Tvinna – Two – Wings of Ember


German experimentalists, Tvinna, are the shared vision of Laura and Rafael Fella. The former has been a member of pagan folk/darkwave icons, Faun, since 2017, while the latter is the lead guitarist of Swiss folk-metal stars, Eluveitie. Their 2019 debut album swayed towards an electronica sound with minimalist prog rock layering and introduced us to chapter one of a four-part series that chronicles human existence through the four elements of life. Two – Wings of Ember takes fire as its central theme and metaphor for the second stage of life – childhood and youth. At forty-eight minutes in length, it displays no shortage of confidence or imagination.

The early stages of this record are the most puzzling. The Future Sound of London would sound like this if you asked them to write an ambient darkwave record. ‘Dawn of Mine’ employs an A Cappello verse to prepare the way for a downtempo trip-hop beat. Yet the ritualistic folk phrasings of voice appear to be going around in circles until Laura Fella switches gear into a higher register. It’s interesting how the chords use a simple chromatic rock combination beefed up with machine-like percussion samples. By contrast, the outro transports you to the riverbeds of a mystical fantasy world.

Laura Fella’s captivating voice is delicate yet powerful and cunning in places where you think she’ll melt your heart. This music is not as sentimental as you’d think. ‘Louga’ makes imaginative use of copulating breathing noises as the main beat in the opening bars like ‘I Want You Now’ by Depeche Mode. Then it goes into a Scandinavian folk incantation with rock drums and sporadic lead guitars that sound like moans rippling through elephant trunks. It’s clear that the Fella spouses have a musical bond that goes beyond music theory. Listen to the gorgeous harmony of guitar and voice in ‘Irwahhên’. Absorb the mellifluous flow between the chord changes and let them replenish your oxygen levels. How can something so captivating be as catchy as a jingle? The funk-rock guitars and bubbling bass at 02:25 are Blondie standard, yet Laura Fella stays in a meditative state throughout the agitated 4/4 rhythm with its syncopated accents.

The album seems to move away from minimalism into atmospheric rock with each passing track. ‘Arma’ will make you feel like you’ve stumbled into a ceremonial veneration of Ēostre, the proto-Germanic Goddess of Fertility, until the drums and guitars gatecrash the proceedings with a dash of hip-swaying rock. This music is sexy yet cerebral. Listen to the funk-rock grooves in ‘Wings of Ember’ as they conspire with a synth bass to twist your pelvic muscles against your will. The prospect of death and rebirth hangs over the prog rock textures of this song as if somebody brought in Kate Bush to direct the composition. And yet there’s a clear chorus uplift with a flow of sparkling cadences befitting of any Björk album.

A feeling that nothing should be restrained or held back from its natural organic growth makes this LP a pleasure to dissect, even if the last three songs squander some of the mystique. Fans of GGGOLDDD will appreciate the angular guitar and bass grooves of ‘Two Staves’. Here, laser synths wash through the mix like water streams as the delicate guitar pickings hide in the background. Yet the chugging basslines lend this an anxious rock flavouring and invite the guitars and drums to race into life after the second chorus. Imagine Oceans of Slumber in an ethereal doom metal cocoon with European aesthetics.

Of course, with a more progressive approach comes the risk of leaving ideas unresolved. ‘The Fall’ welcomes you to the Orient as you’ve never imagined it. Light the candles and enter the Sultan’s harem, where you’ll find Europeans dressed up like unapologetic Arabists of the nineteenth century. Yet this is just a brief sojourn before you return to the nocturnal splendour of northern Europe through the prism of trip-hop. But what does this song want to be? The castanets demand another cultural change when your brain is at its most overworked.

Laura Fella steps out of the enchanting cloak and into a white gown to generate a sense of optimism disguised as nature worship in closing track, ‘Der Weg’. Perhaps this is the key to understanding the art of Tvinna. They wear many costumes but never cower at the prospect of embracing the dark forces that we must overcome to reach the light.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 23/02/2024

Record Label: By Norse Music

Standout tracks: Irwahhên, Wings of Ember, Two Staves

Suggested Further Listening: Rïcïnn – Nereïd (2020), Ianai – Sunir (2022), GGGOLDDD – PTSD (2023)