Stina Nordenstam – Dynamite (Telegram, 1996)

Stina Nordenstam

CD Telegram / EastWest 0630-15605-2 (Sweden, 1996)

01. Under your Command
02. Dynamite
03. Almost a Smile
04. Mary Bell
05. The Man with the Gun
06. Until
07. This Time, John
08. CQD
09. Down Desire Avenue
10. Now That You’re Leaving

If you have never heard, or heard of, this perplexing Swedish waif, Dynamite is the record that makes doing so mandatory. Her third record is – finally – a perfect vehicle for her haunting voice.
Freed of the sometimes cluttered arrangements that shackled Memories of a Colour and And She Closed Her Eyes, Stina focuses all the new songs on her own electric guitar and vocals.
« Unique » would be understating Stina’s voice: the high, child-like pitch arrives in different waves – breathy, dreamy and undulating. Comparisons to the Cranes’ Allison Shaw are useful but not definitive, as would be weird concepts such as Tanya Donnelly or Juliana Hatfield’s vocal chords on death row (the place of retribution, not the record label).
In any event, once heard, never forgotten – and that was true even with those unfortunate keyboard and clarinet flourishes on the first two albums. But Dynamite is impeccably tasteful in this department, though the result also permits her lyrical bleakness to permeate the atmosphere more completely.
« A thing you said once/made me wonder/What can go away as fast as love/First the light/and then the thunder/I’ve been up all night and I got it now…Dynamite…All day I/did things slowly/Walked in circles around your home/I had something to add/ to the things you showed me/I’ve got it here underneath my coat… Dynamite. »
The rough electric guitar strumming, complemented with some bass and occasional drums provide a foil to the naked rage while bolstering the melancholic passages more effectively than a lonely acoustic guitar could.
A record of bitter though controlled songs that will have your spine tingling more quickly even than the Arctic breeze that must have buffeted Stina as she wrote and recorded it.
(Tim Mohr, Consumable)

Stina Nordenstam’s new LP, « Dynamite » sees her finally fulfilling her outrageous potential. Profoundly complex, consistently experimental yet mercilessly moving, it’s imbued with the spirit of the Beatles at their best in a way the arch-copyists of 1996 will never be. Held together by Nordenstam’s exceptional, hypnotic vocal, it’s bloodymindedly varied.
The opener, « Under Your Command », has the downward thwack of an acoustic guitar turning to hideous distortion over a crazed clattering of irons. « Greetings From (The Old World) » is the hazy sound of Janis Ian dropping into a Curve cut to their barest essentials, all warped muttering and stomach-churning acid-bass.
« Almost A Smile » is deafened metal, an intimidating rumble and relentless industrial clang, « Mary Bell » (concerning the infamous prepubescent murderess who foreshadowed the terrible case of James Bulger) is a grotesque lullaby of heartbreaking fragility where a lone, all-too-human voice shatters the crisp silence of bleakest midwinter.
Most telling of all is the title track. Here a tiny scratching guitar bursts into backwoods dissonance and tribal thudding previously (and only very rarely) approached by the Violent Femmes. Suddenly it’s a hum of string quartet drifting rapidly into a shot of Prokofiev, itself heralding a rush of Yellow Magic Orchestra.
« Dynamite » is nothing short of a revelation. So out-there, so lost, distant and violently intimate, it arrives like a taped message in a bottle, lovingly, desperately cast into waves splintering on the frozen shore. A beautiful thing.

FR Avec ses deux premiers albums, on était loin d’imaginer la nature de la jolie suédoise. Pas sucré pour un sou (Mary Bell s’inspire d’une gamine tueuse, This time John d’un enfant tué par les nazis), pas franchement aimable avec ses guitares ra(va)geuses, une musique irrémédiablement autre. On en a brûlé pour sorcellerie pour moins que ça.
ENG No jazzy oriented swedish pop this time, Dynamite is Stina Nordenstam’s darkest and most disturbing album to date, intimate and dissonnant. Maybe this explains why it’s absurdly rated two stars on All Music Guide? Great album surely.

Visit Stina Nordenstam (or listen here)

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