I am going to begin this piece with a statement which is by no means based in fact, an observation that seems to ring true in most of the cases I can think of. That is, that musicians tend to have a broader musical taste than that of those who follow them.
Before you jump on this as preposterous there are numerous examples over the years where bands and individuals have embarked on new directions… or even just tangents… to the shock and, on occasion, outrage of their fans. Bob Dylan is not the only one to have been called ‘Judas’ I’m sure.
For me this is a shame because in means that musicians can get kettled into the sort of sonic one way streets that probably do not reflect the broadness of their influences.
After playing a lot of droney, improvised, quite loose music for a few years I got the urge to write some songs. I also wanted to see what would come out if I made it all by myself. I always liked eclectic albums and music, so I kind of knew that the end result would be quite schizophrenic. But in the end I guess it came down to songs with a melancholy mood and a lot of ambience, which probably reflects my love of stuff like Tom Waits, Stina Nordenstam, Portishead, The Cure and certain film scores.
The result is, indeed, all those things… and is quite a different listen to the longer more improvised approach of the above bands, and in fact gives you quite a difference experience when listening to it.
As a non-musician I tend to express my musical tastes through playlists… of course this was originally done through the beloved compilation tape, of which I still have many in my attic, eventually alighting on the Spotify playlist as a medium of choice. While there was perhaps more at stake with the former… they are essentially the same medium… and this is what this album essentially feels like…
As Mikael says above, this is very much an eclectic album but, I asked him, why ‘1989’?:
1989 was not only a dramatic year in politics, but in my life it marks somewhat of a breaking point between childhood and adulthood – I was 16 – and it’s like a pinnacle for nostalgia in my world. Musically everything started to open up more and I can see in hindsight that a lot of what I became began around that time. There’s also a song on the album that’s called 1989. The foundation of that song was written several years ago as an experiment – I set out to write a song that was supposed to sound like The Mission for whatever reason, even though I think it ended up somewhere else musically. Another aspect is that 1989 feels like peak capitalism, at least in a cultural sense though things actually have kept getting more extreme and darker all the time since then. I’m addressing some of this on the album.
Before asking the question I suspected that there were some deeper motivations than writing a set of songs that are a reflection of Mikael’s music taste (which, of course, can be deeper than the appreciation of sound)… and actually as I listen to this album more and more I can feel that depth becoming increasingly apparent.
I’m not sure either whether the title track sounds like the Mission, but there is something of that time about it. The Mission were the band that I was most listening to in 1988 when my Mother died… and the plangent melancholy of this track really resonated with me in a deep way because of that.
This is after the opening track ‘The Last Breath’ which has a wonderfully laid back feel to it. It features ‘Voutilainen ksylofoni’ which, as Mikael says:
It was my first ever musical instrument which I have had for as long as I can remember. As a kid I used to make sounds on it as much as doing all kinds of experiments with the metal tongues. I think the story was that it once belonged to my father Pekka who got it in school in Finland in the fifties, but I’m not sure about that and I can’t ask him since he’s not with us anymore.
This helps explain the passion behind the track which really hits you the more you hear it… and it somehow reminds me of ‘Division Bell’ era Pink Floyd too… a terrific opener.
After ‘1989’ comes ‘This Bubble’ which is a more upbeat number… there is a sort of tasteful homage to 80s basslines here and has a real ‘Cure’ feel to it… but having said that the track does not sound old or hackneyed having a rather contemporary nostalgic feel to it… and like many tracks on this album has many sonic flourishes on it that feel wonderfully familiar…
‘Ej El’ was the track that stood out for me when I first heard the album… I like the sparse nature of the opening… in many ways it feels like a fragment or an interlude, but one which really clears the mind ahead of the much darker ‘Just A Movie’… which has a dream/ nightmare-like quality to it that really draws you into it.
After that ‘Sapiens’ hits you quite hard with its angular guitar and psychedelic effects which inveigles its way into your psyche in a different manner… as does ‘Nothing Loud’ with it’s sinister movie soundtrack quality that could come straight out of a 70’s thriller. There’s also something of a Krautrock vibe to it… in fact there’s all sorts of influences rolling around here… I am enjoying peeling back the layers to hear what I can find… marvellous!
‘Blöt’ is another shorter track which is nicely paced with some swirling synths and guitar jamming which kind of feels like a jingle for an upmarket and extremely savvy radio station that is just about to serve up the next killer track… which in this case is ‘En till dag’… a real slow burner that I’m not sure I’ve fully got into yet (as with the whole album really)… again there are many layers here but the overall feel at the moment is that of a melancholic bucolic place which feels at the same time cozy and restless… comfortable yet agitated.
Which brings us to the final and, I think, longest number ‘Awake’. This really reminds me of the Linda Lyndell song ‘What A Man’ (later covered by Salt ‘n’ Peppa)… although there is much more to it than that. Once again Mikael manages to pitch the track really well… the arrangement being a lovely balance of styles which (like on the album as a whole) set each other off nicely… ‘Awake’ finishes things off just nicely and you’re left with a warm and slightly fuzzy feeling that is somehow both snug and sincere… warm yet serious… and that in a nutshell is why I like this album very much.
‘1989’ is released by Adansonia Records and is available to pre-order now here.
LP comes in fully laminated thick matt sleeve and black padded inner sleeve.
– 222 x classic edition, black vinyl, 180g, hand-numbered
– 111 x exclusive label edition, transparent green, hand-numbered, signed Polaroid style print
Mastering by Eroc!
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