Inadvertent menstrual images to one side, this accurately sums up the music Liljeström draws on and aspires to: Björk’s sudden divergences, Portishead’s moodiness, Goldfrapp’s vocal styling, and Lamb’s jittery, broken beats.
There’s no doubting Liljeström’s ambition. Like Björk at her genre-bending best, Liljeström tries to unite disparate elements into something fresh and new. Swooping orchestral fragments are spliced to jagged beats, and soundtracky atmospherics are wedded to a witchy aesthetic. The results are mixed, but always interesting.
Triple J listeners will have heard Liljeström’s first single, Phoenix, a rich, dramatic song. Cello, honeyed vocals, and odd Twilight Zone background effects create a layered, attention-grabbing four minutes. This is Liljeström at her best, and it’s tantalising.
None of the other tracks reach the same heights, which isn’t to say there aren’t some crackers among them. With Knotted, for example, Liljeström achieves a beguiling Portishead sound, while Deer offers up cool beats and startling slashes of orchestration.
On All of This she pares things back to an acoustic guitar and vocals. The result is spare and gorgeous – think of the Lamb songs Gabriel and Merge. Track nine, Diamond Horseshoe, is a bizarre desert-noir concoction that matches a gloomy disposition with whistling and a reverb country guitar, which all works – sort of.
That’s a lot of balls to keep in the air at once. Inevitably, Liljeström can’t always manage it, and Elk occasionally descends into a morass of competing sounds and ideas. The way Liljeström cuts and then pastes beats in and out of songs seemingly at random is generally a strength, but can sometimes leave Elk sounding bitsy and indigestible. Throw in lyrics that creak with clichéd romanticism and a tendency to overembellish vocals, and you have a CD that tantalises more often than it delivers.
It’s churlish, though, to end on a down note. Liljeström’s album is vivid and inventive, and if you like her influences, there’s a fair chance you’ll like her.
— Hans Fruck