Music

Swedish Duo 1921 Craft Experimental Pop Beauty 'In My Veins'

Photo courtesy of artist

David Åhlén and Andreas Eklöf as 1921 collaborate with dynamic vocals and instrumentation to craft an experimental and sentimental reflection of relaxing pop musicality on In My Veins.

In My Veins
1921

Compunctio

9 November 2018

In collaboration as 1921, Swedish musicians David Åhlén (vocals) and Andreas Eklöf (synths and electronics) and their new album In My Veins can be described as composing "electronic chamber music". Across the bright 35-minute length, the duo delivers a beautiful set of tracks strengthened by Andreas Runeson's mixing and production. In My Veins maintains a quiet and determined aura, a delicate balance and soft performances in Åhlén's lyrics and Eklöf's instrumental harmonizing, and a dynamic range both haunting and inspirational. This is no fast-paced album despite the noted brevity, but a thinking, pulsing, being of pop music brought to life by the collaboration of 1921.

The album was promoted as Åhlén's return to the Compunctio label, and Eklöf's follow-up to 2013 album, Klavichord, an album with performed and produced with Mats Persson. The collaboration on In My Veins is seamless, each musician precisely contributing to every track and the overall mood and sense of the album, and complimenting the range and style of one another completely. The duo's name was inspired by the death year of mystic and author Linnea Hofgren (1868-1921), and lyrics for two songs are taken from her writings.

Opening track "Holy" mixes Åhlén's falsetto vocals next to a light synth performance that builds a ringing environment of beauty and warmth, and hints of companionship from the performance. Building upon this combination, "Always" features a striking rhythmic synth from Eklöf complimented by Åhlén singing "you have always been there". The instrumentation dominates the track to demonstrate a pulsing beat, a life from the performance that enhances listening. There is at once a simplicity in the music, and its pop is catchy just as the track closes.

For "New Worlds", the duo turns away to highlight Åhlén's vocals more prominently, with electronics subtly flowing in and out as a harmony. The pace is notably slower on "New Worlds", with the poetic lyrics from Linnea Hofgren increasingly shadowed by increasingly louder drum beats and electronic elements. The concluding intensity returns for the instrumental "Inter" and sounds play across and off one another to deliver a sense of time moving forward, a light rain hitting the window, and waves crashing on a shore. The mood created by the effects brings life into the album from a natural perspective, even while structured by synths and programmed electronic components.

The title track is closest to a pop song in its delivery, though the elements featured on the album remain, the arrangement is more straightforward and less inclined toward an opportunity for the sounds to present imagery. Instead, "In My Veins" presents a narrative structure with yearning vocals and music inviting one to dance – before ending abruptly. This sensitive pop track serves as an interlude, with the second half of In My Veins emphasizing sonic imagery and interplay between visual capabilities afforded through Eklöf's delicate instrumental pieces, as represented by "Similar" and the final track "Arteries II". Both instrumental and unique, with sounds provide constantly flowing rhythms to generate complex imagery.

Perhaps the strongest vocal performance Åhlén gives on In My Veins comes from his delivery in "No One". He is strong across the album, but this track features a strength and command complemented uniquely by Eklöf. The lyrics are direct, "there is no one like you" setting a refrain, and form a meaningful affirmation built through the interpretation of life and faith presented by the duo. The song follows an adaptation of the traditional "Psalm 115" that features soft lyrics and light instrumentation, and the builds into "The Clear Fount", the penultimate track and second adaptation of Hofgren writings into the lyrics. The album is loudest here, bringing in a choir to augment Åhlén and stir a lively and reflecting counterpoint to dominant and consistent rhythm synths and lighted adapted into sound. The choir ultimately takes command of the lyrical delivery, but the instrumentation overpowers and builds a blasting conclusion over the song's final minute.

Closer "Arteries II" is purely instrumental and builds a sonically complex soundscape over six minutes. It repeats in a stirringly emotional quality, driving the album's thematic musicality into a strong concluding statement. The song also provides the impetus for repetition of In the Veins by highlighting the relaxing quality the strong composition, performances, mixing, and production provide on the album. In the Veins is soothing and experimental, quiet and reaffirming, and these aspects present a playfulness in instrumentation and vocal delivery. For the duo in 1921, they present a sentimentality for the capability of electronic music to enhance the sensibilities of popular music, by bringing in the choral and chamber aspects performed and promoted by In the Veins.

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