Review Summary: Beautifully crafted orchestral indie-pop has never managed to sound so inconsequential.Hidden Systems
is quite the polarizing debut for Johanna Kunin, who goes by the moniker Bright Archer. On one hand her music is expertly crafted, providing a technically sound foundation on which to build. On the other hand, though, it appears that Kunin doesn’t know what to do with all of the tools at her disposal (typical of a woman, am I right")…I jest of course, but the honest truth is that Hidden Systems
is an album that falls terribly short of its potential. Kunin puts her talents on clear display, but despite the occasionally gratifying moment, it usually leaves us scratching our head and wondering how something that sounds so dynamic can feel so empty.
It is quite possible that someone could listen to Hidden Systems
and not remember a damn thing about it by the time it’s over, other than the fact that is was pretty relaxing. There is such thing as ambiance, but that isn’t what is accomplished here. Sure, the pianos are eloquent and expressive, but they are also too busy, rambling like a run on sentence that you are sure has a point, but you can’t quite catch your breath to figure out what that is. The string arrangements and orchestral backing give it a sense of emotional weight, but they are too few and far between. The closest thing to a hook comes in ‘Sunrising’, when Kunin playfully sings “who cares anyway” overtop of the same piano notes you will hear all album long. The lack of restraint on piano never really leaves room for anything else to fill the silence, and combined with an absence of catchy melodies, the whole thing ends up feeling rather forgettable.
From one song to the next, it sounds like Johanna is aimlessly meandering through a long list of indifferent sounding ballads. It can certainly be soothing, but it also lacks the atmospheric qualities to qualify as dreamlike
. The unfortunate truth about Hidden Systems
is that it simply isn’t creative enough; there doesn’t appear to be very much inspiration behind the songs or, if there is, the songs lack the distinctive qualities to discern it. If you are in the mood for a carefree stroll through the park one evening, this might suffice as pleasant background music. But even then, you might find yourself walking in circles to mimic the repetitiveness of this record. It isn’t that there is no hope for Bright Archer, because as was already mentioned, Kunin possesses the raw abilities needed to succeed as an indie musician. If she can find a way to craft more memorable melodies and incorporate some instrumental variation, Bright Archer might be a project worth keeping an eye on. But for now, Kunin’s talents are largely overshadowed by the disappointing lack of creative direction that plagues her debut.