“Sifantin och mörkret”
Häpna H.35, CD+Video (sold out)
12 tracks, 25 minutes, 1 video
"Me, a cuckoo. Of all the great things in Africa my eyes have met, one I can never forget. On the savannah a rhinoceros stood proudly, gazing into the distant. Its belly ripped open in battle with the one that always wants more."
Hot on the heels of his last record Naima, released in November 2006, Hans Appelqvist has a new album ready. It's called "Sifantin och mörkret" and is his third release on Häpna. The music shows Hans from a new side, the album being more open and spontaneous than previously. It oscillates between the sweet and grotesque, nice and ugly, harmony and terror, sifanti and darkness...
Hans Appelqvist has been a busy fellow lately. His previous album (Naima) arrived only six months ago and found him creating his usual batch of humorous songs with sound effects, and it seems he shows no signs of slowing down. Sinfantin Och Mörkret is yet another solid little batch of tracks that are slightly more folky in nature (with one exception), but like his previous album contain a slew of completely odd and charming sound effects and field recordings that punctuate the music itself.
With twelve tracks running only twenty five minutes in length, it's probably closer to an EP than an album length, but it has enough pure charm in that time to more than compete. Sounds are introduced in one track, then reappear later, with everything from babbling children samples to slide whistles and flies buzzing. Musically, the album is lighthearted, but slightly melancholy in places, with an almost childlike sense of wonder that helps to move things along nicely. Opening track "Wanxian" is a perfect example, with woodwinds, flute, piano and dulcimer melodies all dancing around sparse bass notes as field recordings of birds play in the background. It's a lovely little first track, and introduces some sounds that make more prominent appearances later on.
"Tänk Att Himlens Alla Stjärnor" follows directly, and musically the song is relatively simple, with Appelqvist performing a rather straightforward song with only vocals and acoustic guitar. Around this very basic foundation, though, he layers loads samples that sound absolutely strange at first, but eventually make themselves completely essential, whether it's the sound of a lion growling, a kitten mewling, a dog barking, or odd whistles, drum hits, and a thunderstorm. "Freckenåges Spa" takes a different approach, with layered dulcimer and piano loops that rise and fall nicely as a subtle beat builds in behind them and mechanical whirs and whirlygig sounds spit out in places.
One of the things that I enjoy so much about the release is that it actually made me laugh a bit the first couple times I listened to it. Given that I can be somewhat humorless sometimes when it comes to listening to piles of music, it should say something that this little release gave me some moments of glee. It's playful, but at the same time can be moving and even downright pretty, with the quiet piano and sample-driven "Jag En Gök" being a perfect example. Falling somewhere between The Books, Múm, and the quiet moments of Jens Lekman, this enjoyable little release is full of surprises, including a closing track that goes in an almost 80s rock direction without sounding like it shouldn't even belong.
Rated 7.75/10, Almost Cool
Here's an oddity. Hans Appelqvist's music blends a highly accomplished grasp on song structure with a unique ear for peculiar sound designs. Appelqvist plays a handful of traditional acoustic instruments and even sings on occasion, but the defining characteristic of this album has to be the implementation of field recordings, which are made up of wildlife sounds, thunder storms, children's voices and an awful lot of tinkering around with a kazoo. There aren't a great many people who can get away with the use of a kazoo, but Appelqvist carries it off as well as anyone's ever likely to. It all meshes together in a pleasing mosaic of sounds from the natural world and an instrumental prowess that suggests a classical background. At times, it's all about the soundscaped ambience, with woodpecker noises and cuckoo calls (sounding as it might should anyone give Chris Watson a radio show for kids), while at others, piano or guitar takes centrestage. Either way, Appelqvist is certainly out on his own, fashioning some highly unusual compositions.
Accessible and child-friendly experimental music
The ones who visit Eardrums frequently may have noticed that I'm more of a label-fan than a band-fan. Bands usually disappoint me or bore me after their second album, but good labels may release interesting music within the same genre by several good artists.
One of these favourite labels of mine is the Swedish Häpna-label, which I wrote a feature about some months ago. One of their artists, Hans Appelqvist, has a new album out now, - his second release in less than a year. He released "Naima" on Häpna in November 2006, and is already out with the amazingly beautiful “Sifantin och mörkret”. This is experimental music, yet it has so much melody and so many elements that you may recognize from your daily life that it never gets 'difficult' to listen to. It is warm, harmonic, nice and kind, but at the same time there are darker elements that disturbs underneath the surface.
On several of his albums (including “Sifantin och mörkret”), Appelqvist includes samples and field recordings of common sounds and noises, - like a train, a dog barking, birds and small pieces of conversation. On his album "Bremort" he used these sounds and conversation-samples to tell the story of a fictional Swedish small town, Bremort, and the people living there. I can't find an obvious theme for this album, but its form and all the elements he includes makes it very 'visual' music. Appelqvist's "Bremort" is among my all time favourites, and this new one is not far behind.
As a side-note I must say that Appelqvist's music, and especially this new record, is very child-friendly! Since I am a family man, I try to let my two kids hear what I think is quality music. Most of the time, they prefer the easy stuff, but Appelqvist's songs has found its way through to both my son and my daughter. “Sifantin och mörkret” is one of my son's favourites at the moment. He instantly interprets the music into a story about animals, and tells me that "this is the sound of a bear" and "this is the owl" and so on. "Dad, listen, I hear a cuckoo!", he yells with the headphones firmly attached to his ears. My daughter loves "Zenna & Marie" from one of Appelqvist's other releases. The beautiful video for the main song on “Sifantin och mörkret” also gives room for childish fantasies.
Knut B. Lindbjör, Eardrums music blog
When Hans Appelqvist released 'Naima' I was quite amazed: the combination of sounds, field recordings, 'real' music and the story made great sense. I must admit I was a bit disappointed with his concert which I saw a while after that. Not only did reproduce the CD with quite some accuracy, which for me is not necessary if I go to a concert, but also the guitar sounded very retro - it was at times if I was listening to Mike Oldfield, solo again but armed with a sampler for some weird injections. This new album (well, twelve tracks in twenty five minutes. Is that an album or a mini album) is therefor met with some reluctancy. Again, I like Hans' daring combination of musique concrete, mediaeval music and radio plays, but somewhere in the back of my head, I still see him at the concert: much pre-programmed on his computer, sweet melodies on the guitar. Perhaps it would be better to entirely (try to) forget that and enjoy the radio qualities of this music. Appelqvist certainly has great style and care and plays his material with a lot of humor. As such 'Sifantin Och Mörket' is another fine album.
FdW, Vital Weekly
“Hans Appelqvist har lämnat koncepttänkandet och spelat in tolv korta låtar utan en uttalad sammanhängande tråd. Men det finns gemensamma nämnare och kopplingar till tidigare skivor, i många låtar kommer det in djurläten och barnröster. Och det lekfulla och spontana bryts av en hotfull, hemlig, atmosfär. Det är som att stå på tröskeln, inte veta om man ska stanna kvar i hemmets sköte eller ge sig ut i det okända. Lockande kombinationer av miljöljud och popmelodier. Fantasin naglas fast i verklighetens blickfång.”
Rated 4/5, PM Jönsson, Göteborgs-Posten
“När jag sätter in "Sifantin och mörkret" i bilstereon passerar jag Långebro. Till höger står en elefant. Knappast en slump, tänker jag när jag kör förbi Vä. Koncept är Hans Appelqvists melodi och den här gången är djur och deras läten ett återkommande tema. Skällande, grymtande, brölande djur.
Efter den P3 Guld-belönade "Bremort" (2004) och "Naima" i november öppnar åter skåningen Appelqvist sin ljudverkstad. Den här gången är det riktigt kul. Cd:n har en bra puls och skiftar från den fina godnattvisan "Tänk att himlens alla stjärnor" till mer oroliga spår.
Men samtidigt som det låter typiskt Hans Appelqvist med lätt aviga melodier och en form av ihåliga ljudbilder, så känns han mer överraskande och spontan än tidigare. Jag brukar falla för hans samplande musikkänsla. Så även denna gång. ”
“Det var inte alls länge sedan Hans Appelqvist släppte sitt röriga, smakfulla och avancerade album Naima men redan nu är han tillbaka med ett nytt betydligt enklare album.
I grund och botten ligger visor, ibland sjungna på en mjuk skånsk dialekt (eller på engelska), men Appelqvist gör självklart något utöver lägereldsmyset också.
Även om det elektroniska har fått ta ett steg tillbaka för den rakare akustiska musiken så fullkomligt sprudlar Sifantin och mörkret av samplingar av barn och hundar, billiga elektroniska ljud, slingriga melodier och laptop-sprakande. Det ger en rik och nyanserad ljudbild (liksom på Appelqvists andra verk) som man inte tröttnar på i första taget.
Avslutande instrumentala Talkijangnas akt innehåller också överraskande nog elgitarr men det är huvudsakligen akustiska Tänk att himlens alla stjärnor som berör mest på albumet som kring mitten innehåller lite väl många musikaliska labyrinter för sitt eget bästa.”