Shattered from touring, annoyed by endless requests to play the theme to the Nordic noir series The Bridge (‘Hollow Talk’) and hesitant about the next musical step, Choir of Young Believers (COYB) creator Jannis Noya Makrigiannis needed a temporary escape, to re-evaluate his process. He travelled and soaked himself in cultural inspiration, much like fellow Scandinavian voyager Erlend Øye. Yet Jannis had the advantage of tri-national DNA: Denmark, Greece and Indonesia to fuel his curiosity. He explores two of his own identities and other cultures on Grasque. Although he’s labelled tracks in Danish before, this time ‘Jeg Ser Dig’ (I See You) is actually sung in the Danish language.
‘Vaserne’ is also in Jannis’s native tongue and could be named after the peaceful natural park in Copenhagen – the haven atmosphere similar to Promise and The Monster‘s own confessed paradise ‘Julingvallen’. Greece is clearly referenced twice in ‘Græsk’ – the Danish word for Greek – and ‘Gamma Moth’, which contains the name of the Greek letter for Γ. Whilst opener ‘Olimpiyskiy’ is the Russian word for Olympic and therefore combines a connotation of Greece with another European nation.
Grasque radiates the feeling of escapism through its composition. It’s evocative of the momentary bliss of exotic vacations and letting one’s mind wander into unconquered territories of knowledge. Soul-searching that can be done in a road trip or through sensory deprivation tanks. The downtempo quiet storm and velvet sensuality associated with Sade (in particular ‘No Ordinary Love’ and ‘Cherish The Day’) is adopted beautifully on introductory singles ‘Jeg Ser Deg’ and ‘Serious Lover’ making them the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing massage or the soundtrack to Valentine’s night. The former adds new age panpipes to heighten the idea of exploration and the latter ends with delicate mandolin strokes accompanied by tidal washes of water – transporting listeners to a refreshing Greek seaside. ‘Cloud Nine’ immediately points to a state of heavenly happiness. Jannis uses shiny synths to elevate the spirit of the track; it’s a good example of how this instrument has usurped COYB’s trademark cello.
It could be said that COYB don’t even need instruments to project paradisal environments, as Jannis’s voice alone has evolved from a crystalline delivery (not too dissimilar from Patrick Watson) into something so paper-thin, pneumatic and soluble it’s like the breezy air of top tourist destinations. Which ironically gives it more character than ever before. He also applies voice manipulation for the first time on ‘Græsk’ – which could be embarrassingly awful but is thankfully on par with Poliça’s ‘Lay Your Cards Out’.
Grasque benefits from its epic-long compositions and continues COYB’s ability to surprise. This includes the way that ‘Does It Look Like A Care’ shapeshifts from sounding like Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s 5:55 into Eric Serra‘s soundtrack to Luc Besson’s Nikita – maybe another ode to the 1990s. Yet the inclusion of interludes such as the saxophonic ‘The Whirpool Enigma’ tease, leaving the audience craving for more. How symbolic of the short escapism of dreams.