Americans mostly tend to think of Jose Gonzalez, if anyone, when the topic is Scandinavian singer-songwriters. Veneer is one of the few records of this genre to find success in the U.S., but a number of other artists have been defining this sound for years in the northern parts of Europe.
Norwegian-born Ane Brun (“Ah-na Brewn”) found her voice accepted by the Scandinavian scene after her debut, Spending Time With Morgan, was released in 2003. Touring Europe and dodging offers from major record labels, Brun’s name became more frequently mentioned by the music press and by those looking for a release that reflected the occasionally lonely and dark aspects of northern life.
A Temporary Dive, which was originally released in 2004 on Brun’s own DerErMine Records, explores the year following the release of her debut. For the repackaged U.S. release, the songs were reordered, and they flow quite seamlessly from emotion to emotion, with exception of the album’s only questionable song, “Song No. 6,” which features Ron Sexsmith.
Brun’s voice is at its most tragic and beautiful on the title track, whose sound sums up the mood of the record. Coursing wonderfully into a reworking of Henry Purcell’s “Laid in Earth” from the seventeenth century opera Dido and Aeneas, Brun shows herself as a master of the darkened spaces she fills with her voice and sparse arrangements.
Teitur, another artist who knows how to manipulate shadows and desolation, joins Brun on “Rubber & Soul” in an analysis of the rational side of ourselves that prevents instinct’s control over our actions. Whereas her duet with Sexsmith failed to capture the happiness of a marriage between two of Brun’s friends, her duet with Teitur succeeds in its concise format and the wonderful contrast and joining of their voices.
A Temporary Dive is a compelling and intelligent album, with Brun’s voice getting lost like snowflakes against the wintry scene her guitar is surveying. The contributing players and vocalists, excluding Sexsmith, add strength to the skeleton uncovered by Brun’s guitar lines. Her ability to create images in our minds, although those images are sometimes sobering, sets her apart as one of today’s most promising Scandinavian singer-songwriters.
Whereas Jose Gonzalez really captured our attention with his cover of the Knife’s “Heartbeats,” Ane Brun holds our focus throughout A Temporary Dive. Ane Brun’s second album, like an escapist’s final journey through all she wishes to escape, is worth delving into.