It’s been a while since we heard from Sóley Stefánsdóttir. We Sink was two years ago, and it’s probably safe to say that Seabear are now sadly defunct. There was an obscure instrumental EP released last year, but nothing of substance. As fans of Sóley know; her music, and especially that voice, are unique. You can’t get your hit of Sóley anywhere else.
Ask the Deep has been some time in getting here. The majority of its songs were premiered at last year’s Iceland Airwaves festival. The one thing you don’t get from the album compared to the live show is the little snippets of stories and genuinely funny anecdotes that punctuate any Sóley show.
We start with ‘Devil,’ which is dark and foreboding, but full of energy. Speaking of dark, ‘I Will Never’ has the most sinister church organ introduction never used in a horror movie. It will make you sit up and pay attention, probably before checking behind the sofa.
Even the album artwork is darker than anything she has done before. Sóley’s face appears to have been melted off and sucked upwards into an apocalyptic sky. There is certainly a dark undercurrent with this whole piece of work. The titles of the songs reflect this (‘Lost Ship,’ ‘Halloween’ and ‘Devil’) as does the majority of the music itself. It’s when Sóley uses her beguiling voice to cut through this that we really see the true beauty of it.
‘Ævintýr’ talks of fairy tales, but its lyrics are the stuff of nightmares, before breaking into an uplifting respite. ‘One Eyed Lady’ is Sóley at her kooky best, storytelling and enchanting.
‘Follow Me Down’ is full-on Sóley, and a standout track on the album. It starts off gently enough, but develops into something quite lovely, with Sóley pleading with the listener. It’s also a marker of the new: something so strong would have been out-of-place on the fragile We Sink. There also appears to be less reliance on sampling too, and a more organic sound has been achieved. This is best seen on ‘Dreamers,’ with its delicious, twinkling piano.
The closing piece is the utterly haunting ‘Lost Ship’ which starts with something akin to a siren’s call through thick sea fog, before Sóley sings softly in such a way that makes you feel quite uneasy.
Sóley has crafted something truly unique here. Ask The Deep is a thing of dark beauty.