Our Broken Garden - Golden Sea (Bella Union)

Side project from Efterklang's Anna Bronsted leaves a slightly saddening taste in the mouth.

Released Oct 27th, 2010 via Bella Union / By Norman Miller
Our Broken Garden - Golden Sea (Bella Union) Side projects have all kinds of motivation - sometimes the instigators just want to work with different folk to their ‘main’ band, sometimes it’s a desire to produce music that’s quite different to the day job. Whatever motivation Efterklang keyboarder Anna Bronsted has for Our Broken Garden (joined by Soren Bigum on guitar/keyboard plus Moogie Johnson on bass), on the evidence of this follow-up to their 2008 debut When Your Blackening Shows, it doesn’t quite work.

Not that the album lacks beauty - it‘s just that the beauty is marred. By itself, for example, the languorous pace of most of the album’s ten tracks manages to avoid falling into the gap between limpid and flaccid, buoyed by a sprinkling of slightly more driven numbers like 'The Fiery And Loud' plus the title track.

But there’s a skill to conjuring up glacial beauty which other Nordic bands have nailed - think Sigur Ros - but which this misses, mainly because of Bronsted’s voice. While some claim it’s bewitching, it could also be dubbed a case of soporific-inducing etherealism - more Enya than Sigur’s Jonsi. Which is a shame as musically there are some gorgeous things here.

If you could take out the vocal track, your spine might tingle over half a dozen tracks - the gorgeous melancholia of 'In The Lowlands', the yearning keyboard lines of 'The Departure' and 'Nightsong', the gentle pulsing violin-infused beats of 'The Burial', the slow electro pulses of 'Seven Wild Horses'.

Even these are weakened by Bronsted’s voice, though, which seems often to strain for qualities it can’t reach. A real shame, given the loveliness lurking beneath it. In the end, though, this is like a beautiful cake given an disappointing icing.