Review: Solveig Matthildur's Constantly in Love

On April 19th Solveig Matthildur’s highly anticipated sophomore solo album “Constantly in Love” dropped on Artoffact records. If you don’t know who Solveig is, she is the keyboarding, programming and backing vocals of the Icelandic synth/punk and darkwave band Kaelan Mikla. She has also been involved in multiple collaborations with Hante. and Stockhaussen.

This album comes in the aftermath of the massive scene success of Kaelan Mikla’s breakthrough album Nott Eftir Nott. This caused high expectations and Solveig had raised eyebrows with her first self-released album “Unexplained Miseries & The Acceptance of Sorrow” (including mine) as her approach to her solo music is far more experimental, creative and deeper than what you can expect from Kaelan Mikla. So if you had thoughts that her solo career was a satellite project that sounded similar to what we know of her on “KM” well hang on tight because you are in for a ride.

I will be very honest, I was skeptical about what Solveig’s latest album would have to offer because her first release was such an experimental experience that didn’t establish a heading of what her identity as a musician would be. Also Kaelan Mikla brings a totally different and a little more straightforward musical experience. All we had prior to “Constantly In Love”’s release were the teaser tracks Dystopian Boy, Utopian Girl and Constantly In Love. Dystopian Boy was the first single of the album featuring the jangly guitars of Deb Demure of Drab Majesty. I thought this track was going to define the album… but oh I was so wrong.

Utopian Girl released, which saw a more eerie synth/wave and trip-hop structure with a fugue of overlapping high and ethereal vocals, which reminded of bands like Switchblade Symphony and Portishead. The track also dug into Ethereal Wave territory with a very catchy beat. Eventually the title track,Constantly in Love, released. This track is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting on the entire album and it sets the overall tone. This track again shows a sort of a trip hop beat influence merged with Solveig’s synth/wave prowess.

If I had to describe the entire album in a single, straightforward sentence, I would say “Constantly in Love” is a standing poetry, dark/ethereal/synth/wave work with some Trip Hop elements. But, as I’ve noted, nothing is ever straightforward with Solveig. Unlike Kaelan Mikla, this album is sung in English which will appeal to many listeners. I’m more of a sucker for moods which this album is flooded with. Many tracks present a clash or duality contrasting emotions and elements. For example Dystopian Boy to Utopian Girl; Constantly In Love to Constantly Heartbroken; and My Desperation to Your Desperation.

It is these contrasting elements that I found to be one of the most compelling aspects of “Constantly In Love” and the work is undoubtedly meant to be listened to as a single work. The album feels exactly like a constant struggle between opposite forces in one’s mind. Listening to it, there were moments where I didn’t know if to be happy or nostalgic, loved or heartbroken, calmed or desperate, to have hope for something better to come or drowned in despair with no escape. Solveig masterfully manipulates the listener’s emotions and keeps you in uneven ground.

Another interesting element of the album is the medieval romantic feel of it compared to Kaelan Mikla, which draws more from Icelandic culture, story, and myths. Solveig here evokes that dark romanticism of the 1990’s that was very close associated with those Ethereal Wave bands of that era.

The majority of the songs on the album do follow a similar structure where they begin with a slow introduction and Solveig’s ethereal vocals. As tracks progress, they pick up in tempo and become more complex with the addition of other musical elements like extra beats, overlapping and disembodied fugue of the vocals, or even higher vocal notes. Unfortunately, this is the one element of the album that caused me some fatigue, as it becomes somewhat monotonous throughout the album. I may be a little biased here based on how Kaelan Mikla shows a variable approach to their repertoire, whether it is in the vocals, tempo, or overall mood from song to song.

For individual tracks, I don’t like to point them out singularly, especially with albums like this one which are more like a poetry book and meant to be listened and appreciated as a whole package. However, I do want to point some interesting ones for the sake of review. The End is such a beautiful song to conclude the album and has a vibe pulled out from The Cure’s iconic album Disintegration.

Dystopian Boy is the only track in the album that works by itself, and this is mostly thanks to Deb Demure’s guitars. In fact, this song has me wondering if Solveig should add more guitars to future work. It provides a different take from Kaelan Mikla’s synergy between bass and synth. I would be interested in learning more about what led to Solveig collaborating with Deb Demure on this track.

Constantly In Love is an excellent mood setter and indicator of the somber and introspective journey that Solveig will take you on.

Utopian Girl is the track that summarizes the album’s structure of bringing the listener up slowly and then overwhelming you with a barrage of musical arrangements and emotions. Solveig’s overlapping voices just feel like if there were 4 of her trying to speak at once, echoing in your head. It is an overall exquisite and bizarre experience.

Last but not least, Your Desperation, which rivals Dystopian Boy as the most upbeat track of the album. There is a remix collaboration of this song after the closing track by Helene de Thoury and her solo project Hante. A beautiful remix which gave a breathtaking and powerful lift to this song.

This album is an aesthetically gorgeous production that shouldn’t be missed! Especially if you are into bands like Switchblade Symphony and Portishead or into the down tempo Ethereal Wave more generally. “Constantly In Love” is a journey into Solveig Matthildur’s introspection and musical vision like never before, which has reached even new depths and complexities. Her work on this album is powerful, cold, dense, mysterious and downright emotionally overwhelming in all the right ways. Quite the musical experience which leaves me craving for more and wondering what will come out next from Matthildur’s Pandora’s box.

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