Reviewed: June 2022
Released: 2022, Lövely Records
Reviewer: Lee Carter
One of the joys of instrumental music is the places it can take you and the images and scenes that it can conjure in your head. The less leading the song title, the better, as it really allows you to submit yourself to the music that you are hearing and experiencing. Which is why it’s bloody annoying when PERSHAGEN’s music is described as “pine forest rock” because it instantly places each song’s scene at the centre of a forest. Just ruined the bloody game, mate.
Regardless of that, ‘Hilma’ is one of those special albums where you can remove your brain, set it to one side and just lose yourself in the sounds you hear. As with a lot of instrumental music, it eschews the usual verse-chorus formula, and opts for a more classical music approach with motifs, codas and crescendos aplenty. Again, harking back to the “pine forest rock” name, the music feels very natural and full of life. It breathes, ebbs and flows, and, despite the leading genre, allows for stories to be developed in one’s head as you listen.
Opener “Klangskog” sounds like the soundtrack to a gentle moonlit walk home with its twinkling guitar arpeggios, while “Alla Minns Den Sista Gången” feels like the story of a sailor making a journey across a rough patch of sea – moody and rolling like the waves. It is not all natural vibes, with “Ofog I Djävulens Sällskap” conjuring a more urban setting with subtle, swirling electronic elements. The music on offer here does not scream technical, but it does demonstrate wonderful richness, depth and complexity to encourage succumbing to the beauty before you.
Yet, arguably, the album’s two crown jewels come, firstly, in the form of the spellbinding “Karelia”. A gorgeous arpeggiated progression opens proceedings with a simple beat beneath, while the flowing keys add a distinctly moody colour, creating the impression of rushing through a woodland in the rain. Closer “Archangelsk” brings the energy down considerably, like the winding down of the day, with delicate keys and subtle yet fuzzy guitar leads reverberating – just a fine, pleasant listen.
Instrumental music can be a tricky beast to crack, especially where it does not conform to standard formulae. The more winding the music, the more difficult it is to make it compelling and to capture the interest of more than just your average instrumental fan. PERSHAGEN may not necessarily reach that goal, but ‘Hilma’ is a terrific listen regardless. It is every bit as cinematic as one could hope for a band that mixes post-rock with psychedelia and Nordic folk, and one that will reward the listener with ever more subtleties with further listens. Tremendous.