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Andreas Söderström: Om Solen Väl Går Upp
Flora & Fauna

I wish I could tell you who's playing what on Om Solen Väl Går Upp (If the Sun Rises), but in the digital promo I received no such clarifications were included. What I can tell you is that it's the second solo album Andreas Söderström has released under his birth name, as opposed to the four albums he earlier issued under the alias ASS (Andreas Söderström Solo), and that it features two side-long compositions of refined ambient-orchestral design. It's very possible the Swedish multi-instrumentalist plays everything on the thirty-four-minute album, given that on his first ASS release, 2006's The Year of ASS, the self-taught musician played guitars, vocals, trumpet, keys, percussion, and electronics. But on subsequent ASS releases such as 2010's Salt Marsh and 2013's 4, Söderström was joined by a number of other musicians, among them Johan Berthling, Mats Gustafsson, Tomas Hallonsten, Andreas Werliin, and Erik Carlsson.

I can also tell you that Söderström's made quite a name for himself as a composer for television and film projects, one such being the Swedish drama series 30 grader i februari (30 Degrees in February). But that's about the extent of it. So, aside from a press release-styled note that characterizes Om Solen Väl Går Upp as “music for leaving this world [and a] state of moving nothingness which might provide comfort and nurture you back to life,” we'll have to consider the album purely on the basis of the sound content alone.

In contrast to “Andra Sidan,” the opening “Ena Sidan” positions electric guitar at the forefront to such a degree that the fifteen-minute setting often resembles a concerto for guitar. The instrument's raw and abrasive potential isn't exploited, however; instead, Söderström favours a soothing and contemplative style that aligns itself naturally to the delicate ambient character of the backdrop. Six minutes into the piece, the landscape undergoes a subtle transformation when mallet instruments appear with Reich-styled minimalistic patterns to alter the music's personality. The music never loses its peaceful aspect, however, and soon enough the marimbas disappear to allow an even more dream-like episode of muted horns, guitar, and ambient textures to guide the piece to a serene close.

That heavenly end makes for a seamless segue into side two's “Andra Sidan,” which, truth be told, is even more celestial. No single instrument dominates; Söderström instead fashions the eighteen-minute piece into a long-form ambient-classical composition of subtly shape-shifting design. Marimbas, vibraphones, woodwinds, and horns work together in the service of the Swedish composer's grand vision, and during the second half in particular the music grows disarmingly beautiful. Tension builds as chords advance through a small number of pitches until a quietly uplifting state of celestial harmony is reached, and in a final powerful flourish, a muted trumpet pierces the ethereal mass with a stately motif that eventually ascends skyward—the crowning moment in this incredible piece. Instrument and personnel details might be in short supply on Om Solen Väl Går Upp, but the music itself doesn't suffer from their absence.

March 2016