Christine Owman – Throwing Knives

January 01, 1970



“Spelling Words,” the first song on this third full-length from the
Swedish singer/songwriter, begins in a tipsy saw of cello, a regular plink and
plunk of banjo, the soft-focus drift of folky female vocals. Traditional sounds
turn slightly askew, sheer sonic pleasure turns into something slightly darker
and more eccentric, as Owman questions the very nature of human connection, the
fallibility of human communication, Swedish singer/songwriter Christine Owman. It’s
an odd song, seductively soft on the surface but full of sharp, jutting angles,
familiar-sounding but, once examined, contrarian and vaguely unsettling. It’s
an excellent introduction for Throwing
, too, showcasing the wiry, unconventional intelligence of an unusual


Throwing Knives spends a good
bit of its ten tracks on relationships in various stages of disintegration, yet
to call it a break-up album is a gross oversimplication.  Singing in a soft, blurry voice that verges
from folk to pop to electro, she resembles, in her quietude, the Twin Peaks muse Julee Cruise. Still listen to the
empowerment in her lyrics, or the potent way she combines electronic and organic
elements, and other comparisons emerge – Kristin Hersh, Juliana Hatfield, even
Beth Gibbons.  Owman sings from a
position of strength, a sense that she will be okay regardless of romantic
outcomes.  She is never, even at her most
melancholy and introspective, anyone’s victim. “I won’t take it just cos I love
you,” she sings on “The Conflict,” and the line has a bit of a lift to it, a
bit of the dance floor’s pulse and heedlessness.


Owman has been playing the cello since early childhood and has since
taught herself to handle a full complement of other instruments – banjo,
musical saw, drums, bass, guitar and piano. Her oddest songs, lyrically, are
often juxtaposed with down home arrangements. “Circles” is all drum-shuffling,
banjo picking blues, Owman’s voice trilling and fluttering around button-downed
country rhythms; it also has an entire stanza about masturbation.  


In the softer, more traditional songs, Owman brings in her modern
viewpoint subtly, in the lyrics and in the way she works sweetness into
confrontation and vice versa. Yet this is also a songwriter who is comfortable
with technology, who performs general, in front of a screen showing movies she
herself has created. So, it is not surprising that some of her strongest
material is abrasive and current, churning industrial-strength dance beats
under her delicate, billowy melodies. “Dance,” Owman’s most unadulterated
statement of independence, undulates with sensuality, a buzz-saw rhythm under
diaphanous lyrics, little gasps of breath punctuating the song’s phrases. “She’s
a dancing baby, but she’s not dancing for you,” Owman murmurs. You get the
picture of a very modern woman, intrigued by love but not consumed by it,
self-sufficient, sexual, and not necessarily available.


Much of women’s pop and rock seems to be primarily directed at men,
packaging femininity in ways that confirm or overturn male-generated stereotypes.
Throwing Knives comes at womanhood
from the inside, painting a far more complicated, conflicted view that may or
may not appeal to the opposite sex. That it’s couched in beautiful, eerie
melodies, sometimes delicate, sometimes ragged arrangements, and a dream-like
vocal prettiness can only add to the conundrum. Christina Owman is certainly
not going for the obvious.


DOWNLOAD: “Dance,” “Circles” “Spelling Words” JENNIFER KELLY

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