Learning to Dive: Norwegian Pop (digital outlets)

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Learning to Dive: Norwegian Pop (digital outlets)

For every Bowie Let's Dance in the Eighties there was an Ultravox Vienna, for every New Romantic in bright mascara there was a tribe of white-faced Goths listening to the Cure.

The Eighties may have been the decade of We Are the World and Live Aid but, lest we forget, they were prompted by a horrendous famine.

The Eighties were dark times: Chernobyl, the Cold War, Thatcherism/Reaganism . . .

Little wonder some of the music was gloomy, portentous and brooding.

Even the addictive pop of early Talking Heads was filled with unease.

Learning to Dive is the project of Bravo Bonez (Anthony Limbrick) and just one of this Wellington-based global citizen's monikers.

But with co-producer Greg Haver (who plays drums and percussion), vocalist Alba Rose and British guitarist Andy Taylor (I'm guessing same Taylor as in Duran Duran etc?), here he pays homage to the often morose and uneasy end of Eighties prog-synth in lyrics heavy with emotional anxieties and disappointment, images of assassins and evil figures, and sometimes more than a dollop of self-loathing: “I stand before you now, an educated sham, one of those hollow men, you can count on me to let you down . . .” (High and Dry).

In a vocal delivery which broadcasts on a very narrow bandwidth of style and detached emotion, this is about as far from the Norwegian Pop of the, presumably ironic, album title as you could get.

Yes, you can discern all those British synth-pop tropes (Ultravox, a little Peter Gabriel, maybe Berlin-era Bowie), and a studied aloofness in its monochromatic vocals.

It's unfair perhaps but I thought of Peter Cook's star turn as the emotional void of Drimble Wedge in Bedazzled on I'll Smile at the end: “I'll smile as you walk away . . . .as a crippled autumn fades”.

It is beautifully recorded (in Norway, the UK and NZ), there are some seductive melodies (the standout is the lush Promenade), has a sense of landscape-sized space despite the sometimes claustrophobic moods, and might even capture something of the current uncertainties: “No movement, I wake to decay, I pray hopelessly for something to change” on Falling Leaves.

But over the long haul and in its mannered detachment, it can be a glum and sometimes pretentious 45-minute journey to that dirty sun falling and crippled autumn fading at the end.

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You can hear this album at Spotify here



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