I grew up with a sense of Sweden being the place where Ingmar Bergman and Max Von Sydow came from. And from that I always pictured grey skies, existential dread, oppressive bodies of water and the pondering of why we’re all here. That’s where my brain went when I thought of Stockholm, Uppsala, and Gothenburg. Of course that’s a very simplistic view of Sweden. I was a teenager and obsessed with all those things I mentioned above, so Bergman was someone that spoke to that wanderer in me; that questioner of all things sacred and ritualistic. I know now that not all things are black and white in Sweden.
Listening to Folke Nikanor’s new album Bottenviken it’s quite apparent that there is joy and light and an uplift alive and well in Sweden. The music contained on this record carries with it a innocence and jubilant upswing that reminds one of almost ragtime music, but made by robots to create joy in an increasing darkening human world. The mix of acoustic instruments and electronic noise has the effect of a lucid dream. One that once you’ve entered you don’t want to wake from it.
According to Nikanor’s bio: “Folke Nikanor is a musician from the northern parts of Sweden and debuts with a individual and sparkling instrumental album called ‘Bottenviken’. It is based around the piano but with electronic elements, where old synths, percussion and wind instruments do their best to highlight the melancholy of Norrbotten and the forest. The scenery and people live in the melodies.” The songs here evoke a rural sort of magic. They retain the DNA of an afternoon walk thru a dense but inviting forest. You can almost see light dancing upon a secluded Swedish lake as you listen to tracks like “Under Stenarna” and “Bo Eves Psalm”.
You escape the intensity of everyday life when you hit play on this record. Nikanor wants you to escape from the rush of industry, modern connection, and unplug from the big machine as Bottenviken takes your hand and walks you thru the fantastical and exuberant world it has built for you. Imagine Kraftwerk becoming a happy and content machine, as opposed to the post-cold war dark and paranoid computer they actually were. Folke Nikanor has created a musical retreat where you can breathe easy and contemplate not at the speed of sound, but the speed of meditation.