Henika is Henrieta Tornyai, a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter whose music blends genres as diverse as alternative rock, folk and jazz. Henika has released her 6 track EP which includes her previously released single ‘You bring me down’, a song that won Wildcard funding by popular vote from NZonAir in 2015. Recorded and produced by the legendary Andrew Buckton (Midnight Youth, Steriogram, D4) and featuring veteran drummer Mike Franklin-Browne (Pluto, Head Like A Hole), the self-titled EP is her debut.
When I was a teenager, I used to sit in my bedroom for hours and listen to music. Sometimes I’d draw, sometimes I’d do homework, sometimes I’d read, sometimes I’d play along, but listening to music was the primary activity. As I have gotten older, less and less music has inspired me to devote my full attention to it in my spare time.
Listening to music has become a profession and hardly an accompaniment to my life. It’s an obligation, more than a choice, of what I listen to…unless something stunning comes along. Something like Henika. She is the kind of artist who takes the lead and lets others come along for the ride, rather than simply playing to the whims and trends of the marketplace or banking on gimmickry.
What’s powerful about Henika’s sheer art-pop and alternative rock hubris on this EP is her uncanny execution. It’s something you can’t help by notice as she runs through a gamut of genres without ever sacrificing inimitable style, hitting the mark on everything from natural forays into soulful pop and dark post-rock to a plunge into atmospheric alt-folk.
On the slow-burning “The River”, Henika lets her rich, versatile pipes loose to show that she can do more than just keep pace with her big-voiced contemporaries, but adds enough of her own ethereal sound to the bluesy guitars and keyboards to make things come off all her own.
“Let Me Sleep” creates moods that are just as stirring and bracing, though it does so by playing up more acoustic components and atmospheric percussion.
Most remarkable – and least expected – of all, though, is the crunchy, overdriven jazz sounding chords on “Torn In Two”. Maybe it’s not as harrowing and imposing as some of the other tracks, but it more than makes up for it with its strut and swagger, as Henika shows off her range as a performer by playing up the attitude, shifting from moody whispering to brashly delivered lines.
There are no moments on the EP when Henika’s exuberance gets the better of her, something you could expect on a debut. Instead she has the nerve to stay controlled and within her comfort zone, except for those moments when she absolutely needs to step out of it.
On “Come Find Me”, she keeps an ethereal, low and sullen profile, until the final bars when she breaks into another dimension. Henika’s voice is both soulful and refined. And in each of her songs she keeps the emotional and the intellectual quality equally alive.
The textures are often dense with a lot of instruments – including strings – going at once, on “You Bring Me Down”, but none of the hugeness ever overshadows Henika’s powerful and emotional voice. The lyrics are suitably a combination of abstract and concrete, leading you down interesting paths but never in such a way that you’re going to feel lost or confused.
With “Show Me Your Light”, it feels like Henika has really found a sound that works for her and she’s exploring it to bring out all the interesting nuances, which she expertly does. Rarely, as a musician, music enthusiast, and music reviewer am I awed by an album in modern times.
The musicality showcased by Henika, is immaculate here. Combining numerous musical styles this EP is nothing short of a crossover masterwork. Well produced, well written songs, and brilliant vocals.