Farao - Till It's All Forgotten

by Justin Pearson Rating:8 Release Date:2015-09-11

You only need to look at the cover of Till It's All Forgotten to realize there's something different, something special about its Norwegian creator/multi-instrumentalist Kari Jahnsen, aka Farao. Reflecting the music inside, the colors bathing her head and hair suggest a film negative where the image reveal lies in a detailed development process. Even the background is black, acting as a darkroom of sorts to bring forth the final result. The songs then - like photos - emerge from a liquid pool of creativity where the ideas seem to have been set in through a painstaking, yet cathartic process. Needless to say, it's a breath-of-fresh-air debut.

Jahnsen injects feeling into the vein of her music with lyrics of life, love and lust. To make certain such themes come across as the weighty things they are she uses instrumentation as equally big and varied: horns, piano, guitars, drums, and synthesizers (I'm sure I've missed a few). This is evident immediately on the hand-clappy, energetic opening title-track 'TIAF' where all its different elements combine to form one of the catchiest songs on the album. This unique sonic blend also carries over to the jazz/pop-infused 'Maze.'

A lot happens in terms of style, yet from song to song it always feels like a unified piece. 'Bodies' effortlessly dances between abruptly shifting melodies. It runs after itself, playing a game of catch-up that's both delightfully offbeat and visceral. In someone else's hands it might have an unwanted dizzying effect, but with Jahnsen's masterful punch it satisfies instead.

With an over-used metaphor, 'Hunter' could easily have fallen into a cliche trap. It doesn't though. The melody skitters along until it reaches a stalking stride as Jahnsen sings: "I wanna have you by my side/ I won't let you run and hide/ If I have to I will haunt you as a phantom in the night." Victorious bursts of horn-fed synthesizer take the song to its close, resembling the figurative pursuit of prey in the lyrics leading up to it: "Track you down and shoot you like a hunter."

Surprising juxtapostions abound on the album. The stomping, tribal percussion on 'Warriors' might initially suggest a fist-pumping anthem, but on closer inspection it's a call to end a fight, not begin one: "We could have been warriors/ Fighting for our lives/ We should think about giving in and leave it all behind." 'Silence' slyly slinks its way along next to glockenspiel and a brass section before becoming something resembling a marching band. It's brief, unexpected, and entirely welcome.

Lyrically, not much really happens on 'Are You Real?', the final track on Till It's All Forgotten. It's literallly that very question repeated over and over, only delivered a little differently each time. Musically, it's loose and free, playing out like a long jam session packed tightly into its nearly five minute running time. By the time you've gotten to the reverb-soaked vocals at the end you realize it's probably the best song on the album for these very reasons. It perfectly sums up the aesthetic Jahnsen suffuses the album with: an openness that only seeks confinement when it wants or needs to.

Till It's All Forgotten drifts in its unexpected turns, but never floats on endlessly. It's an album of serious pop music that's sure of itself not only in length, but also breadth. Even among the crowd of similar musicians working today, Jahnsen is an artist that will no doubt stand out as an original, an innovator...and one to add to your watch list.

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