Aug 21 2012
Blommor Inomhus – “Blommor Inomhus”
It was pretty much love at first sight.
Blommor Inomhus is a Swedish trio of voice, piano, and trombone. They augment their sound with a full orchestra for this self-titled EP. It’s a mix of big band, folk music, modern pop music, and rich streaks of the jazz trio that seed this wonderful album.
I’m pretty much addicted to this recording, and I wanted to get a few observations down in print so I could start sharing my discovery as soon as possible. It’s albums like this that spur me into action on Bird is the Worm (and other sites)… tiny surprises of under-the-radar albums that leave me euphoric and grateful and wanting to tell everyone in sight.
Anyways, let’s get to the music…
Your album personnel: Karolina Almgren (voice), Gustav Davidsson (trombone), Karl Magnus Andersson (piano), with the orchestra: Pontus Hedström (clarinet), Josefin Runseen (violin), Bernhard Greter (viola), Povel Widestrand (accordion, whistle), Klara Ejeby (trumpet), Johannes Aspman (trumpet), Adrian Sellius Asling (alto sax), Erik Boman (tenor sax & bass clarinet), Henrik Büller (baritone sax), Jonas Nilsson (contrabass), and Anton Jonsson (drums).
The orchestra isn’t omnipresent. The trio has room to breathe, and often does so deeply and satisfyingly. When the orchestra comes in, it’s often with a light touch, careful not to drown the structure built by the trio. But there are moments, wonderful moments, when the orchestra surges to a penultimate frenzy and achieves total immersion… when it happens, they are stunning passages, no less beautiful for their intensity. Perhaps they are beautiful because of their intensity.
There are touches of folk music here, too. The folk music never grips the songs, only gives hints and shades. But even the mere implication of it lets the folk music leave its imprint on the final product.
The pop music traits fall along the lines of quasi-ambient groups like Radiohead and Stereolab. A simmering drone that gathers strength, imperceptibly at first, until it becomes too palpable to overlook, and the simmer reaches a mellifluous boil.
The opening track “As Slowly As” leads out with Davidsson’s trombone, Andersson’s piano providing some inconspicuous accompaniment. Almgren joins in with a balladeer’s lyricism. When she sings that “We can fly away,” it’s a convincing statement, and when “The wind is blowing harder,” it’s not a reflection of danger, but that “We are free.” As if reflecting the words themselves, the tempo and volume rise like a stormy gust.
Second track “Gå din väg (med den Episka Orkestern)” begins with orchestral fury. The swirling dissonance of horns and woodwinds and strings advance like a monsoon. And, then, they suddenly give way to Almgren’s sing-songy lullaby. Her inflections give life to a casual, almost blithe spirit. And she makes it catchy as hell, even though her vocalizations are slightly unconventional. The orchestra states a lush melody as reinforcement, and when it begins a repetition of those notes, it signals the start of the grand finale. Clarinet solos over the top as Almgren gives way. The volume increases, the density of the sound magnifies, Almgren’s voice rejoins the fray, and then, in an instant, it all drops off and the song flutters like a solitary Autumn leaf to the ground.
Third track “Fortsätter Upp” returns to the trio format. A fleeting quiet tune. With Swedish lyrics, a bit mournful, a bit of heartbreak, and simply sung.
Fourth track “Two Sides (med den Episka Orkestern)” begins with a high-pitchted drone. Almgren sings over the the top of it, her voice at a lower register. Trombone joins in, deep throaty pronouncements. The woodwinds and trumpets join in, adding to both the drone and partnering up with trombone. It all transforms into a wall of sound, one that leaps into the background when Almgren needs some space, then back into the foreground when Almgren wants to partner up. The second half of the song has Almgren transitioning her voice into a chant, and the orchestra matches her new marching formation, bringing a buoyancy to their escalating intensity.
Album ends with “För vem.” It’s back to just the trio. Overall, a quiet tune that occasionally stands up and shouts. It’s a nice send-off for such an evocative album. The album transitions from intensity to serenity and then back again are a big reason why this album is so thrilling. On “För vem,” Davidsson’s trombone sounds deliciously pensive, Andersson’s piano notes vivid as moonlight on still water. Together, the trio ends the album with one final recitation of the melody. For an album that exudes so much strength, the peaceful way the trio make their exit, it leaves a satisfying taste, that this was exactly as things should be.
Blommor Inomhus is a wonderful little surprise, and a promising sign of things to come.
P.S. It appears the band name translates as “Flowers Indoors” (or “indoor flowers”). I’ve emailed Almgren to ask about this, and the album. An interview of some sort may follow.
ADDENDUM: Almgren responded that the album title does, in fact, translate to “Flowers Indoors.” They are a young trio, only been around for about six months. They originally met at the school, Fridhems Folkhögskola. While Almgren typically plays sax, she had a few songs that she enjoyed singing, and they decided to record an album around them. They brought in some of their friends and acquaintances to staff the orchestra, then went out into the countryside outside of Gothenburg and began recording.
The album is Self-Produced. Jazz from the Gothernburg, Sweden scene.
You can stream the entire album on their Soundcloud page.
Available at Amazon
August 23, 2012 @ 8:46 am
What a great find, Dave. There are all too many new releases out there that are highly competent but play it safe. That’s when I start to begrudgingly appreciate the “But all jazz sounds the same” sentiment from non jazz loving friends.
Then something like Blommor Inomhus comes along. I love the way it defies genres and boundaries and I found myself thinking of Susanna (of the Magical Orchestra), Talk Talk (‘Spirit of Eden’), Regina Spektor, Robert Wyatt, Joanna Newsom, without always being able to consciously nail the connection.
One thing this album has made me do is appreciate how overly long many releases are. At 25 minutes, the EP feels just about the right length. The standout track for me is the lovely ‘Gå din väg’ with its beautiful unison melodic lines. It made me remember the first time I heard Michael Brecker’s ‘Itsbynne Reel’. I was blown away by the uncannily accurate tracking of the two (multiple?) horns as one shadowed the other in a solo. This of course turned out to be Brecker’s EWI. Here there’s no trickery, just fine playing.
Then there’s the stunning ‘Fortsätter upp’ with its hymnal and folk qualities. Throughout the album there are curious time signatures and rhythms, often subtle but just enough to challenge expectations.
Thanks for letting us know about this new album – it’s certainly one of my favourite releases of 2012.
August 23, 2012 @ 9:04 am
Totally agree with you about the importance a recording finding its right play length. Nothing wrong with an EP if it makes a concise, powerful statement in that short span. And sometimes, with many albums at greater length, it’s something of a relief.
I, also, really enjoy the hints of other music in this album, expressed without ever strictly referencing them per se.
A very cool album, one which I didn’t want to sit on for a couple months before writing a review. I’ll be interested to see my reaction to this recording in six months. I’m guessing it’ll still be supremely positive.