This Hollow

by Pikara

/
  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

    The third Pikara recording "This Hollow".

      $5 USD  or more

     

1.
2.
04:12
3.
03:28
4.
04:33
5.
03:02
6.
7.
02:55

about

"Pikara is the alter ego of Swedish born folk singer Sara Johanne. The singer/songwriter, who is currently based in Washington state, grew up on the island of Rindö where she studied violin. As well as playing piano and bass with other bands, she has released three albums under her solo identity. The most recent of these, This Hollow, is due to hit on March 24th.

Beginning with “The Mourner of Peace”, the new record introduces itself with an inquisitive beat. It’s a very psychedelic opener that has a lot going on musically. The myriad of keys and strings at play give it a sound that is almost carnivalistic in nature. It’s followed by a chilling acoustic riff that guides “Closed Case” into a resonant verse. The instrumentation builds continuously through this heavy folk ballad, giving it quite a grand feel.

An ethereal chant emerges to announce the arrival of title track “This Hollow”, persisting in the background as the lyrics unfold. Strings and pianos creep slowly in, helping to emphasize the otherworldly ambience of the piece. In its aftermath, “Title Effect” shifts gears to a festive rhythm that teams up with distorted vocals to become rather transcendent.

“Shell Off” is a lot more disjointed than its predecessors. Commencing with solemn keys, the tone changes completely for the chorus, taking on a fierce attitude that exists in stark contrast to the verse. It’s a little jarring to the senses, making for a difficult listen.

Foreboding pianos return amid a distressed harmony during “Every Glass is the Last”. It remains stripped down and consistent throughout, taking on a pessimistic disposition. The ominous keys go nowhere for “Hiding”, combining with distant vocals to generate a haunting atmosphere. There’s an ambivalence to the whole thing that puts an unsettling end on the compilation.

Pikara’s work here is very experimental and ambitious, stirring many different emotions through its various moods. Its sound can be a little too discordant and conflicting at times, but it is always admirably unique and creative." -Dave Simpson, Pure M www.puremzine.com/pikara-hollow-album-review/

"Of all the musicians you get, perhaps the easiest ones to admire are those who simply get on with it. Sara Johanne – aka Pikara – is one such musician who has been tinkering away for over half a decade, as well as working as a pianist and bassist with Åiö Soundings label mates Susurrus Station and Zouaves. She’s now on her third release, and similar to her previous releases (her self-titled debut from 2009; Constellations from 2011), This Hollow is a modest affair on the surface, made up of just seven tracks that scrape past twenty-six minutes in total. It would be unfortunately incorrect to say that Pikara is a known name in the music world, but this is hardly surprising since you won’t find her on any social media outlets; the only real tangible place to find her work is at her label’s website, where her albums are given no kind of backstory, and instead just presented with the minimal contributing artists list.

Despite her work as a pianist and bassist, Johanne’s music is much more focused on violin compositions (Constellations is in fact a home recorded album consisting almost entirely of looping violins fed through effects pedals). While This Hollow is built up of piano-based songs, the strings still take the spotlight for the most part. Comparisons to Andrew Bird and Owen Pallett inevitably come to mind, but Johanne works with different hues and scopes. There’s something a bit more mechanical about This Hollow than most of Bird’s back catalogue, and recording with just one other player on this album (Maja Linde Christiansen), Johanne is working with a much more scaled down outfit than that of Pallett’s recent orchestra-accompanied albums. The comparison that actually comes to mind is that of Amanda Kapousouz – aka Tin Cup Prophette – and her debut album, Liar and the Thief, from way back on 2007. There’s a similar kind of rigidity present on This Hollow, a kind of monochrome sawing back and forth that gives the record an impressionable sheen as much as it plucks pieces of the heart away.

But this comparison isn’t to be viewed in any kind of detrimental way – this is an album called This Hollow, after all, so it’s no bad thing to say that it’s picking from a place of absence. “I’m not afraid of your sorrow/ though it drives me to despair/ I’m not surprised by your shadow/ when it follows me everywhere,” Johanne sings on the title track over a bed of processed hymnal voices. It’s probably one of the clearer moments on an album where stories and specificity are lost in words that seem to want to deter detailed analysis. “And I cannot help it, I cannot fill in the gaps,” she sings, almost whispering on “Title Effect” beneath a staccato vibraphone-like instrument and sweeps of violin and viola. Pizzicato riffs break into the regal melancholy of the song when there’s a clearing. She might not fill the gaps with detailed words that shine light on anything that’s actually happening (or has happened), but her music is a fine substitute, each additional instrumental flair a welcome and well-thought out motion.

As the album comes to a close, the arrangements are stripped down. “Every Glass is the Last” and “Hiding” are mostly just Johanne sitting in front of her piano, her voice more weighted, sounding like it’s soaked in regret. When she sings “pour it out again” on “Every Glass is the Last” and her voice rises, a tiny few cracks appear, and it’s easy to imagine in its initial form the vocal track being saturated with a tear or two. “You know I’m quite the talker,” she sings, teetering between a half smile and shameful tone. “Hiding” might just be three lines repeated twice, but they’re enough to tell a story and also settle the album to rest, like Johanne is putting everything sung into a box under bed. “But if I knew where you lived/ I’d come by and ask you why you’re hiding,” she breathes, her voice barely there and double tracked and affected in way that makes it fuzzy, like the words a schoolchild sung in the corner of a loud, busy classroom.

At the other side of album Johanne shows her compositional chops when she’s adding in layer after layer. Voices wail above a bed of strings and pillowy piano; it’s chamber music with a sorrowful, personal sound. “I am the mourner of the peace” she sings on opening track “The Mourner of Peace,” the track rich with keys, clattering tambourine, and vibrant strings. At that point Johanne sounds accepting of what one might assume is the breakdown of a relationship, making for a subtle contrast to the aforementioned lyrics of painful regret at the end of the album. On “Shell Off” she takes the tempo through a series of left turns, raising the stakes unexpectedly (which she does just as effectively during “This Hollow”). The utterance of the song’s title feels more like a call to arms each time it comes round, heightened later in the song by a creaky jazz trumpet and xylophones. Her ability to move between full and almost empty arrangements, between light and dark, and between hope and engulfing depression, is studied and unassumingly effective. Even when it’s at its fullest (the last section of “Shell Off”, the chorus of “Closed Case”, the spiralling movements of “Title Effect”), Johanne somehow never sounds like she’s drawing attention to herself.

And that fits, Johanne not being one to shine the spotlight on herself. If anything, This Hollow comes off like she trying to cast herself in a negative light, if not trying to produce a photo negative of herself (“Hollow am I,” she sang on Pikara in 2009, the empty void she paints herself as on This Hollow perhaps being a thought that has been present since the beginning). The result is interesting and rich, but, as said, often modestly so. The barest moments aren’t bled for all their emotion and the highs steer clear of becoming sickly. While Johanne certainly sounds like she’s got troubles and concerns to figure out, she equally sounds like she doesn’t want to give the listener any detail or worry, avoiding any personal weight. Instead, as evidenced on This Hollow, she’s more than adept at simply getting down and getting on with it." -Ray Finlayson, Unrecorded www.unrecorded.mu/reviews/pikara-this-hollow/

"'The Mourner of Peace' krijgt een eerder psychedelische weerklank. Met een opbouwende klank, en vocalen die ons vaag zelfs een beetje doen denken aan bijvoorbeeld Siouxsie and the banshees, lijkt de toon aangegeven. De huiveringwekkende diepgang, geeft je koude rillingen. Zeker door de dreigende ondertoon zowel instrumentaal, als vocaal. Hieruit blijkt bovendien dat Pikara haar invloeden ook haalt uit de eerder donkere folk muziek.

Hoe hartverscheurend kan pijn zijn? Closed Case gaat verder de huiveringwekkende, instrumentale toer op, de vocalen zorgen voor een zalvende ondertoon in deze song. Zo eentje dat je tot tranen toe bedwingt. Weer horen we die snik in de stem, die je hart sneller doet slaan. Die je hart doet bloeden zelfs, van pijn en leed. Bij de hoge noten voel je een rillingen over je heen komen, tot koud en warm worden vanbinnen.

This Hollow brengt weer eens die zachte, eerder donkere stem naar voor. Enkel begeleid door het geluid van zwoele strijkers en een twinkelende piano klank. De nadruk blijft liggen op de droevige, maar ook warme ondertoon. Zonder al te zeer weg te zinken in depressieve neigingen. Eerder een weemoedige naklank, die je ziel tot het diepste raakt. Hoezeer we genieten van de instrumentale stukken, die vocalen blijken toch een meerwaarde te zijn binnen het geheel. Hoewel hier de pianoklanken soms overheersen, zeker naar het einde toe.

Het leven is natuurlijk niet altijd donkere wolken, en treurige dagen. Title Effect krijgt zelfs een eerder 'feestelijk' ritme mee. Zoals in folk muziek vaak gebeurd, is dit zelfs een vrij dansbaar nummer geworden dat ons even doet rechtveren van geluk en vreugde. Daarmee is de boodschap dan ook duidelijk. Hoe zeer het leven ook kan tegenvallen, er schijnt altijd een zon achter die donkere wolken.

Pikara haar creativiteit kent blijkbaar geen grenzen. Shell Off laat weer een heel andere kant horen van haar muziek. Hier vallen vooral de twinkelende, eerder bevreemdende piano klanken op. Het is een heel experimenteel nummer geworden, waarop ook de vocalen perfect lijken in te spelen. We durven haast vergelijken met wat bijvoorbeeld een artieste als Bjork doet. Ook zei maakt gebruik van heel integrerende, vreemde soundscapes.

De piano blijft bovendien in de volgende songs een voorname rol spelen. Van dreigend naar zalvend, van lijden naar vreugdvol. Telkens spelen de verdovende vocalen daar perfect op in. Het wondermooie Every glass is the last raakt ons weer eens, doet een traantje wegpinken, en laat je even wegdromen.

Het zachte, zwevende Hiding, is dan weer de ultieme kers op de taart. De vrij korte song doet ons nog één keer vertoeven in diepste gedachten. Nog één keer bedwingen tot diepe gemoedsrust, weemoedige gedachten vloeien door ons hoofd. Het perfecte einde van deze plaat.

Conclusie: Pikara heeft met This Hollow een plaat uitgebracht die ons heel diep raakt. Dit door middel van een twinkelende piano, strijkers maar vooral die diepzinnige vocalen. Een stem die ons hart heel diep raakt, van begin tot einde. Invloeden van donkere folk zijn zeker merkbaar, en de experimentele kant van de zaak kan ons ook bekoren. Als enige minpunt zouden we kunnen stellen, het is geen hapklare hap geworden. Deze plaat vergt een inspanning van de luisteraar, maar zal iedereen die houdt van experimentele folk muziek, op een donkere eerder weemoedige achtergrond, zeker moeten bekoren." -Erik Vandamme, SNOOZECONTROL www.snoozecontrol.be/reviews/3595/

" While this can begin with the style and grace of a circus show ala Gatsbys American Dream-- that sort of spectacle-- it can find itself jus as easily turning into something like an orchestra. It has piano melodies that can first remind me of a bar in an old western movie but then eventually does turn into the piano as well of something such as Adele because I'm pretty sure I keep hearing the singer sing "set fire to the rain" in the song "Every Glass is the Last".

So this is the third album from Pikara and it makes me sad that I haven't heard of them before now. These songs are so delicate yet strong at the same time that you don't feel so much like they're going to shatter like glass but rather shatter the glass themselves. At times it can appear as just a voice (though there are backing instruments, they just sort of take a backseat if you will) and at others it can be an orchestra.

If you are like me and are one of the people who had never heard of Pikara before this album then do yourself the favor of giving this one a listen. Now I am going to go back and listen to their previous albums as well because I just do enjoy this one that much." -Joshua Macala, Hobo Toilet hobotoilet.blogspot.com/2015/03/pikara-this-hollow-aio-soundings.html

"Pikara’s ‘This Hollow’ is just a beautiful track drenched in weirdness. It’s a transformative piece of music that goes from atmospheric throat singing majesty to frantic string-led maelstrom.

Pikara’s vocals are beautiful, and make this track feel like the outcome of if Lorde was to find abstract spiritualism. The throat singing sets the backdrop (as well as captures the attention of the listener, because it’s such an unconvential thing in modern music), and from there we just deeper and deeper into the glorious weirdness." -FreshBeats freshbeats365.com/2015/03/25/video-pikara-this-hollow/

credits

released March 24, 2015

Sara Johanne ~ piano, violin, vocals
Maja Linde Christiansen ~ violin and viola
Recorded and mixed by Jason Breeden
Mastered by Gus Elg
AIO-019

license

all rights reserved

tags

about

Åiö Soundings Klickitat, Washington

~Susurrus Station~
~Pikara~
~Zouaves~
~Oscilero~
~Dead Cinema~ ~Night Mechanic~ ~Nigh Chaparral~

contact / help

Contact Åiö Soundings

Streaming and
Download help

Redeem code

Track Name: The Mourner of Peace
An imperfect chance
and all the steps in our dance
we've set it in cold bone
The changes you long for
but the more that you try
the more the road curves ahead
and soon you'll find yourself right here again

There's nothing to say there is nothing to say
and to learn seems impossible now
but I am the mourner, I am the mourner of peace

I warned you, I knew you

One million options you are anything, anyone
so then what are you now?
You're waiting in the alley
pockets full of golden nights
to stop trying and light the fire
even if it burns down our home

Said today I was shattered,
then when we fell I thought this is the moment
but how I could mearly have hoped
I've opened the door though I've been here before
and it all seems impossibly frail
now I am the mourner I am the mourner of peace

I warned you, I knew you
Track Name: Closed Case
Thought you were home, I walk upstairs
the roof is all empty so soon is my stare
Thought I knew how not to call it desire
but standing there I know I'll be paying whatever's required

but wait!
Wait for my dream of nothing all one piece

Climb down, once up
all we thought of left behind
It's a minute or less
but all uncarryable pressure of time

but wait!
Wait for our eyes to throw us back alive

Climb up once more
now there's nothing left to hide
So I refrain, the evening's drawn close
the case of my longing, dislodged if exposed

but wait!
Track Name: This Hollow
I'm not afraid of your sorrow though it drags me to despair
I'm not surprised by your shadow when it follows me everywhere
I'm not alone in this hollow, where we've had it almost made

The ivy's overgrowing, screening nods and weary stares
Walk of a piece of my conviction that we're all together misslead
I'm not alone in this hollow where we've had everything made

When they come to gloat and get you, they come as if you never knew
Though no longer here beside me they could never take you far
I'm not alone in this hollow we've only made ourselves obscure
Track Name: Title Effect
Seems like a good while it's still pouring down in my room
The pillows are heavy from never remembering
Now the hole in the wall leads to nowhere at all
come let's follow our faults
not like before now I'm stuck in the door
and the cards tumble down
It's withering slowly yet everyday harder to pass

Then a nod for goodbye and his smile stays on
while he takes my hand as if to say it's ok.

And I cannot help it, I cannot fill in the gaps

Where did he go so far so fast oh where to?
Walk among mimes now his voice so much more
then I ever could tell
It's hauling me over now years of my memory array
but nothing is wrong where nothing lay
my hands dirtier now.

Then a nod for goodbye and his smile stays on
while he takes my hand as if to say it's ok.

And I cannot help it, I cannot fill in the gaps

When the body is aching something is breaking apart
The title effect roll in right at sunset I can hear the sea rise
I saw it the day before I still see it
I'm a slow walking while everyone's sleeping in cars
everyone sleeping
Track Name: Shell Off
Carry your home on your back
what did you do before you were through?
Carry the wind on your skin
the things you will do when the clouds won't be moved

Shell off!

Carry the world in a sack
can't expect it won't carry you back
Standing on high ground for a view
left with metaphors to become and consume
while retracing your run

Shell off!
Track Name: Every Glass is the Last
Every night is Friday night
every morning Monday
Every glass is the last
every step towards the end

but the sun rises again
and although my eyes are darker
you know I'm quite the talker
so lets pour them up again
only one's for certain
when failures come desert them
pour it out again
there's no one else awake
the mornings mine to break

Every love is the one
every glance had me fooled
Every laugh had me chained
every tear shed in vain
cause the sun rises again
Track Name: Hiding
I knew you in the morning
now I don't see you anymore

you're hiding

but if I knew where you lived
I'd come by and ask you why

you're hiding