Meet Karin Park: a new goth friend who really is electric.
Nick Levine 2012-06-07
On this album's cover shot, Karin Park almost presents herself as "Gaby Numan". It's a look that doesn't exactly clash with the contents. The striking Swede cites both Gary Numan and Depeche Mode as influences on her gloomy and brooding electronic music.
However, Highwire Poetry is no synth-pop pastiche turning up late to the 80s revival party. Dubstep and industrial are also touchstones, while Park owes a clear debt to the creepy soundscapes of Fever Ray, with whom she shares a producer, Christoffer Berg. When Park calls her sound "electro goth", it's difficult to object.
Park doesn't wear her influences lightly, but she's dynamic enough to fashion her own distinct style. The claustrophobia and longing in songs like Fryngies, Wildchild and Tiger Dreams seems to reflect her unusual upbringing: Park grew up in a remote Swedish town before being sent to a Japanese missionary school untouched by Western culture. It's no surprise she turned out pretty intense. "She licks your hair with a reptile tongue while she wraps her arms around you," isn't a line the average Sylvia Young graduate might write.
The upshot of this intensity is that Highwire Poetry lacks light and shade. To be precise, it lacks light. However, thanks to a few musical curveballs, the album never gets stuck in a sonic rut. A more experimental track called 6000 Years almost sounds like a zombie hymn. Thousand Loaded Guns answers the question: "What might a collaboration between Karin Dreijer Andersson and Giorgio Moroder sound like?" After beginning in menacing electro mode, all prickly blips and stomach-churning bass, Explosions breaks into an unexpectedly bouncy chorus.
Not that Park's melodic gifts were ever in doubt. Being a Scandinavian pop artist with well-honed songwriting skills – this is her first album to receive a UK release, but fourth overall – Park can do hooks as well as spooks. Factor in her fantastic voice, flexible enough to recall both Shirley Manson and Björk, and Highwire Poetry becomes an arresting introduction. Meet Karin Park: a new goth friend who really is electric.