On her new album she continues to evolve with this musical approach, with her beautiful vocals placed front and center over instrumentation including household percussion and sampled sounds from everyday life. But on ‘Birthmark’ Hukkelberg goes even more pop than she has before, inspired by a string of collaborations over the last few years with great songwriters and artists such as Emilie Nicolas, Highasakite and Bernhoft, as well as Todd Terje and Brian Ferry. She has also been inspired by revisiting her adolescent love for soul and R’n’B, which also has colored the soundscape on this record. All the songs on ‘Birthmark’ came to be by improvising on her grandmother’s piano, now belonging to Hukkelberg and taking up much room in her studio, but also in her heart and music:-I really loved my grandmother, so writing ‘Birthmark’ with this piano as a base makes it a very emotional album too me, Hukkelberg says.
The themes on Hukkelberg’s album have a clear narrative and cover science, faith, love, loss and everyday life:-I go from big existential matters to small everyday things on this album, just like in my own life. It’s about how I look at the world and how it is to live in it and all the relationships, troubles and joy this world can bring. The first song is called “Don’t dream” and has “blue blue winds” in there somewhere, while the very last song, a ballad called “Summer Shadows” is about not appreciating what you have until it’s gone. The songs in the middle cover insecurity, youth naivety, ageing, hormones, climate change, science and of course, faith.
The album was recorded in her studio in Oslo, but was very much inspired by her trips to big cities like Berlin, Munich, London and Los Angeles:-This is the first album that I have made entirely in Oslo, but a lot of my field recordings are from other places, an example being that I used quite a lot of household percussion from a backstage in Gothenburg. I have toured and travelled a lot these past years, and I think that experience gives the record a universal feel, even though it’s made and produced entirely at Grünerløkka in Oslo.
“The album is a combination of personal experience and a wider observation of society and how I feel people are living their lives,” Hukkelberg says. “It’s strange to think we are the last generation to have experienced the world without Internet. The question of identity has changed from being something you are born with to a task – you have to create your own community. The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish. You feel in control.”
But #IRL, Hukkelberg couldn’t feel less in control: “The Internet and social media have such an impact on my life, and I’m often made aware of how addicted I am to this ‘digital beast’. How can something that is not part of our basic nature be so consuming? I experience hollowness, emptiness and overexposure, which is offset by superficial fun and distraction,” she says.
Yet still, somewhere beneath the doom, dread and data lies a glimmer of hope – of ‘Trust’ – turning Hukkelberg’s dystopian drone into more of an empowered plea for society. “Trust is something that will never expire, it’s a quality that we’ll retain in both real and virtual life.” It’s a common thread that extends all corners of the album, with ‘The Whip’ urging trust in others (“What a loss it would be to be everything all alone”) and tracks like ‘Embroidery’ and ‘Silverhaired’ encouraging trust in self.