Already a well-known recording artist of over 16 years’ prolific output in her native Scandinavia, Slør (out May 26, 2017) is – rather incredibly – Copenhagen-based, Faroese talent Eivør’s first commercial release here in the UK. It’s one that has been over 2 years in the making- with Slør actually an English-translated re-imagining of her Faroese-sung 2015 album release of the same title.
Eivør has worked across a disparate clutch of collaborative projects, alongside her ten solo album releases to date. Her crystalline voice can currently be heard soundtracking the forthcoming series of blockbusting BBC/Netflix flagship The Last Kingdom (airing here from early April 2017), which she composed alongside Ivor Novello/BAFTA nominee John Lunn (Downton Abbey, Waking The Dead), and Eivør’s music has also been synced on Scorsese’s latest film, Silence, alongside other trailers for Game Of Thrones and Deep Water Horizon (Mark Wahlberg). Eivør has also collaborated on the trailer soundtrack for Metal Gear Survive (now with over 1 million views online), and last year appeared at Los Angeles’ huge E3 international gaming event, where she performed (via live stream) to a global audience of 50 million at the launch for Playstation’s forthcoming God Of War. Further collaborations with fellow artists – including recording with doom metallers Hamferõ, a stint playing Marilyn Monroe in an opera scored by Gavin Bryars and fronting symphony orchestras, to name just a few- continue to peg Eivør as a restlessly dynamic artist.
In order to understand Eivør’s motivation to undertake the task of re-writing an entirely Faroese body of lyrics into an ‘English’ album, look no further than a distinctly extraordinary childhood. Surrounded by the wild North Atlantic ocean, Eivør grew up in the tiny community of Syðrugøta (population: 1000) on Eysturoy (population: 10,000), one of the most northerly of the Faroe Islands. The inherently hermetic nature of the remote archipelago (whose total population is just shy of 50,000 inhabitants) meant a teenaged Eivør’s musical diet was filtered through singular channels. Frequent after-school trips to consume the modest record collection of a friend’s parents (where the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Elvis Presley became constants) and the lure of traditional Faroese folk songs sung by Eivør’s Grandfather meant a nascent desire to emulate The King, and a keenness to preserve the Faroe Islands’ oral music traditions made surprisingly easy bedfellows.
The subsequent arrival on the Islands of era-defining records by Portishead and Massive Attack compelled a then-13 year old Eivør to form & front a trip-hop band. The customarily teenaged band rehearsals ran parallel with regular performances by Eivør at concerts held – afloat, in complete darkness – inside a huge cave on the island of Hestur. Recalling these events – some distance removed from a typical 3 band Friday night bill at The Barfly- Eivør says; “I knew the sailor who started those trips. We’d sail into this huge cave- it’s pitch black inside, but the sounds are just crazy. It’s so amazing. Sometimes it could be pretty dangerous, if the sea was rough.”
At the age when her schoolmates were then moving onto high school (and much to her parents’ initial dismay), Eivør quit school at sixteen, already impatient to release her self-titled debut album (which came out that same year). Just a year later, she moved alone to Iceland, settling in Reykjavik to pursue classical singing training, also releasing a subsequent two albums along the way.
Eivør wrote the original Faroese version of Slør (pronounced ‘slur’) as a sister album of sorts to 2015’s Bridges – whilst the latter dealt with homesickness & the knock-on effects on a sense of self, Slør squares up to the disconnect of returning. Says Eivør; “Slør is very much about my roots- I just really wanted to go home, be back in the old environment. So I went back to the tiny little village where I come from, by the ocean. There was something exhilarating about being back at the heart of where I came from as a person and an artist, all the while realising how many things inside me had changed.” Working closely with both her producer Tróndur Bogason and her band, Eivør sought to reconcile the Faroes’ remote majesty with the thoroughly modern world of her electronica; “The landscape I grew up with, it seemed so natural to turn into an electronic landscape, because it has this electric sound in it, you know. All these wild, crazy sounds- stormy, winds, and the ocean.”
The Hestur cave itself goes some way as an emblem for Eivør’s quest throughout Slør to align her current life in Copenhagen with the more primitive idiosyncrasies of her youth in the Faroes. Not least, as the sounds of crashing waves and echoes from within it are sampled by Eivør on one of Slør’s standout tracks, ‘Salt’. With the found sounds of the cave assimilated dextrously with startling stabs of synthesiser, beneath lyrics inspired by an old Nordic myth (as with sister track, ’My World’), it captures the album’s pull between the contemporary and the nostalgic in microcosm. It’s an interplay which runs right through Slør- appositely, on ‘In My Shoes’, precision-triggered beats are comprised in part by the sampled sound of heels pacing across a wooden floor. Elsewhere, ‘Piece By Piece’ is startling in its exposed simplicity, with Eivør’s vocal and ukulele backed solely by sonorous male vocals, nodding towards the a cappella traditions of The Faroes.
The album title itself here remains untranslated. Resisting a singular english definition (‘Slør’ can be used variously to mean ‘veils’ or ‘blurriness’ in English), it’s a metaphor for the different worlds which Slør taps into. Look no further than the tenderly atmospheric ‘Fog Banks’, which equates an increasing struggle to negotiate a friend’s battle with dementia to the Faroes’ characteristically nebulous weather; ‘Everything is veiled today / but the mountain tops are still bright spots somewhere above us’. Whilst elsewhere, the off-kilter synths of ‘Into The Mist’ trade in a more literal fear- written in search of direction in adulthood, the track was actually inspired by going MIA as a child, atop local island mountain Støðlafjall. Says Eivør; “One day when I was about 11 year old I was walking up this mountain alone – daydreaming as usual – when the fog sneaked in and all of a sudden I was surrounded by thick fog and I could not see anything. I completely lost sense of direction- I was lost for hours.”
Eivør now admits to initial scepticism when the idea to translate Slør into an English release was first mooted; “I said ‘No way! Not possible!’” she laughs. And yet, following false starts and frustrated attempts at translations of her own, Eivør found the key to unlock the new incarnation of the album, working in collaboration with American poet & sometime Faroes resident, Randi Ward. The fruits of their meticulous 8 month period of re-writing are borne out in spades here- teeming with darkly hooky pop, you sense the arrival of Slør will ensure Eivør doesn’t remain a veiled presence in these parts for much longer.