Reviews By Rebecca Christie, Nicholas Wright, and Kyle Yampiro
May 5, 2023
|Tuning / Blend||4.0|
|Energy / Intensity||4.3|
|Innovation / Creativity||4.7|
|Sound / Production||4.0|
Recorded 2020 – 2022
Total time: 15:28, 4 songs
|Tuning / Blend||5|
|Energy / Intensity||5|
|Innovation / Creativity||5|
|Sound / Production||5|
What a breath of fresh air to hear a group of Scandinavian singers singing in their own language, or even no language at all. Nothing against English — it allows me to type this to you with ease, but also I'm personally a lot more interested in hearing new Swedish music than still more mid-tempo Globish. I'm always interested in hearing original vocal programming, too. Taken together, Puls shines nicely and is well worth 20 minutes of your time.
Puls, the title track, is the strongest of the poppier numbers, with a nice range of beats and textures that keeps the piece energized and moving. I appreciate the shifts from unisons and octaves to more traditional lead and accompaniment, and the percussion and background beats come together nicely under the wordless leads. It's a great start, followed by Nudda mark, a pleasant power ballad. I enjoy it, but also I prefer the propulsion of the first one. The singers of Aora wrote, sang, mixed, and mastered this entire project themselves. Puls (the song), shows off their talents best.
Jag lovar is the folkiest number here, with a choral texture and a James Taylor-esque walking-chord tempo. It's got a bop and a swing and a soft tenor solo from Gabriel Sjöwall. In keeping with its retro roots, it's also the one that sounds the least edited, like something you might be able to hear live. Blunda finishes the album with a jazzier vibe.
Taken as a whole, Puls the EP feels like an exploration of a cappella as a medium, as an ensemble and as a technical art form. The finished product is one to be proud of and speaks well of what's next to come.
|Tuning / Blend||3|
|Energy / Intensity||3|
|Innovation / Creativity||4|
|Sound / Production||3|
Puls is the debut EP by six-voice Swedish a cappella group, AORA (founded Spring 2016). A serene and succinct collection of original music, Puls suffers from clumsy production.
Beginning with our title track, Puls (meaning "pulse") perfectly sets the mood for the EP with strong performances by Elin Oskarsson, Linnéa Seldinger, Sofie Eiderfors, and Gabriel Sjöwall. Clever and intricate arranging work by Eiderfors leaves the listener to guess where we will be going next. All of these positive attributes though are overshadowed by vocals that have been too heavily edited.
Nudda mark (meaning "touch ground") showcases the performance and songwriting abilities of Seldinger. Coupled with lush, arpeggiated backgrounds, this track serves as the emotional center around which the entire EP is constructed. Sonic issues with panning and volume balance distract from the heartfelt nature of the lyrics. I would love to hear this one performed live. The arranging work on Jag lovar (meaning "I promise") is pleasant and simple, allowing the lyrics to take center stage. An easily welcomed juxtaposition with Nudda mark, Sjöwall's performance and songwriting abilities shine through with the playful and upbeat Jag lovar. At the same time though, there is no dynamic range — only loud and louder.
Puls concludes with Blunda (meaning "close your eyes") and I highly recommend you "blunda" when listening to this final track. Written by Marcus Svärd and Eiderfors, Blunda will take listeners on a journey through some very satisfying vocal textures. But, as with every track on Puls, Blunda is a casualty of heavily edited vocals, volume and panning issues, and lack of dynamic range or blend. With the group's next release, I hope that AORA will use production that better highlights the organic, natural sound of their otherwise impressive music making.
|Tuning / Blend||4|
|Energy / Intensity||5|
|Innovation / Creativity||5|
|Sound / Production||4|
With its lyricless opening titular track, Puls, AORA dazzles and shines with energy, personality, and deft skill. While the rest of the EP's tracks are also quite lovely, Puls is one that will stick with you.
From the starting gate, AORA channels perennial powerhouse vocal groups like The Swingles and Voctave with its bombastic melismatic opener. Penned by Sofie Eiderfors, this track is an early frontrunner for Track of the Year. Vocal personality is a skill in and of itself when there are lyrics to aid in expression, but to do so on background syllables alone speaks to the multitudinous abilities of the group's members. Different shades of emotional expression are rife in the rest of the EP, albeit more reserved on the latter three tracks. Subtle dissonances are peppered throughout Nudda mark and Blunda, adding to the wistful qualities of both ballads.
For all of the positivity laden in Jag lovar, the track is severely hindered by a tricky tuning moment between soloist and background when the former approaches the high tonic two out of three times. The expectation for tuning studio-recorded a cappella is high, and even two moments can take a casual listener out of the journey.
Those fleeting imperfections are a lowlight in an otherwise extremely bright EP. There is much to like about AORA, and the title track alone is worth streaming Puls.