The daughter of two classical musicians, Hanne Hukkelberg grew up in Kongsberg, two hours from Oslo. Raised on an eclectic musical diet incorporating “Bach, Ibsen and Cat Stevens,” she fought a teenage urge to be Madonna via a traditional Norwegian cure — joining a doom metal band.
“We were called Funeral,” she laughs. “It was good practice for me as a singer — I enjoy music when it's unconventional. I've never wanted to make pop music.”
Following graduation from the Norwegian Academy of Music, Hukkelberg's 2005 debut album Little Things alerted the world to a songwriter blessed with Cat Power's range and, by the sound of it, the Brothers Grimm in the producer's chair. Spooky and sensual, it brought both widespread acclaim and a Norwegian Grammy®.
Cue her latest album, Rykestrasse 68. An enchanted forest of haunting jazz melodies ("A Cheaters Armoury") and odes to Hanne's cat ("Obelix") it is a place where glockenspiels and clarinets combine without ever making you want to run screaming for the sun lounger. But what's that weird tapping sound on "The Northwind"?
“That's an old Remington typewriter,” she says, laughing again.
Cutlery, an old cheese-slicer and "a wooden shoe" are also called into service throughout Rykestrasse 68. Those with any doubts as to Hukkleberg's power to reinterpret songs to spine-tingling effect are directed to her cover of the Pixies '" Break My Body." Smart, sophisticated and unashamedly nocturnal, the overall mood brings to mind the '30s experiments of Kurt Weill. No wonder she chose to record the album in Berlin.
“The reason I went to Berlin was because I have friends there and it seemed like a good opportunity to get away and compose," Hukkelberg explains. "I haven't got a David Bowie fixation! I spent a lot of time on my own, collecting different moods and thinking how I could incorporate them into my songs.”
Hukkelberg's music doesn't give up its secrets easily, but listen closely and the layers slowly reveal themselves.”I got a great compliment from someone the other night," she says. "He said he thought my music was beautiful, but after a while he detected some humour in it. But when he listened to it a little more he discovered a third layer, which was very sad and melancholic. That was the perfect description for me. It's a mixture of the beautiful and the funny. But it hurts.”