It seems that Astrid Swan isn’t a material girl, as this song, ‘Silvi’s Dream’ celebrates “immaterial permanence.” It’s her first solo release in four years although she did have a notable collaboration in 2019 with Stina Koistinen and none other than Arcade Fire alumnus Owen Pallett, which took the form of the ‘SWAN/KOISTINEN EP’ and which tackled the subject of chronic illness, from which both Swan and Koistinen have suffered.
There are many coincidences linking Swan and Koistinen apart from health matters and that EP. Both have won the prestigious Teosto Award in Finland, Swan in 2019 with her sixth solo album, ‘From the Bed and Beyond’ and Koistinen a year later with her band, the duo Color Dolor. What’s more Astrid’s album was shortlisted for the Nordic Music Prize as was Stina’s own solo album as ‘Stinako’ last year.
And to cap it all, just as this single is released Color Dolor is lining up one of their own, the first from a new album, hopefully quite soon. We’re in heaven.
But to return to the matter at hand, the immaterial girl.
I don’t know who Silvi is, possibly her own daughter. She describes the song as “An examination of the transient moments of care between mothers and their children. It travels from the moment of falling asleep into imagining a future where mothers and children part. It argues for immaterial permanence and the comfort of a pop song.
Mothers watch their children fall asleep and leave their bodies every night. This separation through sleep is a relief but it is also a reminder of future separations as children grow — and the biggest separation of them all, death. I imagine love as a stone that lasts a million years and isn’t dependent on survival of life.”
I hope that’s enough and that we don’t have to delve into the subject of material permanence and immaterial reality; that would be heavy going for a music e-zine.
And it did give me some concern that the song might be as well, especially when I saw references to Bob Dylan, but it’s a delightful piece, beginning its journey as a piano based ballad with pleasant-on-the-ear chords and with some Kate Bush-influenced arrangements following, then half way through it moves rapidly upbeat into a subdued rocker and even benefits from Madness-channelling sax at the end.
That bubbly second half does contrast though with the lyrics:
“One day too soon, it will be my turn to lie still/with you next to me/then you will see me through the door against my will/But I will always remain here/like a rock, like a rock.”
But then this is exactly what Astrid did in that marvellous, life affirming EP with Stina Koistinen. Both have come to terms with their continuing battle with chronic, even life-threatening illness and to quote Blackadder they pour ice cubes down the vest of fear. ‘Bring it on’ is their motto; and as their countrymen in Nightwish are keen to advocate, “We were here”.
It takes some personal inner-strength to compose songs in this manner and to be honest I’m in awe of her ability and resolve to do so.