Valsaland - 'Fängelset'
We're back today to our favourite topic of music that blends together many different musical influences and ends up offering something very different. And Swedish project Valsaland, whom we featured as a new band in the spring very much fit into that category. I guess they can be described as post rock but they use a huge array of musicians, and to add to the mix, all their previous releases have been backed by stunning videos. Since we featured them they have gone onto win a stream of worldwide awards for these videos, but it's now time for a more conventional release in the form of their new album ‘Fängelset’ which was released in the last week or so.
I've been really looking forward to this release as I've loved the 4 singles I'd heard over the last 6 months, along with those stunning videos. But I wasn’t sure how I would relate to a simple album release as the videos are so powerful that I was concerned I might only want to watch them in this medium - in reality it was simple enough, the music is easy to relate to, beautifully written and performed whilst I still had the video images floating through my mind as I listened.
It opens with ‘Leka’ and a simple enough piano theme before the track develops with strings, brass and those unusual but distinctive childlike vocals – which I like but I appreciate may not be to everyone’s taste. There is no traditional 'pop song form' to this or other tracks, no chorus or verse, and the overall effect as one track effortlessly merges into the other has a symphonic / choral work feeling to it. I don’t like comparing music to other artists but in the case of Valsaland I can’t anyway - you could probably take progressive and post rock bands with some dream pop influences, maybe even add a sprinkling of modern classical composers such as the likes of Arvo Part or Max Richter and then the whole thing is performed by an experimental orchestra and vocalists of every age group.
Out of the new tracks I particularly love ‘Dödens Ambiens’,with its slow waltz and subtle changes in the musical theme, whilst ‘Ensamheten’ is bolder and braver, even if I am left wondering exactly what a Valsland video would portray if they were to make one. And out of those tracks that I know already, I still love ’Lilla Vän Jag Vill Bo I En Husvagn' and its striking video capturing dawn to dusk in a busy commuting city. ‘Fåån’ remains a particularly special and delicately delivered track, and even if at first I was left wanting more from ‘Viide’ and ‘Caelum’, in particular the subtleties of the latter track has grown on me as I’ve listened more.
In a world where everything is rushed, impatient and intolerant, Valsaland seem to take me somewhere different, and the videos genuinely make me take a step back and think about my angry planet and interactions with it. Occasionally I wanted more of the shades between darkness and light that I think ‘Leka’ offers so well, and maybe future Valsaland releases will develop this further, but as an overall album, Fängelset is an astonishingly good and very unusual debut musical offering. I realise that with anything tagged as part ‘experimental’, it may not quite be to everyone’s liking, but personally I cant recommend this highly enough, and with such accessible likeable videos, I really hope this can continue to reach a wider audience.
Nordic Music Review 8.5 / 10
Valsalands Fängelset is available on a ‘name your price’ deal from Bandcamp, which is where I got it from, but if you want to listen before you buy, it's available on Spotify