Scant information about Horte can be found online. Presumably Finnish but definitely human, Horte perform a difficult-to-define noise-ridden electronica-infested female-fronted bass-led fuzz-rock that combines both dreamy beauty and startling harshness. Horte, their debut release, is essentially one long song that flows from minute zero to minute 38 with an organic continuity. It’s a true trip through realms of psychedelic fuzz, electronic flavoured shoegaze, and noise-rock, brought together and delivered through a wonderfully dynamic production that shapes the vast sounds and caresses the subtler moments with warmth and care. Will the actual trip live up to the fantasy of the perfect trip, or will you find yourself clinging to reality as you cry into a bowl of cereal at 3 AM? Let’s go on a trip.
The opener “Sekvenssi” is a richly layered psychedelic journey with wispy elements reminiscent of Alcest combined with subtle electronic whirring that hearkens back to the explorative nature of 70s space-rock. It sets the tone with an inoffensive silkiness. It contemplates inwardly rather than showing-off. As with most of the album, it mulls, builds, and steadily releases its voluptuous bass-heavy juices, although at times I wish Horte would let themselves delve in seedier, dirtier and more unrefined backwaters.
What will probably strike you most is the prominence of the bass throughout. The bass is God and its tonal variations are weapons of conversion. “78” has a bass-led, effect heavy sound that snowballs into a semi-incoherent mash-up reminiscent of a psychedelic drug freak-out before pulling itself back to semi-normality. It’s a rich and vibrant amalgamation of all that arty-farty stuff that the kids listen to these days: kraut-meets-Japanoise-meets-shoegaze in a Finnish back alley. The cranking depth of the bass cradles “Taajus” in its bluesy swing; in “Viimeinen Linja” it fluctuates between two-tones, the concrete pillar holding up hazy swathes of keys, synths, and noise; and in “Helmi” it struts with an ethereal coquettishness as subtle beauty rises through the album.
These subtler moments carry just as much weight as the cranking forthrightness. “Helmi” gushes into being as a blanket of rosy synth sounds, subduing the rest of the instruments. The lead vocalist’s diversity is on show here; her phrasing and cadence encapsulates melancholy and eeriness as she rises like a tide as the song builds. The steadiness builds to a surge as the bass becomes prominent, guitars crush and crash, and whirls of electronica merge to clash with the slow beauty of the opening moments of the track. “9” continues the tone, although it carries an ominous timbre that recalls Chelsea Wolfe and others of her ilk. The ambience carries a jarring depth, shimmering like ripples caused from the fins of circling sharks. Similarly, the bass, an unsettling throb, searches the darkness blindly as the vocals, textured and dreamy, ride the mix as a lament. Closers “Koko Kalmo Pakassa” and “Saatto” inherit the features of the previous tracks, creating a medley of emotions and sounds that extends the album but adds little freshness. There are moments that feel too safe for my liking. Despite this, the richness of the mix and the layering of sounds is a delight.
In retrospect, there’s a lot going on her but there’s also not a lot going on. Despite the rich depth and the alluring atmosphere, only a small handful of moments really standout as really capturing my interest in the long-term. Reflecting on that comment, however, forces me to think that this is not an album that purposely sets up extravagant set-pieces to stun you; instead, it’s an infusion of subtleties that sends one into a dreamy slumber without warning. The metal-me does wish that Horte would venture into wilder territories, exploring even more extreme noise territories by intensifying the sort of sounds heard at the closing end of “Helmi.” Horte applied a polished and workable undercoat to their canvas, painted a few pleasant trees and mountains, but now it’s time to paint something surreal in the foreground. I hope their next release does so.