In My Veins” by Swedish duo 1921 was originally released digitally back in November 2017 and sees a vinyl release on February 16. 1921 consist of David Åhlén and Andreas Eklöf on vocals and Synthesizers & Electronics respectively.
The label states: “In my veins” marks David Åhlén’s return to the Compunctio label (“We sprout in thy soil,” 2009) and Andreas Eklöf’s continuation after the Manifest-winning album “Klavikord” (Compunctio 2013). Even while working on the album “We sprout in thy soil,” David and Andreas collaborated, then as now, with producer Andreas Runeson.
In their collaboration, 1921, both of their musical expressions have reached full force while being united in an almost unimaginable manner. David’s timeless melodies and angelic falsetto voice, which have inspired e.g. SVT Kultumyhetema to name him the Arvo Part of indie pop, are interlaced with Andreas Eklöf’s electronic-organic soundscape, full of harmony and counterpoint.
Together, they create an electronic chamber music of sorts. This collaboration between an inimitable voice and an electroacoustic composer brings to mind Antony, Bon Iver and Vangelis. The similarities may end there, but there is also a touch point in that both groups create an epic soundscape where one readily lingers.”
The music is a fusion of Åhlén’s falsetto and occasionally fragile vocals and Eklöf’s retro-futurist synth pads. Describes as a mix of Bon Iver, Jon & Vangelis and Antony Heggarty. I am not much for vocals in music as they can be overpowering and at times pompous, but I am happy to say that is not the case with Åhlén’s control and ability to deliver emotion convincingly.
“Holy” floating, oscillating synth lines with Åhlén’s fragile, at times close to breaking vocals, form the basis of this track. The vocals are front and center at times being a pointer to where the music will turn to next. Breathy croons welcome ambient sections. The music pulses underneath and is light, melodic and bubbly, holding its own and letting the vocals be the focal point of the song. Only when the breathy parts welcome ambient sections do we hear the music rise above the levels of sound it previously inhabited.
“Always” starts with humming almost bellowing synth progressions over which Åhlén breathfully sings about “filling me with light” and “you’ve always been there” amongst others. The synth sound is almost colorful in its sound and if it was a color it would be blue as there is a touch of regret that is emphasized in the lyrics which is is felt noticeably through the music.
“New Worlds” Åhlén’s vocals on this track remind me of Peter Broderick in the way they sound close to faltering. The music is almost funereal with its minimalistic tones and percussion. The synths traverse all the levels of the sound with light gliding tones to darker synth stabs with a shimmering stormy static cutting through and towards the end of the track almost taking over.
“Inter” an instrumental piece where synth keys resonate out as if hit and stretched out creating ambient drones that spread out and quickly dissipate. It sounds like rain drops hitting a steel roof giving off a percussive sound.
“In My Veins” the first time where you feel an almost beat to the music which gives the piece a pace with light and dubby synth stabs. The track also features extra female vocals which double track the lines “the spirit in my… veins/ blood/ heart..calls me”. The music fuses the ambient electronic sphere with an almost pop feel to it. It is not straight forward pop, but also not totally ambient.
“Similar” dark synth tones with a slight industrial edge and harsh feel cut in and out saw like unveiling short sections of almost melodic pieces that are cut short. They extend out to be cut off very quickly, much like waves that chop and change, before being propelled out again crashing on the shore. The tones are maintained throughout the piece with not much fluctuation, which could explain the title of the track.
“Psalm 115” emerging from almost silence the vocals emerge worth a rich tone to them under which competing synth tones emerge – the slightly dark but uplifting tone and the darker bass tone. Both synth tones work as drones rather than as flowing synth lines and towards the second half of this track have an ethereal feeling about them which makes sense with the lyrics being derived from a Psalm that apparently was sung by Jesus and his followers on the night he was arrested and betrayed and the night before his crucifixion.
“No One” is probably the most upbeat track on the album and I guess a devotional piece from one lover about another where the phrase “there is no one like you” repeated over and over. The music is similar to “In My Veins” in its dubby feel with the music feeling like an electronic ball bouncing around with truncated sections and several layers of drones that occupy melodic and more haunting territory. The track itself is rather short and you feel they could extend it as at times you get the feeling that it is going to expand fully into an electronica dance track.
“The Clear Fount” Åhlén starts the track acappela style before the familiar jaunty electronics come in with their light tones and bouncy feel and the welcome return of (uncredited) female vocals that are multitracked. The lyrics for this track as well as “New Worlds” come from mystic and author Linnea Hofgren whose year of death also gives the project their name.
“Arteries II” feedback light tone welcomes you with very low sounding synth progressions that are both futuristic, but also rather like a church organ. The synths slowly rise up with volume as does the feedback like drone which starts fluctuating. The synths continue to have a flowing feel to them, almost like creating a texture rather than as flowing pieces, like something is passing through like weather, or in this case due to name, blood. The elements change as the track goes into the second have with the drones briefly fading out before returning and oscillation as the synth progressions continue to vary. I am not sure if the track works as it is a bit too freeform for my liking and I am not sure what the intention is.
For the album the best tracks are those as a duo, especially those with the additional female vocals. The tracks that appear to be just Ekhöf seem to have a different feel to those the duo create. They come from a similar place but lead in a different territory. If you like minimal music with impassioned vocals and some lovely synth excursions, this may just be what you are looking for.