productive musical setting of Sweden, Stockholm to be more precise. The capital city of Sweden, Stockholm has a population of just under one million, which makes it the biggest city in the Nordic Region. It is famous as the site of the annual Nobel Prize Ceremony as well as for having the most beautifully decorated metro system in the world, which has been dubbed, “the longest art gallery in the world”. Stockholm has produced a number of internationally renowned alternative musicians including First Aid Kit, Peter Bjorn & John and Caesars, as well as huge pop acts Robyn, ABBA and Neneh Cherry.
Promise & The Monster’s first release came back in 2007 in the shape of her debut album, Transparent Knives. That album was released via Imperial Records as was the follow up 2011’s Red Tide. These albums drew the attention of Bella Union, who released her third album, Feed The Fire last week.
There’s an intensity and an intent about this record, dark gothic landscapes stitched through with textural synth washes, twanging death-country guitar lines and haunting ethereal vocals. It’s an arresting sound with shades of Timber Timbre or Nina Nastasia, at times you feel like you’re in a cinematic chase scene, as if Billie is running from the titular Monster, crashing through forests and clearings never once stopping to look back and face her demons.
Lyrically Feed The Fire is dripping with symbolism, dealing with the most primal elements of life itself, it is scattered with references to the power and duality of nature; the ability of fire to devastate landscape bit also produce new growth. A record that deals not in stories of emotions but one that invites the listener into a world of haunting visions, light and shade, sometimes beautiful and sometimes jarring.
Whilst it’s a record that largely makes more sense as a complete piece than as individual tracks, it’s not without stand-outs; Hunter incorporates the cold-electronic sound of Fever Ray alongside a swooping vocal that recalls label mate Stephanie Dosen, recent single Time Of The Season incorporates the dense percussive sound Radiohead perfected on There There, whilst The Weight Of It All adds an African tinge that marks her out as a contemporary of fellow newcomers Cross Record. Best of all is the penultimate track Machines, stripping back the dense electronic pallet used elsewhere, it’s a track that gives Billie’s vocals room to breathe. Light marching drum beats lay beneath a menacing, slow-hand tremulous guitar line, and latterly there’s a wonderful burst of Mariachi-style trumpets; a beautiful piece of simplicity amongst the more intense offerings found elsewhere, it’s just rather wonderful!
Whilst Feed The Fire is a beautiful and intriguing listen, there are moments where you want to see just a touch more of the human at the heart of the record. For all it’s icy cool and unquestionable beauty, you do sometimes just want a little more emotion to creep through.
Feed The Fire is out now via Bella Union.