If you didn’t know anything about Sweden (contemporary or otherwise) the chances are this music on Hälsingland By the Lake Beside the Trees by Göran Klinghagen would provide a vibrant picture. What jumps out at you almost immediately is that culture trumps politics; perhaps because politics has long since been informed by culture – unlike North America, where it’s the other way round. Also, like many things Swedish, you are easily seduced by literature where a long line of great poets from Sophia Elisabet Brenner, Werner Aspenström, Nellie Sachs and Tomas Gösta Tranströmer, and playwrights such as August Strindberg leap almost instantly to mind; or its dancers – Apollo’s Angels – from Birgit Åkesson to Nathalie Nordquist and others.
And then you think of music and a long list of musical bards – traditional and contemporary – pour into mind: from Carl Michael Bellman and Elisabeth Olin to Alice Babs, Sophie Dunér, Bengt Berger, Jonas Knutsson, Mats Öberg, Per Tjernberg, Elisabeth Engdahl and many others including the inimitable composer and guitarist Mr Klinghagen, the writer of this extraordinary music. Mr Klinghagen gives you a philosophical hint about what you no sooner you pluck the disc out of its tray. His offering: a short note describing the inspiration for the music that begins and ends in an enigma, “It’s a vision, a sound, a picture of a quiet lake or a tree…maybe poetry… maybe not… maybe the story that we deeply understood when we were born, by the lake, beside the trees, in the Universe.”
Thus we are transported to Hälsingland By the Lake Beside the Trees. Of course, who wouldn’t love to go travelling – even into the unknown with Mr Klinghagen, especially when he brings with him such a fine ensemble fronted by the incomparable German lyricist and vocalist Fola Dada, singing in English, German and Swedish? Other musicians include the atmospheric woodwinds of Markus Harm. Layered on top of his sonic flights is the trumpeter Joos Kraus whose contributions also include stratospheric electronic missives. Grounding it all, of course is the intense gravitas of contrabassist Veit Hübner and of drummer Torsten Krill, who also captures all of this fascinating music in the warmth of a memorable recording.
Each of the musicians plays with idiomatic elegance, and as you are seduced you will be mesmerised by it all. You will hear the send of elemental freedom in the voice of Miss Dada, while the elegance of Mr Klinghagen’s playing – for which both are renowned – becomes part of a natural landscape that mixes beauty and danger, and the sounds of birds and animals. Moreover, nothing can match the brilliance of the guitarist’s and vocalist’s travelling companions – trumpeter Joos Kraus and winds specialist Markus Harm, whose instruments seem to easily morph into the whispering breeze and the rustle and hum of woods filled with trees anchored in the ground bass of Mr Hübner and the percussive colours daubed onto the music by Mr Krill. Whether evocative of freezing nights or long, rainy days, each track takes us to some wild place into which we are happy to venture with trusted and inspiring musical friends.
Track list – 1: Uti Vår Hage (Reasons to Live); 2: Då Väntar Jag Vid Vägarna (Road to my Heart); 3: Visa Vid Vindens Ängar (The Gift Of Life); 4: Visa Från Rättvik (Mensch); 5: Allt Under Himmelens Fäste (Forlorn); 6: De Sålde Sina Hemman (Hope); 7: Visa Vid midsommartid (Dream); 8: JAg Vet En Dejlig Rosa; 9: Hälsingland (On The Ground)
Personnel – Göran Klinghagen: guitars, compositions and arrangements; Fola Dada: vocals, lyrics and translations; Markus Harm: saxophones and flute; Joos Kraus: trumpet and electronics; Veit Hübner: contrabass; Torsten Krill: drums, percussion, recording, mixing and mastering
Released – 2019
Label – Country & Eastern (CE 42)
Runtime – 38:27