Arne Barlindhaug Ellingsen, otherwise known as Pokal, is a Norweigan-born singer-songwriter with a quintessentially unique musical style, now living and working in Stockholm, Sweden. Lights is his second EP – the first, Five Songs, was released in October last year – and the five tracks perfectly showcase his experimental and varied style. It’s been described with such weird and wonderful genre-definers as 80s jazz-inspired indie, Baroque pop and cloud pop and it can’t be doubted that Arne’s style is effortlessly indefinable.
The EP opens with ‘Lighthouse’, a mellow, electronic track full of rhythmic piano melodies, rhythmic drum beats and touches of synth, accompanied by one-man harmonies in Arne’s almost haunting vocals. Comfortingly repetitive, ‘Lighthouse’ brings together seemingly opposing elements to create a perfect jigsaw puzzle of a track.
‘Fancy Lights’ is instantly reminiscent of 80s synth-pop and certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on albums from the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Prefab Sprout or A-Ha. Arne’s vocals are deep and soft, clashing perfectly with the high-pitched electronic melody that guide them. An almost choral bridge towards the end of the track is surprising, but acts as a perfect, harmonious example of the unique qualities of Pokal’s sound that are always present to remind us, whilst his tracks may be reminiscent of other artists, they are certainly not truly of them.
‘Snow’ is the most upbeat of the five tracks on Lights, and definitely has an Owl City feel. But Pokal’s singular sound shines through, as always; heavier drum beats than would normally be heard on a track like this, as well as the deep vocal tone that runs throughout the EP, give ‘Snow’ a dulcet freshness to set it apart from its musical siblings.
There’s a musak-like quality to ‘Artificial Light’, lent by repetitive beats, few lyrical changes and long, slow synth notes. It’s perhaps the least exciting track on the EP, but that doesn’t mean it has no merit; despite its penultimate position in the track listing, ‘Artificial Light’ acts almost as an interlude – a calming, continuous sound, not dissimilar to the offerings of Icelandic musicians Sigur Ros, to contrast the more experimental sounds that surround it.
Closing the EP is ‘Night Window’, a deep, earthy track that brings together distorted vocals with a melancholic, yawning, electronic melody that’s almost unsettling, but most certainly – especially with its slowly fading, softening outro – a beautifully eerie note to end on.
Lights has something for almost everyone; indie elements combine with synth pop, amongst so many other qualities, and come out as an almost seamless musical sequence that is both loveably familiar and refreshingly unique. Pokal brings elements of several genres, styles and other artists together with his own unique vision to create a truly quite beautiful EP that would be hard-pressed indeed not to make fans of its listeners.
Article by Amie Bailey