Review : Karin Park – Church Of Imagination (2021)


Karin Park has an interesting back story. She grew up in a Christian family in a small Swedish village before studying at Stockholm Music Conservatory. Her pop career began in Norway before she moved to London to write songs and worked as a model for high-profile brands such as Swarovski, Haizhen Wang and DKNY. She returned to the village of her youth and bought the church where she first sang and turned it into a combined studio and home with her husband Kjetil Nernes, front man of the Norwegian rock band Årabrot. She has performed as the lead in Les Misérables, toured the world with Årabrot, and become a parent. As if that wasn`t enough she releases her fifth full length studio album `Church of Imagination` this month.

The album opens with `A Forest` with a constant piano key being pinged and what sounds like a howling wind in the background as the hesitant vocals join and a cello adds it`s poignancy to the number. We also have some flute tinges as the track evolves. It seems to be heading for a climax just as it appears to fade out. Chiming church bells lead us into `Shape Of A Child` a brief number that has a wonderful larger than life vocal atop of some interesting harmonic vocals and organ keys.

`Blue Roses` begins with that feel of whatever happens don`t enter that room vibe before melding into a mesmeric dream like offering, that sounds lyrically reflective. There`s a pounding drum heartbeat at the core of `Dangerous Caress` with a ebbing and flowing synth undertone. Karin`s entrancing vocals soar in, around and over and the number becomes a delightful kind of dark – light push pull.

We have a kind of hurdy-gurdy / organ sound initially running through `Give` which feels like an almost awakening of sorts as the music quietens and the vocals with complementary harmonies soar. It progresses with a gentle synth refrain and towering vocals. A wonderfully uplifting almost spiritual offering. There is a nigh on beguiling quite mystical or captivating sense to `Magix` who’s simple of chorus of “it`s magic, it`s magic“ will have you joining in and singing along.  

`Glass House` was a little odd but quite compelling. The vocal delivery felt a little remote to me but worked well with the almost clash of sounds that underpinned almost had a tribal come world music feel to the musical structure. There`s a delicious hypnotic sensibility to `Omens To Come` which began with a pulsing heartbeat and retains a quite slowed down nigh on drum and bass texture about it.

`Empire Rising` has a quite trace like feel with a pounding drumbeat, other percussive elements and a guitar/bass riff  dragging us along this slightly unnerving but transfixing and engrossing journey. Initially there was a jazzy chanteuse sense about `A Thousand Minds` before it became quite unconventional, experimental possibly avant-garde with various musical accompaniments blended in as it evolved. We have an assortment of percussive pieces, cello snatches, violin swathes, flute tinges and vocals overlayed, bizarre but beautiful.

There`s forty seconds of joy with `Let The Fun Begin` where the title sort of sums it up, so much packed into such a short soundscape, genius. The album closes out with `The Sharp Edge` which is an intense listen. It`s a pretty melancholic piece which emotes a sensation of unease almost despondency.

The blurb for this release hinted at an exploratory musical journey through the territories of magic, religion and the power of imagination covering Synthpop, Indietronica, Electroclash and Industrial music. To be fair it encompasses all that but so much more. Karin Park is a gifted and talented artist who has an alluring and very captivating vocal range. At times there seems to be a hint of female torchbearers such as Tori Amos and Kate Bush but she has her own distinct voice and style. The album had me thinking about Grace Jones`s `Warm Leatherette` for some reason but these songs are her own compositions. There are many idioms that I could use to describe how this album felt, such as I was drawn to it as a moth to a flame but it`s true.

`Church Of Imagination` is a release that will pull you into to its musical web and mesmerise you for the next forty minutes. As a line from Mary Howitt`s 1829 poem goes “Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly, I suggest you do with this album and you too will be seduced and manipulated.

Rating 9/10

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