The third album from the enigmatic Strië (Iden Reinhart) is a lesson in abstraction: an impressionistic set inspired by abstract art, swaths of sound built upon whispers. On this album, Reinhart travels farther down the path she set out upon in Sléptis and fine-tuned in Õhtul. Signposts are still present: a series of beats here, an intense crackle there. And yet, the artist known for her public shyness (despite orchestra tours, only a half-photo seems to exist) continues to disappear, dragging her instruments slowly into the void. The beauty of the set is its chimeric nature; the songs shimmer and shift beneath the ear. The danger is that Strië seems intent on becoming an abstraction herself: a smudged memory, an elusive impression, a series of images scattered in the sun. We fear that one day the artist will fade like fog, molecules made invisible by the heat, leaving only a faint sonic residue.
The title is ironic, as the songs are structured while the overall impression is less precise. It’s impossible not to make a connection to that other female artist whose new album was just released. Struktura and Vulnicura are worlds apart, and Strië and Björk are headed in opposite directions, the former erasing her footprints behind her, the latter highlighting them with permanent paint. And yet, they share at least two major similarities. Each is intensely vulnerable, as reflected in their music ~ Strië’s mournful violin and Björk’s “classic overshare” lyrics. While Björk is called “brave” for spilling her emotional guts on a global level, Strië is equally courageous for working through her vulnerability in seclusion, never knowing if her utterances will be heard. The intricacy of Struktura more resembles that of Vespertine, an album the Icelandic artist composed solo on a laptop, emotionally damaged and hoping to heal. But Strië’s transmissions are broadcast without words, like morse and teletype without a translator.
The second aspect that binds these artists together is their sense of sonic precision. When listening intently to Struktura, one gets the impression that every bell, every dragged chain, every tortured gasp, every static wave and every draw of the bow is as carefully placed as newly-blown glass. In other hands, this attention to minutia might seem cold, but the only coldness here is that of a shivering heart. The track “Chance and Order” is a perfect example; a reflection of the Kenneth Martin series of the early 1970s, each sound seems led by the hand of inevitability. (The recent “Chance and Order” exhibition in London seems particularly well-timed, but this album was already well in the works when it was conceived.)
In “Vogel Wolke” (inspired by Lionel Feininger’s 1926 painting), the piano is the constant, like the figure in the lower left, while the other sounds shift like angular clouds. (Another fine Feininger painting, “The Steamer Odin”, also makes an appearance.) The human figure is even more apparent in Giorgio de Chirico’s “The Enigma of a Day” (1914), and so it is no surprise that the album’s closing track possesses the clearest human element, a looped vocal melody that comes across as an incantation. If the album can be viewed as a sequential progression, this final piece may be a sign that the artist is emerging from her abstract period, yearning to reengage with the world. Conversely, if the sequencing is viewed as an aesthetic placement, then Strië may still be headed in the opposite direction, toward the soothingly formless void that existed before time was born. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 6 April