It is 2019, and Tor Lundvall is releasing a collection of songs that he recorded in the age of grunge and gangsta rap, but which sound like they were recorded in the era of keytars and flocks of imaginative hairstyles. Given the span of years involved, A Strangeness in Motion: Early Pop Recordings 1989 – 1999 can be heard within several different contexts.
Consider first the relationship of this music to the artist’s subsequent career. Lundvall is a painter whose haunting landscapes appear on the covers of his albums. As a musician, Lundvall has become known for a highly personal ambient sound. His last album of original music is 2018’s A Dark Place, a beautiful and sad collection of songs inspired by the passing of Lundvall’s father. While A Dark Place is, so far, the culmination of Lundvall’s last two decades of work, the roots of this album can be heard on the slower tracks from A Strangeness in Motion, such as “Hidden” and “Lessons That Kill”.
However, most of the songs on A Strangeness in Motion are more upbeat than is typical of Lundvall now, which leads to thoughts about how this music fit in with the popular sounds of its era. Although, of course, electronic music had a presence in the 1990s, the airwaves and sales charts were ruled by grunge bands, gangsta rappers and, eventually, boy bands. Lundvall was clearly not aiming for the airwaves and sales charts.
Instead, Tor Lundvall was finding musical inspiration in the late 1970s-early 1980s, an era when synthpop reached its commercial and creative heights. Depending on where your head was at during that time (if you were around), A Strangeness in Motion will evoke OMD, Human League, Gary Numan, New Order, and maybe even David Bowie’s Low. As someone who was around and gobbling up electropop at the time, I am finding that the haunting but propulsive sound of tracks like “Procession Day”, “The Clearing”, and “The Melting Hour” is reminding me of Eurythmics first, pre-“Sweet Dreams” album, In the Garden. Of course, Lundvall doesn’t sing like Annie Lennox – who does? – but the sound of A Strangeness in Motion keeps calling me back to the more ethereal moments of In the Garden.
Of course, the most important context to consider is the songs themselves. How do these songs hold up after being hidden away for decades? On the Bandcamp entry for A Strangeness in Motion, Lundvall admits to having dismissed these songs as “naïve and youthful relics” for years. That is understandable; we’ve all got relics in our past that feel naïve and youthful with the passage of time. Lundvall was still developing his unique songwriting skills at this time, using his influences to search for his voice and sound, which he eventually found. But Lundvall admits to having grown fonder of these songs in recent years, and this seems like a good thing. After all, A Strangeness in Motion is filled with sturdy, well-written songs that hold up, regardless of what happens to be in fashion.
So, where does A Strangeness in Motion fit into the musical landscape of 2019? I doubt that we’ll see a hit single rocketing up the charts, but fans of Tor Lundvall’s work will find this sample of his early music intriguing. Synthpop fans will also want to hear these songs, which will feel timeless, while paradoxically evoking specific times and places and sounds, to many people who hear them.