3rd August was a great day for reinventions of music we know and love. On the same day, both French rockers Resolve and Swedish alternative rock/metalcore band Noija released EPs to showcase their creative re-takes honouring previous works; Resolve releasing Stripped Down Sessions and Noija releasing Come Closer. We’ve already had the pleasure of reviewing Stripped Down Sessions, so are now exploring the new release from Noija.
A sunshiney “Here At Last” is where Come Closer begins. The fresh EP from the four piece of Nick Serlstedt (vocals), Daniel Lundgren (drums), Max Mauritsson (bass), and Ludvig Ottosson (guitar) is a ‘re-imagined’ take on songs from their 2017 released album Colorblind. The four re-imagined songs come coupled with a brand new track, “Come Closer”.
“Here At Last” instantly pulls our ears toward vocals with Nick, Ludvig, and Daniel all contributing to a gorgeous soundscape of voices, along with a female voice. The lyrical story is shared by vocalist Nick with gentleness and softness created by acoustic guitar and tamborine. Without the previous rhythmic complexity, electronic accents, and more anthemic rock choruses, the reimagined song leaves more open spaces for thought, crafting a goosebump-laden experience. It’s pretty and smooth, taking a gently reflective perspective on this song about losing things to find oneself/one’s purpose.
The second track of the EP is a beautifully gentle and piano centric version of “Wallflower”. As “Wallflower” unfolds, I am hearing the same beauty that I heard on the original rendition, even though this version is definitely more serene. I was hoping for far more difference in the creation of the new versions; more than the notable absence of heavy beats, steadiness, and uneasy searing guitar.
Spaciousness, strings, a sense of trying to achieve, tension is obvious in Nick’s voice, with notes painting down like raindrops. I found that this version allowed more focus on the words of “Alive just to dream, dreaming just to stay alive”, and the emotional impact of this coming from a lone voice, echoing in the darkness. Giving the backing vocals centre stage is interesting, seeming fitting for theme of surrendering and calling for help to survive.
It was at “A Touch From The Sun (Re-Imagined)” that I temporarily hit pause on my review to give more distance from my immersion in the Resolve release and my impression of that effort. I’d thoroughly enjoyed hearing the great tracks of Rêverie undergo a creative transformation, and had been hoping for a similar experience with this.
Even returning to Come Closer several weeks later, the re-attempt of “A Touch From The Sun” seems to just be a limited version of the original, fitting ‘acoustic’ more than ‘re-imagined’. Despite sounding beautiful, I craved the emotional oomph that the original had, knowing that creating more sparse versions of songs does not need to mean a watering down of the power of what’s shared.
With expectations aside, the track is a tender rendition, feeling flowing and velvety at times and captures a sense of striving for more, and does grow in emotional expression toward its ending. Strings, harmonies, and layers combining create definite interest.
“Can’t Slow Down (Re-Imagined)” shares more of a ‘re-imagined’ vibe with a change in the song structure immediately. Delicate notes at first with lone vocals, a skipping beat then progressively leads into the full chorus. Spacious and open leading up to it, the bridge is a stand-out on the track as well as on the EP as a whole. The layering, vocal differences, and climbing notes are appeasing the part of me that sought for the great songs of Colorblind to be creatively played with.
The EP closes with “Come Closer”; a brand new track for Noija. Subdued and sombre and painted with echoing tones and suppressed vocals, Ludvig vocally opens the track. Ethereal soundscapes and echoes swamping the vocals create a sense of dropping in and out of consciousness. It sparks imagery of intimacy and quiet connection and is a beautiful and thoughtful way to end the EP.
While I’m not a fan of reading reviews which hold one release up against another, it was very tough not to do so here. I prefer to take a release at its own face value, more than through a lens of someone else’s creation. The undeniable fact though is that two bands I love released new renditions of their music, and I was very keen to hear both instances of shining a creative light on their own music. One of those bands blew my expectations out of the water, and another did not. While I’m not interested in comparing the music/sound itself of Resolve and Noija, I can recognise that the creative exploration that one executed very well, was not as strongly present in the other.
What worked really well for Resolve’s Stripped Down Sessions is that to the listener, the four tracks don’t feel limited in comparison to how the original songs were shared; Resolve don’t feel like they’ve been told to play a piece of music more quietly or without certain instrumentation. Instead if feels like they’ve taken the ‘seed’ of a song and created something very different with it: Chorus chords find their way to introductions, repeated vocals hauntingly trail out where they previously did not exist. While still reminiscent of the original, the new versions carry a more powerful sense of creative exploration, and they showcase their abilities as musicians. The meaning/emotion of the original songs is creatively explored in a powerful way.
While the tracks of Come Closer are good, it does unfortunately feel like an opportunity was missed here for Noija. I would have loved to have felt the sense of the band creatively coming at these songs with a higher perspective and greater sense of possibility as to what could be done with them. I feel that these re-imagined versions work well as a means to keep ‘in touch’ with fans of their music while Noija are busy working on something new. Noija fans who are impatient for more from their band will definitely enjoy the more sedate renditions of their favourites here, and perhaps become curious in response to “Come Closer” as to what may be ahead for the band’s sound.
Beautiful thoughtful moments created throughout in these gentler takes on songs from Colorblind.
This great band had the potential to make something far more creatively experimental.