Farao is the project of Berlin-based, Norway-born multi-instrumentalist Kari Jahnsen, who gained a fair bit of attention with her 2015 debut album Till It’s All Forgotten. She’s a master of using cosmic and whimsical electronics to explore the dark sides of human relationships in unconventional prog-pop ballads.
We’ve already heard stand-out tracks “Marry Me,” and “The Ghost Ship” from her sophomore record Pure-O, which we’re premiering today. On this new collection, the singer-songwriter draws from a quixotic range of inspirations. Jahnsen explains in a press release:
My choices for instrumentation and arrangement on the record were inspired by my falling in love with old Soviet disco (Eduard Artemyev, Zigmars Liepiņš, Aleksei Kozlov) and subsequent collecting of boutique, Soviet era analog synthesizers. A reawakening of my love for sensual 90’s R&B (TLC, Janet Jackson), the spiritual harp playing of Alice Coltrane, and the minimal compositions of Terry Riley have all inspired the album. A danceable contrast between the industrial framework of the beats and synths, and the organic vitality and flow of the vocals and zither are what provide the sonic bed for this record.
The lyrical themes of Pure-O play on the dichotomy of how sex and relationships can reflect both beauty and destructiveness simultaneously. How so often the thing that sparks our passions is the constant need to hide from one to find the other. I’ve felt like that. Like an addict seeking a fix.
The result of this many-armed, equally literary and low-brow hybrid is 10 tracks of alien beauty that keep you constantly on your toes. It’s lush with Farao’s signature orchestral instrumentation, but some of the more avant-garde moments could be fragments of video game background music, while others could be chilled-out Purity Ring, chopped-up Mura Masa, or disco-learning Sylvan Esso. Sonic overload often cedes rapidly to simple melody and then ramps back up again. Emotionally too, it’s frenzied. Heartfelt peas to a lover or ruminations on loneliness often travel a disco shimmer off into distorted, ghoulish or robotic abstractions. Jahnsen’s voice hits both falsettos and sultry coos as she explores isolation, obsession and ecstasy, weighting down the atmospheric sounds with utterly human stories.
Stream the full album below.