“If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air, quaint little villages here and there…”—and well who isn’t?—then you’ll welcome Taken By Trees’ third offering with hungry arms, a fragrant lei and a gleefully sloppy wet kiss on both cheeks. Yes, after catching the Maharaja Express first class to Pakistan to record 2009’s wistful wonder East of Eden ex-Concretes’ chanteuse turned “International Jet Setter” Victoria Bergsman has packed her favourite flowery blouse and ukulele and set sail for the Big Island (y’know, Hawaii) to craft an “Impressionist poem for the Pacific”. OK if that sounds a bit touchy-feely, “Boomshanka! Ooh stroke my Inner Zen!” worry no further as the softly spoken Swede has smartly appointed gonzo genius Henning Furst of the Tough Alliance as First Mate and Chief button-pusher. Thus, hurrah! and land ahoy! me hearties…
...and entering Other Worlds is, by and large, akin to being washed ashore on some beatific, beautifully mysterious island with a billowy white shirt, swashbuckler’s beard and a bellyful of ocean spray. Fleeting greeting “Horizon” literally surfaces wheezy ‘n’ woozy from sweepin’ waves to be caressed seductively back to consciousness by clip-cloppin’ coconut shells, gentle rollin’ rub-a-dub bass and Bergsman’s cool breeze of a voice. The gentle Ska-lite sway of “Highest High” promptly rustles up the good times, spliffs ‘n’ bongos vibe of the dov’d up, lov’d up class of ‘91; The Orb, One Dove, Saint Etienne and the big Kahuna Screamadelica. “Trippin’ up…on the highest high” exhales Bergsman as your soul vacates your body and does a little rumba on the dunes. The stoned love continues on the shoe-gazin’ lush lilt of single “Dreams”, a ripple of Graceland afrobeat and the sun sparklin’ a sea of diamonds. At this stage you would not be surprised to be served a chilled Pina Colada by Hervé Villechaize before being formally invited to an evening soirée aboard Ricardo Montalban’s enormo-yacht.
But Other Worlds is best served horizontally. It’s a musical mickey, a heavy sedative which could “Affect your ability to drive and / or operate heavy machinery”. “In Other Words” slides down from the palm trees like the Stones’ rollin’ “Waiting on a Friend”. All acid tabs on tongues, xylophone glitter and slo-mo hipshakin’ guitar chops played in a mañana, sunstruck dozey-daze. The experimental, honey drippin’, trippin’ “Not Like Any Other” momentarily breaks the hypnotic ambience. It’s pop via a woodcutter, a Knife-esque collage of melody and rhythm so disorientating it’ll have you scanning the label on that empty bottle by your side. “I want your luuuv…I need your luvvv” drawls Bergsman in a way which may have you momentarily rifling for your passport. Luckily the blissed-out Hawaii high-five of “Pacific Blue” promptly marshals the carnival fiesta back to work. A wave of steel drums and sunny delight guitar bursts, it’s like being surrounded by shiny, happy – OK, possibly demented - people. Heads-up though for the closing sixty-second comedone when the smiley faces melt into acid-fried, dayglo gloop. Now newly native this introduces the precise moment where you’ll find yourself slow disco dancin’ to “Only You” resplendent in a vintage Roger Moore ‘74 safari suit. It’s George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby” on NyQuil and you can never go home again. “As far as I can see / There’s only you for me.”
In its closing laps Other Worlds noticeably takes control of the wheel and kicks the dune buggy up a gear. “Large” is a dancer. Sweeping firefly strings, a Bernard Edwards’ worthy bass line across a Studio 54 backbeat whilst Bergsman coos cryptically about “Second chances”. After the honeymoon serenade it feels like a stern pull on the garland, “Are you with me or not?” asks Bergman as you try to remember who and where you are. “Indigo Dub” is subsequently the sound of a bangin’ hangover, all crickets, disorientating dub echo, ghost voices and stomping drums. The good times soon roll again with the Sly & Robbie skipping hopskotch of “Are You Ready?”. “Would you wanna go steady? Let me know if you’re ready!” Bergsman calls before a blurry DJ announces “ENJOY IT!”. By now your head may be spinning so fast it’ll be hard to know if you’re being initiated or sacrificed. “Your Place or Mine” toasts our last night on Fantasy Island with a rattlesnake shake, a bossanova beat and some now-or-never holiday romance friskiness, “I ain’t gonna lie, you’re looking kinda fly”. But Other Worlds ultimately waves “Ahuiho” somewhat ominously below storms clouds, a crack of thunder and our host’s disembodied voice calling “Baby are you there?”. The island dissolves into the horizon with a new dawn acoustic reprise of “Dreams”...and 3-2-1 you’re back in the room.
Other Worlds is such a radiantly warm, luxuriously luminous heatwave of a record it can give you a suntan just listening to it. It may have even been what was glowing in the trunk of Repo Man’s car. F’sure it’s a sparkly trinket not Rodin’s Thinker and sometimes passes so promptly you’ll wonder what it all means but as forty-five minute vacations go it’s certainly worth an overnight stay. In many ways Other Worlds offers the perfect mini-holiday experience—you may have no great recollection of the night before but you’ll likely awake wearing a grass skirt, coconut bra and yes, a smile.