Scandinavian masters of minimalistic storms delve into the strange sadness of the pandemic period.
Aside from its celebrated pop music, Sweden left an indelible mark on the global music through death metal, so there’s no surprise in the appearance of a style contrasting such a sonic onslaught and offering an extremely tranquil, if equally primeval, experience – and no wonder in Erik Dahl’s hometown being Gothenburg where a healthy heavy scene has been prospering for more than three decades. Yet if his collective’s 2020 debut "Gethenian Suite" was a stunning opus, devoid of rock signposts, the composer’s solo album which arrives two years later, applies chamber approach to prog patterns, and the sextet’s sophomore record emerges out of a similar place to follow "Music For Small Rooms" with a chilling commentary on lockdowns and other recent troubles and let gorgeous quietude express desolate hope.
Here’s an hour of deep rumination, set in motion by the woodwind of “Lagim” whose harmonic flow feels symphonically funereal before a proper groove is revealed for Erik’s piano to embroider this rippling background with jazzy strokes and find Anna Cochrane’s viola simmer over Viktor Reuter’s adventurous double bass and William Soovik’s percussive detailing of it all. But “The Woods Within” sees the reeds paint an abstract landscape until Andreas Thurfjell and Anna Malmström’s clarinets allow their elegy to morph into a sax-spiced melody that the rest of the group add dramatic nuances to, blowing up the piece’s immense aural envelope. However, “Join The Dots” takes the ivories-driven avant-garde towards futuristic resonance, especially prominent at the bottom-end register, yet “The Fragile Ones” sounds rather frivolous, albeit still unhurried, thanks to the pace of Dahl’s electronica-enhanced filigree and the folk motifs carried out via violin vigor, sculpting a scope for “Nocturnal” whence riffs protrude amid swirling strings.
Only whereas the mini-epic “Unfolding” enshrouds its peace-threatening, dynamically daring threnody in urban-reeking effects, there’s also understated grandeur arising from the keyboards and leading into “Vulkan” which explores nebulous delights of quasi-orchestral movements and prepares the stage for the sprawling “Ceremony” that’s spreading gloom into the ether and giving the vibrant environs a gothic, and slightly Gallic, slant. Then, the stately “Too Sad” locates a calm spot in this frequently relentless tumult, as Erik’s fingers sprinkle dewdrops on impressionistic passages of other instruments and brassy licks emanate from the initially murky tune to usher in the “Frostblommor till Emma Niskanpää” whose rhythmically exciting sparse strands are so arresting in their optimism-filled call-and-response jive.
Apparently, everyone can’t be overly sorrowful, and here’s a magnificent proof of it.