Sandra Kolstad has been absent from the music scene for almost five years but she has an excuse, in fact two of them – having a child and writing a debut novel.
Now she returns with a new single, ‘Unlearning’. What does she mean by that? Well, she says that unlearning has to do with “letting go of fear and letting people in” and that it is hard work but doesn’t have to be “a lonely thing.”
My immediate reaction was that she refers to how attitudes and formalities are pumped into you as children and become part of your existence so that you never dare question them. For example, how the majority of individuals were cowed by draconian Covid regulations and only a few rose up against them, their punishment being to be beaten with a big stick.
The opening lines, “I’ve been obedient, it’s time for freedom” suggest that but there is nothing in the fairly vague lyrics thereafter to suggest anything quite that dramatic; rather she makes a generalised, bland but powerful statement on the subject.
Where the song shines is in its musicality. It’s a delightful little piece, the sort of thing a committee of Laurie Anderson, Jenny Hval, Caroline Polachek, Regina Spektor and the Danish Lydmor might have come up with, hanging onto a simple but memorable piano/glockenspiel melody line.
It goes off at a tangent towards the end with what sounds like a Middle East-inspired synthesiser, booming percussion and trap beats. I couldn’t quite get my head around it at first and then in the midst of a trip down Memory Lane with Arcade Fire videos from the noughties I remembered that is exactly what they used to do and how the sudden up-tempo variation helped put the earlier parts of the song into an unimagined perspective, and that is what Sandra does here.
This process of ‘unlearning’ is a work in progress. She says that in connection with the single she is collecting stories and conversation about unlearning and has invited some of the people who have inspired her unlearning to explore the concept in conversation. The results will be posted on her Facebook page.
Before then I need to learn some about Sandra Kolstad. This piece intrigues me. I await more with great anticipation.
‘Unlearning’ is out on 27th October. A new album, ‘Soft Hard’ will be released later.
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