Little Things by Hanne Hukkelberg
Formats: CD (deleted) (BAY 44CD) Limited Edition Vinyl LP (deleted) (BAY 44V)
Release Date: 13 June 2005
Little Things is one of those rare albums that springs from seemingly nowhere, fully-formed and astonishing, from an artist who brims with effortless confidence and charisma.
26-year-old Hanne Hukkelberg is that artist, and Little Things is her debut album. Hanne’s voice glides up and down the musical scale like cotton candy spinning onto a stick, while in her music there’s an essence of enchantment and otherworldly bliss.
"Music plays for me / I never heard it this way before / Strange / Tell me this is true love" she confesses on ‘True Love’. While it’s certainly the case that love can change the way your hear music, it is a fact that no one in the world hears music quite the way Hanne Hukkelberg does.
Born in Kongsberg, Norway, Hanne was singing at age three and showing a gifted aptitude for finding music hidden in the most unlikely of objects – pots and pans, the cutlery drawer, her toybox… A talent that stood her in good stead on her debut album.
Brazenly, Hanne and her group tease notes from glass bottles, extracting melody from bicycle spokes, percussion from swishy dishwashing brushes or a glissando from wine glasses into a glorious accompaniment to her deftly written parts for piano, banjo, fiddle, accordion, violin and glockenspiel. It is an impressive accomplishment, and even more so that Little Things is not simply in love with the idea of sound, but is steeped in tender, delicate expressions of pure emotion. Her singing touches on multiple layers of feeling, infusing the music with an impish mirth beside a visceral sweetness. With the unique force of a Nina Simone, Cat Power or Stina Nordenstam, it’s an unforgettable voice, bound to an almost sacred, heady swathe of music. A palpable sense of weightlessness abounds. Tunes seem to dance on air.
While ‘Little Girl’ might whorl with a feeling not unlike a vintage Hollywood musical set in a seaside amusement park with its jaunty whistling and merry-go-round accordion, the mood drifts then towards wistful intimacy and confession on ‘Cast Anchor’ (lead track from the debut EP), lit up with heavenly harmonies and Hukkelberg’s own angelic, honeyed vocals. The tip-toeing, cautioning verses of ‘Do Not As I Do’ bloom into a rapturous melodic surge that invoke some of Joni Mitchell’s most ecstatic passages.
On ‘Balloon’, Hukkelberg finds herself taken for a ride, where her voice soars to somewhere close to sheer heaven – "He still held my hand in his thread / his head filled with helium / pulled me up so I couldn’t walk / but look at things / from a different angle". Which seems to be key to Hukkelberg. As is the experience of a tangible delight. "My chest’s like a cage full of butterflies" she muses, "it tickled". As Little Things progresses, the ingenuities continue. The intrigue of Hukkelberg’s engrossing world deepens.
Establishing a reputation in Kongsberg, Hanne Hukkelberg delved into the enviable melting pot that is the close-knit Norwegian scene, playing metal, prog rock, jazz and all out improv. She further developed her abilities by enrolling in Oslo’s National Academy of Music, from which she graduated in 2003.
Soon after, she set to work on Little Things, which she composed entirely on her own. Norwegian musicians from Jaga Jazzist, Kaada (who recently collaborated with Mike Patton on an album for Ipecac), Shining, Kiruna and Exploding Plastix came in to play various contributions, all of which were beautifully arranged by Hukkelberg and noted Norwegian producer Kåre Christoffer Vestrheim. Superficially quite a departure for The Leaf Label, but at the same time a perfect fit, the album is licensed from the fledgling Oslo label, Propeller Recordings, of which Kåre is a co-founder.
Hanne Hukkelberg’s skill lays in portraying a precise sense of calm, imbuing a sense of nostalgia for a place you’ve never been. Little Things celebrates the subtleties of tiny touches and warm whispers with small bursts of sound and the voice of an angel.
1. Hoist Anchor
3. Little Girl
4. Cast Anchor
5. Do Not As I Do
10. True Love
12. Words & A Piece Of Paper