As I had discovered this project by chance, I was indeed very happy to have made such a discovery. I was trying to get some more info about this Swedish duo consisting of Stefan Ljungdahl & Ivan Hirvonen, but their music was sufficient for my curious mind.
When it comes to Psalm, it is very thoughtfully made, I don’t believe anything on this album was done by accident or trying to please a broader audience. I tried to read some previously written reviews and it seems that people are finding it hard to label but comparing their work with ebm, industrial or other genres won’t help you much, as it is none of the aforementioned.
The sounds they create are experimental-minimal-atmospheric-dark-electro, or at least that is how I would describe it. I like the minimalistic concept of a thoughtfully and, indeed, cleverly played rhythm, minimal sound input in some cases and a mixture of languages that makes it even more interesting and diverse.
Don’t search for a catchy melody, don’t search for something you can sing along to because this project is nothing of the sort. They are flirting with old school a bit and maybe lovers of Borghesia, Clock DVA and some new era electro/techno names such as Richie Hawtin (Plastikman) or even Aphex Twin, can find this sound suits them just fine. I don´t think that anyone would even relate them to some minimal techno elements but at some point I can even hear that in their beats, that was double their inspirational source.
Of course we can hear a melody but not the usual song phrases and choruses; if you are into experimenting with music, get this album.
The opening track “Misantropisk filth” contains everything I previously mentioned. It is exceptionally dark, exchanging minimalistic beats and melody supplemented by exceptionally expressive vocals.
“Död man” is mainly focused on experimenting with rhythm and is a truly minimalistic piece, making it no less interesting. The vocal performance is nothing less of impressive, as vocals vary from singing, speaking to whispering, and even without understanding the lyrics, the vocals create a rhythm of their own and feelings of anguish, claustrophobia, distress, aggression, anger and power are all in the same song that you can hear so well on “Skrik tyst” and it proves that a human voice can indeed be an instrument of its own. “Laica” brings a melody back to the album, the feeling is more mellow on this track, vocals exchange singing and spoken parts and even though the minimalism is present, you can’t get bored as the exchange of sung and spoken lyrics and the mixture of languages keeps it more alive and diverse. “Somewhere in the Middle” can be for some the song that stands out the most, as it is a bit more melodic and memorable, even danceable so some may see it as a hit or the core of the album as it is a catchy track, but the repetitive phrase brings it back to its true nature of being minimalistic.
“Jag är slowburn” steps out of the minimal concept even though the beginning would not suggest so, but it develops into one extremely atmospheric track in which I can hear cold/dark wave elements and being said so, it pops out a bit from the rest of the songs on the album. It even reminds me somewhat of Blaine L. Reininger´s work. An interesting track to be found and again proof of a real experimental piece of work from this duo. “New” brings you back to a world of monotone beats and sound exchange, shaping it more rhytmically in an almost hypnotic way. “Missfostret” being more old school ebm is another experimetation of theirs, but I don’t want any labels on it. Yet it has that retro vibe that reminds a bit of some old electronic music. “Slut”, as the last song, is ever so soothing but at this point I would really like to understand what he’s talking about, as the vocals are yet again so anguish and anger painted at some moments that I would really like to understand it fully. Even though some portions of the text are in English, they don’t give me enough insight into the story. Musically, it is a perfect closing track.
photos by Alex Dawson
Check out the “Skrik tyst” alternative mix (guestvocals by Dario Several of Borghesia)