Album Review: Mother Tongue - Rebekka Karijord

Excellent album from Norwegian chanteuse about the birth of her first child

It’s impossible to listen to Mother Tongue without getting a sense of its gestation. Most of the album is written about the traumatic arrival, three months early, of Rebekka Karijord’s first child.

The Norwegian-born, Swedish-based singer felt something was wrong and insisted she be seen by a doctor, despite protestations from the midwifery staff that everything was okay. Twenty minutes later, Karijord was undergoing emergency surgery at the hospital that became home for her and her husband for the next two months, as they watched their infant daughter fighting for life.

The good news is that their daughter was fine, and out of such a life-changing and horrific incident comes a powerful album, which treads a wonderful line between sentimentality and brutal bluntness. “I’ve got the future growing inside,” coos Karijord on ‘Waimanalo’, which mixes plaintive piano and sparse acoustic guitar, before building to a powerful neo-classical finale.

“My body is a home to a will of its own”, admits the singer on the tremendous ‘Morula’, a stunning pizzicato procession of martial drums and vocal samples.

‘Your Name’, by contrast, sounds like a conventional piano ballad, until you realise the lyrics are about the gory process of giving birth: “This is a riot of blood and steel/Bending me open violently,” Karijord reveals. ‘Six Careful Hands’, meanwhile, recounts the tenderness and terror of handling her newborn, still attached to all manner of machines and breathing tubes. It’s extremely personal and affecting, the song sounding like a spiritual sibling to American poet Beth Ann Fennelly’s unflinching ‘Tender Hooks’.

The choral splendour of the closing ‘Mausoleum’ completes a wonderful and unique album that screams “real” from every hard-earned note.

 

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