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Nive & The Deer ChildrenNive & The Deer Children
Album: Feet First
Label: Glitterhouse
Tracks: 12

Nive Nielsen is an Inuk (that's an eskimo from Nuuk, Greenland), and as singer and actress she released her first record (Nive Sings) five years ago. For the followup, Feet First, she's helped out by producer and multi-instrumentalist Jan De Vroede, and further backed by The Deer Children, who judging from the credits turn out to be a collection of two-dozen or so musician friends playing a massive array of instruments. These musicians include some fairly illustrious names - Howe Gelb, Ralph Carney and John Parish, to name but three.

Nive's a captivating singer with a playful yet confidential manner and a timbre which drifts between whispery and raspy, often within the space of the same song. All the songs are Nive's own compositions bar one (Ole), and they inhabit a curiously individual and consistent yet wilfully and unpredictable world that's characterised by seemingly random shifts in tone and style. In a strange way, they evoke the twin landscapes of her inspiration - the parched Midwest and the glistening glacial Greenland - while the musical settings are equally unearthly and eerie. I could liken the experience of this album to an X-file, a gothic alien encounter perhaps, but there's just as much of a feeling of exotic travelogue, a voyage through open spaces and shadowy corridors.

It's not easy to get a handle on Nive's writing, not least because around half of the songs appear to be sung in her native tongue and there's no hint or translation provided. Sure, the soundscape alone is intoxicating, but it's the intoxication of a woozy Americana, a bar-room in one of those lonesome back-of-beyond townships you find in those TV Scandi-noir thrillers, a place where anything can happen and anyone can barge in and disrupt life completely. And then the listener's left wondering why it all happened, how it all came about and why each song's development has seemed so logical.

Carefree ukulele strumming that gives way to sinister organ weavings, fragmented twang guitar and sinewy backbeats settling into a sexy pedal steel meditation - quirkily cinematic and yet elusive, with pretty, gently lush, shimmering textures that reveal much through cautiously confident inner detail. Effort that conceals art that in turn conceals effort. Very strange, but very rewarding. Oh, and do hang around after the official final track for a slice of banging, clashing vitriol that will set your mind on edge after all that's gone before.

David Kidman