Hav by Vargkvint

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Vargkvint | Hav
Piano and Coffee Records (LP/DL)

Vargkvint is Stockholm-based vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Sofia Nystrand (with co-production duties and more from Jakob Lindhagen) and other musicians. I believe this is her sophomore effort after releasing Brus on French imprint Soft Recordings in 2017. Hav is a refreshing re-engineering of the use of vocals within a mostly instrumental album. Opening with only the wind and a sparse piano on Stormen Kommer it’s almost an elegy from the start. So sincere are the notes, as she plays the mood emanates like the end of something rather than the beginning. As Nystrand’s voice rises like an apparition a light begins to glow warmly.

The delicate use of instruments like harmonium, musical saw, glockenspiel, zither, accordion, and embedded field recordings only help to couch the beatific vocal in a certain softness, it’s as if you can hear the wind whistling through the trees on Drivved. I’m hearing Celtic and toy-like “alternative” tones that fall somewhere between Sarah Brightman and Lisa Gerrard with a twist of Tori Amos for good measure, though this retains its own unspoiled spot of originality. Personally I find many contemporary classical vocal records (which this falls in and out of the camp) a bit trite and over produced, Vargkvint fortunately does not, in any way, suffer this fate – due to taking a step back and allowing every breath to permeate the room with grace. There’s a tickle of tension in the air between Fyr and Dösjö that situates the listener in a haunted space.

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If David Lynch were to direct a Scandinavian variation on his twisted themes by adding romantic choral flourishes you may begin to hear sublime mysteries unlocking themselves on tracks like Till Havs. It’s dense, ethereal, ancient and simply gorgeous. The male vocal chorus playing alongside the drone and buzz and hover of the backdrop form a writhing murmur Stormen Kommer II, which is delivered like a funereal procession. It has the slightest essence of the gothic laying groundwork for the re-entry of Nystrand’s soft harmony, and the folky finale – the sweet goodbye of Håll mig, an enchanted sing-song lullaby.

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