David Åhlén - Hidden Light
After our short review of Bob Lund and their album released in September, it occurred to me again that there's still a couple of releases outstanding from around then which we just haven't had chance to write about. David Åhlén's release 'Hidden Light' particularly stands out as I've had it on my listening playlist for a few weeks, and it is fairly extraordinary, even if it might take a few listens to seep into your inner consciousness.
David Åhlén is a songwriter from Sweden, who lives fairly remotely on the Island of Gotland within a Monastic community which offers shelter to those who need it. And although we haven't directly written about his music previously, we have mentioned him in the context of his production of Sara Forslund's lovely album, and I have a feeling his name may have been mentioned at other points too. So it is good that we're finally getting to his songwriting, even if we are also a few weeks late on our album review.
'Hidden Light' needs to be listened to in order to fully understand the depth and unique spirit, with Åhlén's gentle falsetto voice the central feature. Accompanying him he uses a really specific selection of restrained instruments, from cello to trumpet, and this gives the music a texture very different to anything I've heard. I'm simplifying obviously, but some artists seem to write some nice songs and then throw a string quartet at it, and whilst that can work perfectly well, I feel that Åhlén's approach has a precision as well as an ingenuity which gives it depth and beauty.
Anyway just a few highlights. given this is supposed to be a short review. 'Morning Prayer' is a startling opening, with just Åhlén's voice and possibly harmonium (I'm sure someone will correct me on this...) before a whispered cello beautifully and subtly adds an extra dimension to the sound. 'Hidden Light' too uses a full range of musical effects, what sounds like a muted trumpet and a pizzicato cello to open before the most gorgeous melancholy vocal tune is layered over the top. 'Heal Me My Love' is possibly the most extraordinary track, which features the added vocals of Nicolai Dunger, and both his and Åhlén's vocals particularly are haunting, accompanied by some piercing cello harmonics. I could write so much on each individual track, but it's best if you explore for yourselves - even the concluding piano track 'Recapulatio' has quality about it which is distinct and powerful.
I find David Åhlén's music peaceful and uplifting, gently spiritual and never melancholy, and I love the the way he utilises the musicians he works with, all combining to create a rich and sometimes unusual texture. If you haven't heard his music before it may take a few minutes to adjust to the vocal range of his voice, but I really do recommend 'Hidden Light', it is beautifully spiritual, personal and David Åhlén creates an atmosphere that I've rarely heard before.
Hidden Light is released through the excellent Volkoren record label. Visit their website for some other good artists. http://www.volkoren.com/
For our Nordic (and Dutch) based readers, David is currently in the midst of a fairly extensive tour which continues into 2017, so please check his Facebook page for details. He also plays Utrecht on Thursday with the excellent Meadows, so that is definitely worth seeing in particular.