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Hanne Hukkelberg: 'Little Things'


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up, we look at dot-com dreams a decade later.

But first, a little music.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Hanne Hukkelberg of Oslo, Norway, is the latest in a line of Scandinavian musicians to follow Bjork and the Sugarcubes, but reviewer Christian Bordal says Hukkelberg's music may be even a little more odd and challenging.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HANNE HUKKELBERG: (Singing) I was a lovely hunter with just fingers and a palm.


Hanne Hukkelberg and her producer Kare Vestrheim made a number of interesting and unusual decisions about how to present the little songs on Hanne's debut CD, "Little Things." One of them is the decision to use a lot of found sounds as instruments.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HUKKELBERG: That was just something spontaneous. We just recorded me playing on the piano, and then suddenly when we were trying to think what we needed, what does this song need, what sound do we want, then we just came up with some strange type of instruments.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HUKKELBERG: (Singing) Oh, little girl, to the woods, the trees...

We used a bicycle and we used a dish brush and we used a wine glass and I also did some weird sounds with my mouth and we used water in a bottle and then we also recorded the rain one day.

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Ms. HUKKELBERG: (Singing) Run, little girl, and bring your spades to dig up their cold and frozen souls. You'll see that far beneath there's a soul you can take with you into the spring.

BORDAL: Another unusual choice was to have Hanne sing very quietly. Why, sometimes she's singing barely loud enough to engage her vocal cords. Now when you record a voice that quietly, you pick up a lot of mouth and breath sounds. And they kept that vocal sound very dry and then they mixed it way out in front of all the drippy and woody textures that ooze and percolate underneath her. The effect is incredibly intimate.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HUKKELBERG: (Singing) I will cast anchor, a place where it's calm and stay for a while and sit back and wonder how things are down under and smile.

I've also been singing in rock bands and then I've used a much stronger voice.

BORDAL: Believe it or not, she even used to sing in metal bands in high school. Hanne lives in Oslo, but grew up in smaller towns in southern Norway. Her mother was a choir director and piano teacher and her father played the church organ. Hanne herself started singing right from the start. After the equivalent of high school, she was accepted into the National Academy of Music, which is where she started writing the songs that became "Little Things." It's also where she met her producer, who was her paid accompanist in a jazz vocal class. Their collaboration was as unhurried as the music they've made together.

Ms. HUKKELBERG: He suggested that I came to his studio and then I brought the song and then it was very nice. I brought one more another time, and it was even nicer. And then we just continued like that. Actually after two years meeting once a week, then that's the way the album got finished.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HUKKELBERG: (Singing) Sounds ...(unintelligible).

BORDAL: Like many Europeans, Hanne writes her lyrics almost exclusively in English rather than her native Norwegian.

Ms. HUKKELBERG: It's actually easier to sing in English than in Norwegian. How can I say it? It's not a singing language. It's more hard. (Norwegian spoken) It makes it difficult to sing. It is a hard way of talking.

BORDAL: Hanne's been performing the material for "Little Things" live in Norway. She has a band with the same kind of eclectic mishmash of instruments found on the CD--banjo, accordion, piano and synth, guitar and lap steel, flute, glockenspiel, sax, percussion, samples, bicycle spokes and, drifting over it all, the sweet serene voice of Hanne Hukkelberg.

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Ms. HUKKELBERG: (Singing) Not the urge to go somewhere else, not the urge to blow away.

BRAND: That review by music critic Christian Bordal.

More to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christian Bordal