Johanna Lillvik – The Love Hate Syndrome
This CD may take an effort to purchase but it’s worth hunting down. When reviewing work I listen carefully to every cut to highlight the stand-outs. What did I find? I found all of Sweden’s Johanna Lillvik’s 12 songs intriguing, compelling & creative. Her exciting original melodic thrust is juiced with the tempura of sound. Steady drums, a classical piano run that decorates “Hydra,” in the opener of her 51-minute CD written & produced by Ms. Lillvik. Then a trumpet burst, a soar of vocals all smoothly captured with Kate Bush-Jane Siberry ornamentation.
Yet, despite its occasional progressive aspects, the appeal comes with pristine seductive vocalizing (“Feels Like Screaming,” “Make Haste”) sewn together with delicacy mindful of the diversification found with This Mortal Coil. But Johanna Lillvik is more accessible. This is so determinedly individualistic in approach.
The excellent Kim Gunneriusson drums snap & his sticks are commanding while the piano notes drift like snowflakes. Nice contrast.
The Love Hate Syndrome (Drops Sept 30–Paraply Records) has moments of musical intensity that are haunting (“Gospel of Nut”) with accomplished musicians. Johanna sings straight over a surreal atmospheric backup with the trumpet flight of Anders Vall. A nice touch. A more traditional Dead Can Dance appropriates the build.
Is this music for everyone? No. But if you like intriguing music that’s not predictable & is full-bodied – this is the ticket. The invigorating rocker “Modern Woman,” is quite a creative kaleidoscope of music. Johanna’s voice often soars with a bright tone seldom heard in rock.
Lyrics like – “You should be punished a thousand times,” & “boys put away your knives,” are set to musical notes that aren’t threatening but scolding. Cool elements fall out of her musical bag everywhere & exceptionally. Even the finale is superb.
The riveting “Mother Blues,” comes near the close. Johanna’s vocals are what an operatic rocker would sound like. Kim’s drums punctuate beautifully with a cool spray of fills to support her voice. The warm muted trumpet & sexy female backup add to the impressive production & performance. No missteps. A wonderful listening experience. I thought so.
“Busted,” is funkier & sounds like what Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) would do. It’s an inventive collection. In “Je Suis Charlie,” she goes briefly full-throttle Patti Smith in a thrilling showcase. The last time I heard a compelling female vocalist was Milan, Italy’s Francesca Chiara – the 1999 LP “Il Parco dei Sogni” with “Strano Mondo,” (“Strange World”) & the stunning “Edera.”
Musicians – Joakim Saarenpaa (bass), Anders Lindahl (trombone), Jonathan Larsson (accordion), Mikael Carlsson & Kim Gunneriusson (guitars), Tormod Tvete Vik (string arrangements on “Feels Like Screaming”) & Maria Kirilov & Linnea Lindwall (choir on “Ms. Crusoe”).
Highlights: I liked it all.
Cover image by Lisa Pilsmedh & live image: Johanna’s Facebook.