a-ha return to share their new single ‘I’m In’ , which acts as the first taster for their forthcoming album True North, which will be released later this year.
“Breathe in, Just breathe, there are times, good times after these” sings Morten Harket at his most emotive. With this single, Magne Furuholmen, Morten and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy begin a new era for a-ha and approached the creation of ‘True North’ very differently from their previous works. Their first collection of new songs since 2015’s Cast In Steel is more than a straightforward album, it is also a film capturing the band recording the songs during 2021 in Bodø, the Norwegian city located 90km above the Arctic Circle. “With every album we tweak it, to see if there’s a different way to go about it,” explains Paul.
Magne, who wrote the moving new single, says it is “a song about total commitment and a show of support for someone who is troubled. Real commitment is a leap of faith. Everyone knows how difficult it can be to offer commitment and support unconditionally, but this is what it takes to make anything worthwhile happen – love, friendship, change, self-improvement, careers, a better world. Easier said than done of course but it begins with an attitude, then uttering the words. After this it is all hard work to realise whatever potential your commitment has in the world. Without this attitude everything just gets bogged down with conflicting thoughts, doubts and fear. Just say it: ‘I’m in’.” And with ‘I’m In’ and True North’s other 11 tracks – six written by Magne, six by Paul – a-ha underline their commitment to the band by tackling something new.
With what is their 11th studio album and also a very immediate document of its creation, a-ha have entered a new world. “First, we had the idea to record a studio session live,” says Paul. “Then, to film a studio session. That grew into more of a production with the Norwegian orchestra, the Arctic Philharmonic, who we have collaborated with.” It’s all there in the film. The deeply affecting and inscrutable film accompanying ‘I’m In’ is extracted from the long-form film integral to True North.
In the True North film, a-ha perform and record with the orchestra. Also caught on camera in the landscape around Bodø, Magne, Morten and Paul discuss True North. In recurring vignettes, actors portray life in the north. The multidimensional film describes a narrative arc embodying the spirit of the new songs, showing how all of us are connected to the environment. Long-time a-ha collaborator Stian Andersen is the director. “True North is a letter from a-ha, from the Arctic Circle, a poem from the far north of Norway with new music,” says Magne.
The songs on the record are imbued with a sense of place and a deep connection with how we interact with the environment. For the first time, a-ha show us where they are from, who they are, and how the connection between the two is unbreakable. It’s no wonder that True North is a-ha at their most revealing – never before has the spirit of a-ha been so exposed.
Balances are struck – between the fresh approach and the qualities inherent to a-ha, between the songs themselves and the overarching concept of True North. I’m In’ opens the door on this thrilling new chapter for band and nothing encapsulates it better.