When Saints Go Machine - Konkylie

They exude a creepy beauty that’s rarely seen in contemporary pop.

Rating: 8

Darling Denmark! How you blossom and swagger! How you succeed in making me dance like a wayward barbarian! How you confirm with me that your lands are presently the most scorching of the world’s talent-rearing hot-beds! We adore you for offering us those omnipresent woolly jumpers, The Killing and seemingly endless litters of quirky little electronic outfits. But let us now kneel down in prayer to thee in thanksgiving for your latest wunderkinds, the whimsically christened When Saints Go Machine. For their intrepid debut album proper, ‘Konkylie’ (‘conch shell’), explores playfully perplexing and oft-funky domains never before encompassed by the Euro-pop contingent. It’s phenomenal.

On first listen, the LP strikes me as most tribal its demeanour. Meandering rampantly throughout its entirety, the album flits between clusters of bongo-laden sounds occasionally akin to Wild Beasts’ falsetto-led, cinematic tendencies, more often to Hercules & Love Affair’s enigmatic disco pomp. It also seems as though the album could be rewound at virtually any speed and still sound perfectly acceptable; the lyrics are at times incomprehensible, the music almost symmetrical. It’s certainly true that they boast an air of eccentricity.

Once you’ve experienced the music, the band’s diverse background will come as no surprise, but it might well do beforehand; members Jonas and Silas are relatively well-known under the guise Kenton Slash Demon (making jumpy techno-house music), whilst Simon on keys declares that he’s heavily influenced by jazz and mainman Nicolaj that he has a penchant for The Slits - all a far cry from the substance on this album. Another fact which accentuates their varied oddness is that some tunes on this album were recorded in a forest, others in a tunnel.

In fact, I can totally imagine the forest trees trembling in the title track that boldly opens proceedings. Demonstrating sparse instrumentation comprising reverb stricken synths and contorted solo vocals, the tune vaguely resembles an alien interpretation of a 60s folk ditty at first, but it subsequently moves to incorporate almost unimaginable group harmonies - some of the most bewildering and intricately arranged my ears have ever had the pleasure of devouring.

The soulful ‘Parix’ recalls one of Jamie Woon’s bassier moments but if corroborated by a throttling FlyLo beat, everything tempered to make it sound ludicrously otherworldly. The outlandish theme continues with the evocative ‘Church and Law’, which sees popping synths and 2011-style Talk Talk vocals entwine. But nothing tops the closer.

‘Blood in our hands / King of a rave / Never want to stop / Stop the time, take over!’ leader Nicolaj Manuel Vonsild triumphantly intones on ‘Add Ends’, the effortless finale and album highlight in which his Antony Hegarty-recalling vocals are framed by a bed of pizzicato strings. They exude a creepy beauty that’s rarely seen in contemporary pop. If Plan B had written this, perhaps opting for another peculiar progression on his next LP, it would be a sure-fire number 1.

Alas, it’s hard to sum up ‘Konkylie’ neatly. I think I’ve explained how great it as fully as I can. This debut has been in the works for two years, and this is certainly evident from the produce. Dare you indulge its blissful electronic harmony?