Stine Grøn and Adi Zukanović, best known as the Danish duo IRAH, describe the creation of their recent single “Unity of Gods” (from their upcoming debut album, Diamond Grid, out May 24 on ever-amazing Danish label Tambourhinoceros) as “a playful process.” Whimsy is indeed common across the track’s five minutes, but only in its pianos; otherwise, the song is a bleak, dour number. The song’s simultaneous curiosity and starkness are integral to its subject matter: on “Unity of Gods,” Grøn and Zukanović explore the contrast between keeping in touch with oneself and the world against the distractions of the digital age.
The all but amusing piano line that IRAH introduces at the outset of “Unity of Gods” never fades, ensuring that the track’s sense of wonderment never falters. Even as the song’s instrumental palette expands into a morose cocktail of featherlight, jazz-like percussion, Grøn’s harrowing, nasal whisper-falsetto, almost inaudible ambient synths, and ghostly layers of fog-thin oohs and aahs, the introductory piano line paves a clear path for the song’s gradual swell. Only once, with about a minute left into the song, does the piano riff change, and although it switches to what sounds like a major-key progression in doing so, “Unity of Gods” somehow exudes even more desperation during this brief moment of variance.
The omnipresence of Zukanović’s keys keeps “Unity of Gods” from feeling full-on devastating; instead, the song’s feel is one of longing, of searching for something now gone but once present. This backdrop is perfect for Grøn’s singing: When she utters lines such as “Forgot the veil/Agreed to play the human game,” she sounds regretful rather than hurt. As she explores the disconnect among herself, humanity, and technology, she sounds introspective rather than distraught, and sometimes, she even plays tricks on listeners: “Let it vibrate through my cells,” she says at one point, as though to draw attention to the insidious nature of cellphone vibrations in our lives without ever naming any of the technologies burdening her. Playful indeed.