Album Review: Nicole Kirbanu Klein – ‘Drifting’

In Album Review, ESC Daily’s music expert Jill Guthrie talks you through released albums by Australian artists or other Eurovision related musicians. In today’s episode she will tell you the pros and cons of ‘Drifting’ by Nicole Kirbanu Klein from Australia.

Australian musician Nicole Kirbanu Klein has found her music-making aptitude nestled in the picturesque city of Heidelberg, Germany. Her melancholic folk-pop soundscapes are reminiscent of her home country, but with the collaborative touch of one of Germany’s most notable producers, Markus Born, with whom she worked on her latest album, Drifting.

Known on stage simply by the name Kirbanu, the songstress returned to the studio in 2015 to churn out a collection of songs with sharp quality. Part of Kirbanu’s charm emulates from the soul-searching singer-songwriter melodies that arose from her travels across Europe; as well as the strong connection with her supporters across the globe, as Drifting was made possible through a Pledge Campaign.

Likened to renowned musicians, from the Canadian Joni Mitchell and Sarah McGlauchlin to Tina Dico of Denmark and Dido from Britain, Kirbanu’s music is cultivated from a heartfelt place. The melancholy mixture of folk and pop, achieved through a selection of classical strings, tribal drums and rounds of steel guitar, speaks to her songwriting qualities. It becomes cathartic, as Kirbanu describes, “For me something magical happens when a song goes beneath the skin of the listener… It’s about experiencing that song and traveling with it”.

Music Review
Drifting is deeply rooted in a soul-searching nostalgia, characterized by Kirbanu’s storytelling and candor about life and uncertainty. The expanse of her travels and experiences can be felt at the very heart of the album. Playing to the curiosity a young girl harbored, Drifting personifies Kirbanu’s unmistakable style and intimately melodic lines. Defined in her profile as “a journey through emotions, space and music”, the album samples influences from both folk and pop genres, sometimes leaning more to one upbeat side than the soft-spoken other.

Title cut ‘Drifting’ is one of those wispy tracks with a small punch of percussion at the chorus. With a rustic feel, drifting in melancholy, the music reflects the nomadic atmosphere of the album. ‘My Old Friend’ follows with an emotive ballad of sorts. Breathy and light with brighter harmonies, the memory anchored composition builds in simple layers of sound. Only for ‘Haunted by a Shadow’ to bring up the rear with a darker set of vocals set against the same softer-hued nostalgia.

Tracks ‘Let Me Love You’ and ‘Closed Eyes’ shift from those searching, hazy memory-laden lyrics to a lighter heart and airy, orchestral foundations. Folk influences especially swell into chasing variations of lilting timbre and harmonies in ‘Let Me Love You’; while ‘Closed Eyes’ revels in carillions and clarinet, all part of a beautifully pliable soundscape – perhaps the ‘gem’ of the album’.

The orchestral influences of strings and brass continue in ‘The Voice Inside’, set heavily in saxophone and clarinet driven lines. The percussion picks up to an almost-dance beat, folk-inspired sequences reflecting a tribal momentum. Following the same tempo, ‘You’re Beautiful’ falls in step, replacing the classical elements with steel pedals and a hint of rock influence, becoming more musically produced than the earlier purely acoustic tracks.

‘Time Goes On’ serves as a testimony of the album, wrapping all the cathartic emotions of the collection into one track. Acoustic with a lilting vocal like honey, soft vignettes of cello strings and ivory keys build behind Kirbanu’s candor. Her storytelling aura is strongest in this closing statement where the passing of time is stagnant but still wholesome.

Kirbanu has an apt for creating intimate atmospheres through strong, expressive vocals and eclectic soundscapes, drawing from her national identity (rooted in Australia), her travels and her home-base in Germany. Of the collection of new work, she says, “Each song is a moment, a point, an expression, an emotion, that should be journeyed within.” Drifting is a cathartic representation of her talents and experiences, overwhelmingly organic and powerful in its simplicity.