Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner
Victoria Bergsman and her solo venture Taken by Trees took over the Knitting Factory Brooklyn Wednesday night, playing songs mostly from their 2009 release, East of Eden. Celebrated for its effortless synthesis of Pakistani Sufi melodies and the best of minimalist Swedish indie pop, it is a refreshingly diverse yet accessible record and one of last year’s best. Performed live, however, Eden’s precise and fluid rhythmic layers lost their form while its hypnotic melodies were reduced to a few unbalanced instruments and Bergsman’s melancholy voice. More than anything the show was completely devoid of energy. Beginning with a screening of a short film by Marcus Soderlund, “Taweel Safar-The Long Journey”, the group then performed several upbeat tracks from Eden, like “To Lose Someone” and the Animal Collective cover “My Boys”. But Bergsman was so listless while gently tapping her tambourine, and beyond simply exuding seriousness, that she appeared more indifferent to their set than those loudly talking over the music at the bar. Most of the time it was best to just close one’s eyes, listen, and replay Soderlund’s images in one’s mind.
Opening was singer-songwriter Will Stratton. Though his fluent fingerpicking easily carried his literal songs, loud chatter made them difficult to make out. Stratton’s voice was audible enough, though, to recognize he was singing more in key by the time his set was finished.