words by maria sledmere
Sometimes a record does nothing less than open a portal to another place. Scandinavian duo AyOwA make music that quivers with the breathless possibilities of the unconscious, songs that unfold with the curiosity and conviction of a dream. “Fri” is the latest single taken from the band’s debut EP, Eremit, via DJ Kenneth Bager’s label, Music for Dreams. The EP itself is a lush, expansive fantasy; adopting the looping, sometimes eerie rhythms of vapourwave alongside analogue nostalgia, with Hannah Schneider’s mercurial Danish vocals pouring over chimerical synths.
AyOwA’s sound is dark and romantic, oscillating between primitive echoes—the sense of reduplication, modulation, continuity—and the ephemeral present. I can’t help but recall a line from the poem, ‘Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art’ by that favourite tragic Romantic, John Keats; where he compares his love to “nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite”. Listening to AyOwA, those sprawling, haunting beats falling around you like rain in a forest’s gloaming, you can only hope for a love that dedicated: a solitary, insomniac desire.
“Fri” translates to “free” and marks an uplifting start to an EP otherwise shrouded in shadowy, sexy abstraction. Where the likes of “RUS” and “Eremit” trade on sinuous, modulating beats, pealing harmonies and coolly pulsating crackles, “Fri” offers loose, R&B rhythms and woozy, breathy vocals that break into a warm, almost giddy chorus. Rising to a real sense of shimmering climax, Schneider effortlessly twirls her words like a dark kind of caramel over smoothly hypnotic 80s electro. AyOwA’s retro, analogue atmosphere is full of haunted longing, but still sounds weirdly futuristic, seducing us into the depths of otherworldly dream-pop.
It might be a cliché to say that Scandinavians like to flirt with noir; that the long dark northern winters impress their effect on the native psyche. AyOwA convey a certain melancholy, but like the undulating poolside dancers in Tom McKenzie’s video for “Fri”, they channel this lugubrious mood into something kinetic, exploratory and deeply beautiful. Watch it below.
Eremit is out now
Order it here