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Rama Lama Records

Mary Anne's Polar Rig - Makes You Wonder 2LP

Mary Anne's Polar Rig - Makes You Wonder 2LP

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The brilliant second album from Malmö combo Mary Anne's Polar Rig on gatefold double 12'' marble vinyl via our friends at Rama Lama Records. Limited to just 300 copies.

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Mary Anne’s Polar Rig take their name from a mining-station (now hotel) on the Arctic island of Svalbard, an identification that implies a little bit of toughness, an ability to take a few knocks and keep on rolling. You can certainly hear something of that in their sound – the Malmö duo, Malin Hofvander and Harald Ingvarsson, serve up rough-and-tumble rock and roll that can handle anything the world has to throw at it. And their new album Makes You Wonder, shape-shifting art rock that’s alternatively brooding and euphoric, is packed with their most ambitious, sprawling and irrepressible music yet.

On their first record, Makes You Happy, the band were content to be a musical storm that didn’t hang around to see the mess it made – the songs were short, sharp punk-pop rock and roll, often rattling through from start to finish in under two minutes. Makes You Wonder is more complex, mature and heavy. Here, they give the songs space and time to develop and grow. Melodies and sharp refrains strike through in places like lightning bolts – it’s still a blast to listen to – but the songwriting takes stranger turns than before. Some songs skid and roll chaotically, like an out-of-control dirt bike, and others are carefully nursed and layered into something crashing and grand, like towering prog pyramids. The band’s restlessness has moved them onto a whole new artistic plane, and taken their music onto a level beyond anything they’ve done before.

The new album came from a place of change. After the release of Makes You Happy, the band’s original four-piece went their separate ways, and after some discussion, Hofvander and Ingvarsson decided to continue the project as a two-piece. The duo shared an apartment in Malmö during the 2021 corona wave, and in that time they wrote most of the demos. For the new album they really wanted to immerse themselves in a studio when bringing the songs to life. “[For the first album] we just recorded it exactly how we used to play it in the rehearsal space”, says Malin. “In the closing period of that album, I was really tired of the songs, and felt really restricted within the songwriting. I think we had painted ourselves into a corner, and it wasn’t that exciting anymore. [Before going into the studio] we watched a lot of music documentaries together, and we felt really inspired by these stories. We watched Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm, about the Welsh studio where back in the day, young unknown bands would go, and the label would pay for them to spend three, four weeks there. Because they believed that these kids could make something cool happen, if they were given the space and time to make it. And we wanted to give ourselves that space and time”.

They booked 10 days at Studio Möllan in Malmö, a second home to both of them, having spent time interning there, and got to work: “The owner, Emil [Isaksson], went out of town and gave us the key, so we had 24-hour access”, says Ingvarsson. “It was a really nice opportunity to have artistic freedom, in a place that we knew, where we felt super-comfortable. We spent 18 hours a day in the studio”.

Having the luxury of the 10 days, the resources of the studio and the greater flexibility of a two-piece band allowed them to explore and experiment in new ways, to follow their instincts wherever they led them. They added contributions from various talented friends to the pot, even ending up with four different drummers on the record, including one with the Malmö Symphonic Orchestra on their CV. “We had the demos going into the studio, but we recorded from scratch”, says Malin, “and we ended up re-doing a lot of things – we didn’t want to feel too attached to the demos. We wanted to feed on the positive loop of ideas that would hopefully come naturally in that space”. “And they pretty much did! It was well-calibrated. That’s the reason that some of the songs are nine-minutes long, we had the freedom to do anything”, adds Harald.

What they made in that studio retains a lot of the sonic landscape of their earlier music – needle-sharp guitars, scuffed-knees scrappiness and Hofvander’s snarling, growling and yelping vocals, but vastly expands the scope of what they can do with it. “Dopamine Detox” and “Summer Girl” serve as the classic ‘singles’ – clattering bursts of energy, impossible not to sing along to. Then there are softer moments – like the bruised waltz “Wait” - but the album’s headline news is its sprawling, grand epics. Take “Instead Of This” for example – the band take what starts out as a relatively conventional song, and pull it into another dimension, where everything starts to warp and blur, and the song mutates, inhales and exhales into a different beast. “Life In The City” is initially spectral and haunting, but eventually blooms, through shivers of piano, into something beautiful. “Som en Dröm” is five and a bit minutes of nerve-jangling restlessness, and closer “Beautiful Mess” has a world-weary splendour and wakes memories of Sonic Youth’s “Teenage Riot”. Beautiful Mess could have been the album’s title – Makes You Wonder is a lot to take in, but sparkles once you meet it on its terms.

Thematically, the album also branches out from their earlier work. Hofvander is content to let her words wander where they will, going for something more abstract and stream-of-consciousness than straightforward storytelling. But there’s still a sense of something Mary Anne’s Polar Rig have always had, of finding the world a little wanting: “You grow up, and you find your place in life, and then what? It sucks!”, she says. “And something new has to happen, and what will that be? I wanted the lyrics to be more abstract, to not take away too much from the music. But instead rather to enhance the feeling of the song. To make the point not as obvious”. “It’s a little bit more philosophical”, adds Ingvarsson. “’Life In The City’, for example, is about having freedom, and being an adult, and not being stressed, not being anxious. These are things we were talking about a lot”.

Hofvander has said that making MAPR’s first album was the fulfilment of a teenage dream, of being in a rock band. The genesis of Makes You Wonder maybe isn’t as romantic and emotive as that, but it’s still the fulfilment of something important for the band – an album on which they grow and use their capacity as artists to the full, to sketch out their creative goals and then achieve them. It’s a record they wrote the recipe for themselves, and used it to make something very special. “When the band started”, says Hofvander, “we were always told to make the music more commercial, things like ‘this song can’t be that long, nobody wants to hear you jam haha’. It really fucked with my songwriting, because I couldn’t stop thinking about how it would be received. I think this time we rebelled against that. We don’t make music for other people, we make it for us”. Makes You Wonder is certainly an album they’ve made for themselves – but with something this good, plenty of others will fall for it too.

Catalogue number

RLR025

Release date

Tracklist

Dopamine Detox
Summer Girl
Instead of This
It Goes
Vem Bryr Sig
The Way That I'm Feeling
Wait
Life in the City
Som En Dröm
Beautiful Mess

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