Led by frontwoman Maria Linden and featuring Fredrik Balak, the Stockholm-based indie act I Break Horses have released two critically applauded albums: 2011’s full-length debut Hearts received praise from Pitchfork, The Guardian, NME, The Independent and others for material that possessed a luxurious grandeur and 2014’s Chiaroscuro, which found Linden crafting ambitious material with a cool, self-assuredness. Building upon a growing profile, Linden and Balak toured with M83 and Sigur Ros— and U2 played “Winter Beats” before their stage entrance during 2018’s Experience + Innocence tour.
Released yesterday through Bella Union, I Break Horses’ long-awaited third album Warnings was centered around Linden’s desire to take the time to make something entirely different — crafting martial with a strong emphasis on instrumental, cinematic music. Much of the album’s material can trace its origins back to Linden watching a collection of her favorite films on her computer with the sound muted. As she did so, she began to make her own soundtrack sketches — and those initial sketches gradually evolved int songs. “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” Linden says, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.
Sonically, the album’s material consists of lush and sumptuously layered soundscapes featuring dreamy mellotrons, haunting loops, analog synths and layered vocals meant to create an immersive, dramatic tension on multiple levels. “It’s not a political album,” says Lindén, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album’s creative process was also centered around several different dramas of its own: “It has been some time in the making. About six years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home…” Linden says in press notes.
Warnings also finds Linden collaborating with producer and mixing engineer Chris Coady, who has worked with the likes of Beach House and TV on the Radio. But his experience and expertise with dense and cinematic sound wasn’t the only reason Linden recruited him to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures.’ And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”
“Nowadays, the attention span equals nothing when it comes to how most people consume music,” Lindén adds. “And it feels like songs are getting shorter, more ‘efficient.’ I felt an urge to go against that and create an album journey from start to finish that takes time and patience to listen to. Like, slow the fuck down!”
Now, as you may recall, I wrote about “Neon Lights,” Warnings third single, a lush and cinematic track that managed to recall Trans Europe Express-era Kraftwerk and the Stranger Things soundtrack with a much-needed we-re-all-in-this-together air. “Depression Tourist,” Warnings‘ latest single is an eerie and atmospheric track, centered around a sparse arrangement of shimmering and ethereal synths and Linden’s voice fed through vocoder and other effects. And as a result, the song feels intimate and lonely, yet otherworldly.
“I wanted this song to sound as if it was broadcasted from space, the loneliest place I could imagine,” Linden explains. “As I obviously couldn’t perform it up there I filmed this version in the loneliest field I could find in Malta.” Shot in black and white, the recently released live session features Linden and a synthesizer in the middle of a windswept corn field. The concept my be simple but it’s gorgeous and evocative.