Thanks to my busy late-spring schedule, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a music review for VA. That means I’ve been sitting on a lot of fantastic new releases, keeping them to myself, which is probably not the best way to get the news out. No single new release has gotten as deeply into my head, however, as Floreana from Swedish multi-instrumentalist Gustaf Ljunggren and Icelandic bassist Skuli Sverrisson.
Floreana is filled with seemingly simple instrumental tracks, melancholy and beautiful in all the right ways, with Gustaf Ljunggren playing lap steel guitars, pedal steel guitars, bass ukeleles, resonators, mandolins, every other electric and acoustic guitar imaginable, layers of keyboards and even the occasional drums. Sverrisson providing a calm and thoughtful foundation in the lower frequencies while still matching Ljunggren’s complex explorations . While the structures and tempos are fairly consistent throughout, with only occasional moments of tension, this music is so full of ideas, stunningly good ones, that I find this music has found a permanent shantytown in a corner of my brain.
Gustaf Ljunggren and Skuli Sverrisson (who impressed me with his work with Newvelle Records a few years ago), have created such a gentle masterpiece because Floreana suggests so many sounds from my past–spending my college years trying to find an entryway into contemporary jazz through Pat Metheny, discovering a little oasis of pure melody from Mark Isham back in his Windham Hill days, and just a few years ago when I discovered the work of Norwegian keyboardist composer Lars Jakob Rudjord and his wife, singer and keyboardist Ingvild Koksvik.
The Rudjord connection is perhaps the strongest–in my mind, Gustaf Ljunggren is to string instruments as Lars Jakob is to a piano. There’s an initial simplicity, gorgeous and melodic, and as you become hypnotized you’re introduced to a series of subtle ideas that stretch out and start filling up with indelible images. Is Floreana a meditative album? It probably is, and I hope that’s not a deterrent for my edgier, wilder music buddies. I just feel relaxed and peaceful after listening to it, so much so that I’m replaying much of the album in my head afterward just to keep this wonderful mood that I’m in.