Home International Tone of Voice Orchestra – S/T (Album Review)

Tone of Voice Orchestra – S/T (Album Review)

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Tone of Voice Orchestra – Tone of Voice Orchestra

Stunt Records
2022

The music of Tone of Voice Orchestra defies description or categorisation, combining Scandinavian roots with indie folk, jazz and global influences, exceptional harmonies and sophisticated lyrics; they will draw you back again and again. An exceptional debut.

The Tone of Voice Orchestra is a predominantly Danish band put together by leading Jazz saxophonist Fredrik Lundin and acclaimed singer-songwriter Trinelise Væring. On this, their eponymous debut, they combine Scandinavian roots with indie folk, jazz and global influences. The ten-piece orchestra features four singers and six instrumentalists playing fiddle, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, cittern, saxophones, and flutes, with two drummers and double bass. While this unusual combination may sound out of the ordinary, it works well. It’s a surprise, but what makes this album shine is that it’s held together by deep, poetic lyrics and some truly incredible singing that runs the gamut from tight unison singing to unusual and uplifting jazz harmonies that surprise and delight. It would be all too easy for the songs to be lost among so many distinctive instrumental sounds, but this is more a case of ‘..a place for everything and everything in its place’.

‘Heartless’ combines tight vocals using unpredictable harmonic intervals with fine double bass jazz lines from Joel Illerhag, while Fredrik channels his inner Lester Young with some fine tenor sax. There is some extraordinary improvised vocalising, dark and intense but glorious. In contrast, ‘Lovey-Doveyin’ is light and accessible with its very classic pop feel and danceable rhythm, while ‘Typecast’, delivered in a vocal style that calls to mind Suzanne Vega, is a compelling plea from the heart of women who are “…typecast for the role of daughter, wife and mother…always someone else, always someone other that myself…”

There are some surprises. ‘Driven’ starts with almost two minutes of slow, expressive solo fiddle before breaking into a rhythm that feels Middle Eastern but then gets a little free jazz help from that lovely tenor sax. Similarly, we get slow, expressive vocals in ‘Barking Up The Wrong tree’ that are at times almost spoken.

The lyrics are on a par with the exceptional harmonies; how can you not love a song with lyrics “…While you’re in your element I’m a tap-dancing elephant…” or “…a non-swimmer drowning in the deep end while trying to fake indifference…” and keep in mind that this lyrical sophistication comes in what is, for most of the band I suspect, a second language. With the exception of ‘Kom hjem til mig’ (come home to me) which has no lyrics, all the songs are sung in English.

I think this music defies description or categorisation, and I love it. There are ten tracks here, and no two are alike. It is most definitely not background music. You will need to work at it, and probably quite hard.  To find music that demands that you hit ‘replay’ after almost every track is pretty rare, and if this is what the Tone of Voice Orchestra does for a debut, I can’t wait to hear what they make of what is often referred to as the ‘difficult second album’.

An exceptional debut.

Tone of Voice Orchestra is out now. Order via Bandcamp:

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