Out of Göteborg to go through the listener’s door and stun them in most understated manner, classically trained artist offers a stationary trip into one’s psyche.
It’s all about the space for this composer: if Erik Dahl’s 2020 debut "Gethenian Suite" was credited to his ensemble and sonically spanned vast terraces of a sci-fi world in quasi-orchestral terms, sculpting a deceptively pale, albeit not bleak, landscape, that album’s follow-up seems to be designed as a chamber recital but reveals a progressive rock approach to arrangements, without sequestering melodies into claustrophobia-inducing expanses. Still, the tunes gathered here to see the Swede operate ivories as well as guitar are often breathtakingly beautiful, which is why “Music For Small Rooms” may feel perilous at times – yet there’s a risk worth taking.
Yes, the piano-driven, pensive opener “Postpop” comes across as a slow and easy way in, what with Erik quietly humming to his stately chords which are given a sparse jive, and the lightly grooving “Natural Home” projects even more elegy – that is, until harsh electric riffs try to demolish its drift and banish Anna Cochrane’s viola out of a freshly raw area, a site similar to the spot where “Mannen Med Bollen” takes place further down the line, after Anna Malmström’s bass clarinet has joined her namesake’s strings and Dahl’s keys for a melancholic scherzo. Quite fitting for a piece passed over by “Sparv” – here’s a possible reference to a Finnish football player – whose symphonic waves allow no indifference on the listener’s part, just like the magnificently delicate “Tuva” does earlier to a soul-shattering effect before the skittish “Gnista” gets fleshed out with a new-age-stricken waltz. Among these numbers, “The Leopard” gradually sheds initial shades of gloom in favor of harmonium-oiled frivolity and lets the shimmer of “Night Sky” seep in, while the nocturnal “Between Heartbeats” fills the same space with spiritual delight.
And when the lullaby “Børnevise Fra Skibby” shows an equally slow and easy way out, there’s tender splendor in the platter’s finale that is bound to leave a lingering aftertaste. It’s best enjoyed in small rooms but deserves to be embraced by wide audiences.