Updated: Jun 10, 2019
Scandipop goddess Aurora credits the endless possibilities of her imagination to an upbringing surrounded the wintry forests of Hordaland, Norway. Her dynamic voice is evocative of its vastness, at times sounding like a stark cry upon the Arctic wind. She embodies these fairy tale surroundings in A Different Kind of Human (Step II), a full length extension of 2018’s Infections of a Different Kind (Step I). The EP was a musical reflection on how emotional pain and societal turmoil resonate between people in cyclical ways. In this latest release, Aurora continues her quest to step back and explore the bigger picture, no matter how many worlds she has to traverse, either real or imagined. A Different Kind of Human asks questions about the nature of humanity: if there are different kinds of humans, then what kind of human am I, and what are the possibilities for the kind of human I could be?
Earlier this year, Aurora left hints that the eagerly awaited next step would be more explosive than its predecessor, with singles 'Animal' and 'The River'. Aurora's vocal in playful romp 'Animal' resembles the curiosity of a captive animal set free: cautious, then uninhibited in its newfound freedom. Synth arpeggios in cathartic track 'The River' build intensity as chord changes shift direction like the current. A Different Kind of Human (Step II) is fluid and expressive, spirited and lively.
Aurora’s intuitive storytelling is inspired by the power of "atmospheres and words." In the dreamy and theatrical haze of ‘Daydreamer’ she sings of the magnitude of worlds created through the power of imagination, a comforting place in one’s essence where she proclaims, "Nothing can die when we are here", a testament to her empowered visions of improving the world, coming from the "Street walkers and small talkers/to the moonwalkers and dream talkers." The title track sees a hallowed vision of the afterlife, where Aurora sings a hymn of protecting its inhabitants, celebrating and honouring their lives. "There is a flaw in man-made matters" she sings, her reassuring vocal awash in reverberation, later echoing across time and space in the zero gravity soundscape of final track ‘Mothership’. Even in her journey to outer space and to universes beyond, she yearns for us to give thanks to the natural world - "You cannot eat money, oh no", she warns us in the second single 'The Seed', a reminder to those who abandon the cause of preserving nature's vitality.
Aurora treats her synth lines in A Different Kind of Human as ribbons of sound, not unlike the grand northern lights in the night sky of her Arctic home. They bend and fold, enveloping around the nuances and quirks of her voice. Fans of fellow Scandinavian electro-pioneers Fever Ray and ionnalee will appreciate the range of textures throughout the album, like the shimmering synth of 'In Bottles' and the pulsating bassline of 'Apple Tree'.
Step II’s instrumentation is pared down, uplifting and primal in its danceable choruses; the rolling bass and beat that unfurls into the stomping chorus of ‘Daydreamer’, and the demanding bass of the primordial, ritualistic anthem ‘Hunger', where the hypnotic, misty synth line of the verse winds and twists into the sky. 'Soulless Creatures' contains a Björk-esque underlying sub-bass deep beneath atmospheric piano chords and metallic rhythms. Layered with vocal harmonies and catchy hooks, this is an album that remains with you after each listen, each track a sonic world with a scope so magnificent that listeners must sense their way through.
Aurora is not only an exciting artist, but like a guardian of nature, she brings to us important messages. Never coming across as preachy, she understands that certain things like fear and anxieties of the future can hold us back, but assures us we can transcend them. A Different Kind of Human (Step II) is a contender for album of the year. It is attentive, enveloped in a genuine want to nurture the growth of the listener, to give them the space to discover the life-giving power of imagination. What kind of human are you, and what kind of human do you dream to become?