'Hidden Land' - 'Perspectives' (album)
We never expect that those songwriters and bands we write about are truly 100% Nordic in their origin. We've even considered a complete rebrand and going global, but we can barely keep up with Nordic music releases as it is and the musical world is too vast for us to consider every nation. But we feature plenty of cross-continent collaborations, and one in particular which has been brought to our attention is 'Hidden Land', a project founded between Myles O'Mainnian from California and Johan Lager from Stockholm. Musically they have released a striking and thickly textured set of songs, with thoughtful and rich string arrangements and melancholy but never completely despairing vocals.
I can't deny that my favourite moments editing the website remain being sent a complete album from an artist or group i've never even heard of, and consequently being completely blown away - The Stillwalkers, The School Book Depository, I don't think I'd come across Árstíðir before I heard their album 'Hvel' (and if you like Árstíðir you'll like 'Hidden Land'), whilst Sara Forslunds 'Water Became Wild' definitely fits into that category - and it's under the excellent Volkoren label that released Sara's debut that are now supporting 'Hidden Land' with their release.
Anyway you probably all get the picture already that I really like 'Perspectives', even if there is no doubt it does take some listening to, because from the opening intro 'Wait Upon' and then most certainly 'Remind Me' you'll immediately notice that it is, quite frankly, all a bit sad sounding. Trembling vocals, stately melancholy strings and emotional lyrics, it's undeniably registering a good fair way up the 'Mirel Wagner Scale of Bleakness'. But actually the way that 'Remind Me' builds in volume and intensity seems to give it a power too, as if through the combined strength of instruments and sound there is a way to brush aside too much dark contemplation. 'Trinity' does lay it on slightly thick though, a cello is a melancholy enough instrument, so a duet of cellos doubles the effect - but it is very beautiful too, a piano takes over and weaves a haunting melody, but take a listen to the detail too, when the cello re-enters the sound is just excuisite, a forceful bowing adds a grittiness to the sound that just shows the level of detail that has gone into the composition. 'First Snow' layers on vocals with a crescendo of strings, brass and vocal harmonies and the effect is pretty mesmerising.
'Dark is as Light' (parts 1 and 2) are both real highlights, I just love the eerie melody in Part 1 and the string arrangements here are in their element, whilst again in Part 2 it is those subtle changes in dynamics which add to the richness and character of the writing. And if the power and complexity of the songwriting hasn't got too much by this stage, there are still 4 more tracks to listen to. I love the piano sound (yes the actual 'sound') in 'Stripes' and a lovely piano theme which reminds me a little of Christian Gabel's '1900' project and is probably the one track I'll be adding to my personal playlist of treasured songs, whilst the title track 'Perspectives' wraps up the album, with thoughtful contemplative brass contribution,
'Perspectives' is undeniably a pretty pehnonmenal composition, but it's no 'Caper Clowns'. Imagine a long walk / run over the hills at a sad time of your life, desolate and beautiful, hopeless yet inspiring - the feeling that you know things are at their lowest and 'things' can and will improve. And I have to admit it can all be a bit much at times - I was going to finish listening to the album and consider what to write on my way to work yesterday, but I couldn't quite face the 'scale' of 'Perspectives' whilst commuting. But there is so much to like here, from the string arrangements, subtlety of the instrumentation and all the richly textured detail, as well as the incredibly clever way 'Hidden Land' are able to paint such compelling visions through their music. There is definitely a time and a place for 'Perspectives', and I hope everyone will give it a listen.
Nordic Music Review 8.5 /10