Flying Hórses (Jade Bergeron and Raphael Weinroth-Browne) may be a Montreal duo, but they have one foot in Reykjavik, where parts of their album were recorded and the entire project was mastered. By mixing longer compositions with shorter interludes, the duo creates a warm and friendly sound, suffused with a light sense of wonder.
Bergeron’s array of instruments – piano, wurlitzer, celesta, glockenspiel, bells, chimes, and music boxes – is commonly associated with childlike innocence, a connection that the duo mentions twice in its press release. This specific set of timbres is identified with some of Iceland’s biggest sonic successes: Björk, Sigur Rós, múm, amína / amiina. Of these, the latter is the closest in sound. Flying Hórses claims to take a dark turn later in the album, delving into the low tones of Weinroth-Browne’s cello, but the shadows are not intimidating; the duo is far too chipper for that. Instead, the album comes across as a slow, safe aging: nothing will damage, nothing will abrade. While not “totally unique” as touted, Tölt is a welcome entry into the canon of fairy tale scoring.
Tölt‘s advantage is its tonal variety. Although the six shortest pieces add up to less than 1/7th of a 42-minute album, they provide shifts that lead to sonic alertness. The sweetness of “Amble” is balanced by the brightness of “Bjöllur”, like a sharp bit of dialogue calling a scene into relief. The lullaby-esque “Carousel” winds down like its namesake, giving birth to the sprightly “Celeste”, like a toy that has just been wound. The rippled cello effects of the title track are offset by the elongated draws of “Norður”. One begins to imagine an intercontinental dialogue, church bells rung in one nation, but heard in another.
The deeper tracks keep each other company on the far end of the album, with no interludes between. “Dollhouse” seems a metaphor for a trapped life, but a window remains open. It’s simultaneously the most mature and score-like piece on the album. The battling music boxes and rustling drones of the ensuing track provide the first sign that the duo is veering to the left, but “Spiladósir” stops short of dark ambient; it’s still too pretty and tonal for that. It’s still an important step, as it seems more like the skeleton hat than the rose. If Flying Hórses continues in this direction, they should have a long and prosperous career. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 15 August