It’s been half a decade since Ane Brun released an album of her own work, but it seems that 2020 has been a productive year for the Norwegian artist. She has not one but two albums out this autumn, with After The Great Storm set to be followed next month by How Beauty Holds The Hands Of Sorrow.
After the Great Storm follows on logically from Brun’s 2015 release When I’m Free, which saw her step away from the fey folk troubadour style of her early albums and embrace a grander, poppier sound. The nine songs here deal with both personal relationships and state-of-the-world concerns and in terms of scale and ambition marry pop elegance with more musical experimentation than we’ve seen from Brun in the past. There are hints of dance music, electronica and jazz and the album feels a lot more experimental in its instrumentation than anything we’ve heard from Brun before.
Opening track Honey is a laid back trip-hop infused gem, in which Brun sings to her younger self. It’s a wonderfully polished pop tune that benefits from the authentic sound of Brun’s soaring voice. Title track After the Great Storm could be an out-take from Goldfrapp’s Felt Mountain, with its ominous strings and cinematic soundscape providing the background to swooping falsetto vocals.
There are some fine songs at the centre of the album which showcase Brun’s versatility and reach. Standout track Crumbs is an 80s tinged slice of indie-pop that Laura Branigan would have been proud of. Take Hold of Me pits Brun’s ethereal vocals against a thumping bass and is just crying out to be remixed into the dance floor monster that it hints at here. The melodic Fingerprints sounds wonderfully like a remixed 70s power ballad, while Don’t Run and Hide captures an irresistible dreamy pop vibe.
Some tracks though feel like they need a jolt of energy to pierce their super smooth surfaces. The slow funk of Feeling Like I Wanna Cry rests on a psychedelic vibe but doesn’t go anywhere, while The Waiting is dominated by heavy dance beats which promise more than they deliver. The final song, We Need A Mother, deals most directly with the environmental issues facing the world. ‘I feel rage’ sings Brun, but that rage doesn’t translate to the music, and the emotional sincerity feels overly worthy.
Still, this is an impressive and ambitious detour for Ane Brun, and at only nine tracks in length successfully marries her vulnerable distinctive voice with more modern electronic arrangements. It’s a sound that works for her and she has produced her most interesting and forward-looking album to date. After the Great Storm has been worth the five-year wait and if it leaves you wanting more, at least you know that there isn’t too long to wait for her next release.