The first time that I saw the band name The White Birch, the classic, bleak album from the late, great Codeine came to mind. Considering this band formed just a year or so after that album was released, it may or may not have been some sort of influence, but it's clear that in the time since then The White Birch have evolved and taken on a sound all their own. Come Up For Air is the fourth full length album from the group, and it's one of those minimal, mysterious albums that can pass through you on first listen if you're not really paying attention.
I have to admit that I never thought I'd hear something quite so poppy released on the Rune Grammofon label (especially as produced by Helge Sten, aka Deathprod), but with musical reference points closest to slowly-evolving groups like Talk Talk and Bark Psychosis, you're probably not going to be hearing the group hitting the top of the charts anytime soon. Whereas big selling bands who are doing things somewhat similarly (Coldplay, etc) might try to ram things down your throat with theatrics, The White Birch is very content to keep things sparse. "Storm-Broken Tree" is a perfect example, flowing with liquid piano melodies, some soft acoustic guitar and strings behind lead singer Ola Fløttum's soft baritone.
Even when things are slightly more upbeat, the group always keeps things reigned in, and that's one of the major things they have going for them. "Your Spain" features a serviceable rhythm section that opens up in places to allow synths and piano to breath through, while "Silent Love" peaks nicely over the course of four and a half minutes, blending super-subtle analogue synth breaths over more standard instrumentation for a combination that works quite well.
Two of the things that push the release into territory that's just slightly more sublime than more anything you'll find out there are the somewhat drowsy vocals of Fløttum (which contain just a slight curl of that nice Nordic accent) and the sparse but lush production of Sten. Like just about everything else on the album, it's not something that's blatant, but on tracks like "We Are Not The Ones," it's the things that happen between the louder sounds that are just as important as the melodies in the forefront. A gorgeous, somewhat melancholic piece of dreamy ambient rock, Come Up For Air sounds more like something I'd enjoy during fall weather, but that hasn't stopped it from finding its way into my stereo a lot lately anyway.