Blank – Only Built For Northern Lights

Dear sir,
Hazel Ruxton, is right in her answer but, in Swedish at least, these letters are distinct characters in their own right, which appear at the end of the alphabet, so it wouldn’t be quite right to describe these dots (or the ring) as an accent. The A with two dots (Ä) is pronounced like the english word “air”, whereas the A with the ring (Å) is pronounced “oar”, there is also an O with two dots (Ő) which is pronounced “eugh” – or something rather similar, there isn’t really an equivalent sound in English. Out of interest your readers might like to know that the Ő character appears as Ø in Norwegian but this is still the same letter.
Peter Clark, Cambridge, England

The two little dots (the acid tabs of punctuation) might be called Umlauts; diacritics that I’m completely ignorant about. From what I can tell, this umlaut alters the pronunciation. It gives more influence and more prominence to the vowel sound. I wonder if re-introducing the umlaut to written English might resolve those debates between the North and South of our country. (‘You say bath, I say bath’, ‘you say scone, I say scone’).

I don’t know how to show the umlaut from this I-pad keyboard. This is unfortunate given that I’ve recently been listening to the new album by ‘Blank’ (they have an Umlaut above the a in their name). I want to review “Only Built For Northern Lights” because it’s extremely good but don’t want to misinform readers about the name of the band. The canvas is not blank.

Blank are a Swedish/Sapmi (Lapland) trio. This new release builds from a core of electronica and pop to embrace all sorts of other influences. Old school hip-hop mixes with laid back trip hop; rap is mashed up with traditional Sapmi folk to create a diverse yet rooted listening experience.

It’s an album in which Blank are on the brink; these are songs that are about facing up to life as you approach your 30’s; these are songs about coming to terms with relationships that are failing; “Life’s good, but I’m trying to make it better”, raps Simon Trabelsi on ‘This is Blnnk’, one of the track titles that doesn’t translate across into English. “I guess it’s time to move on”, he stresses in the closing track of the record, ‘P.O.V.’.

It’s those positive statements of intent (and the upbeat nature of the electronic pop on offer) that pull this back from being a melancholic break-up record. But, the relationship that has come to an end is never far from the surface. In lead single, ‘Tears Run Dry’, we hear the breathy yet lush Lina moan that, “I guess it’s over between me and you” before pulling herself together in the chorus and stressing that now she’s going to run until the tears run dry. “In time the pain will fade”, she pines on ‘In disgrace’.

Many are predicting that this is a record that’s going to thrust Blank into the mainstream. It’s definitely a record in which the band are preparing themselves for change. There’s potential hit singles within and I’m prepared to wager that we might all know how to access the umlaut on our keyboards by the time we come to pull together our best of lists at the end of the year.