Scandinavian songstress Karin Park has always found inspiration in the unlikeliest of places. Immersed in the world of pop, equally Park has been ingrained in the world of experimentalism, which last year reached its height on After – the collaboration LP with Lustmord. With a foot placed firmly in both camps, the counter balance seemingly arrives alongside Park’s husband, Kjetil Nernes, where the pair have spent the last decade grinding out riffs via the underrated noise-rock collective, Årabrot.
The shape-shifting continues on Private Collection. Featuring Nernes, Nurse With Wound’s Andrew Liles on synths and Benedetta Simeone on cello, Private Collection isn’t so much a refinement of songs dotted throughout Park’s impressive body of work. Nine of the 10 tracks which comprise of Private Collection are a complete overhaul of their original guises.
Growing up in rural Sweden and attending church with her family, a few years ago Park purchased the very same church building, turning the space into a studio where Årabrot decamped and wrote their latest album, Norwegian Gothic. This milieu has seemingly provided the inspiration for Private Collection.
Totally stripped back in sound and aesthetic, with these songs, Park reveals a new intimacy, and while many deem re-workings of previous material something akin to overkill, in truth these recordings are simply too good to ignore.
On Look What You’ve Done and Traces of Me this is industrial and pop meeting at the crossroads. Superworldunknown, a song once nominated as the best song to come out of Norway, is given the whining pump organ treatment. It’s a lament that doesn’t just tug at the heartstrings, it severs them.
And that’s the thing about these re-workings. Instead of being masqueraded by noise and static of the past, Park’s voice is front and centre. And not only do they sound like new songs; each evokes a totally new meaning.
The orchestral-based Opium is like a dark wave from the high seas. Along with Give, Park employs the kind of composites that form the backdrop to an episode of House of Dragon. Quite the contrast to Glasshouse, where a raw intimacy and street-level charm unravels. It showcases Park’s range of songwriting as she glides through the generations.
There’s more drama on Bending Albert’s Law. With the lines, “It’s ridiculous that you’re not here” and “There’s too many steps from where you are”, it’s a song with crumbling emotional weight, and for anyone who has lost someone close to them, it’s a moment that simply stops you in your tracks.
Alongside Nernes, Tokyo by Night is the kind of track Jehnny Beth longs to write. “Love is not real if it does not hurt” sings Park. The kind of pop trope usually illuminated by ghost writers, Park undertakes the burden all on her own and completely upstages all in the process. The same could be said of Shine. (“Let your love shine through the darkness of your mind.”)
Private Collection is the kind of record that will not only please her devoted followers who have been with her since day dot, it will also acquire new ears. And for those particular listeners, strangely enough, Private Collection poses as the kind of bridge album that leads to the holy grail of Park’s past offerings. There are few albums like this that seize that ability, but these re-workings are so strong that Karin Park has just about done the unthinkable. She’s brought the past into the present.
Private Collection is out Friday via Pelagic Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.