1921: In My Veins

When is a David Åhlén album not a David Åhlén album? When he pairs with Andreas Eklöf under the group name 1921, that's when. In My Veins, which marks the singer's first appearance on Compunctio since his 2009 release We Sprout in Thy Soil and Eklöf's first since 2013's Klavikord, exchanges the strings, piano, and acoustic guitar typically heard on an Åhlén release for heavily synthesized backings. The accompanying press text characterizes the combination of his angelic falsetto and Eklöf's electronic scene-painting as a modern-day analogue to Jon and Vangelis, and at least in general terms it's a credible comparison, even if the two singers' voices are much different. 1921's sound is stirring, regardless, in large part because of Åhlén's incredible voice.

Similar to his solo releases, the lyrics he's written for In My Veins are devotional in nature and characterized by humility and gratitude; he and Eklöf are credited as co-composers on the ten-song release (an eleventh, “Bells,” appears on the vinyl edition), with album producer Andreas Runeson sharing a composing credit on “Psalm 115.” The moment that unmistakable falsetto enters on “Holy,” we know we're in Åhlén territory, and thankfully, the setting finds the singer complemented by sensitive electronic support by Eklöf, his synthesizers used to enhance the entrancing sway of the music. The combination works to equally powerful effect in the subsequent “Always,” where graceful synth patterns provide a dreamy base for the singer's reverential words, his softly uttered “You have always been there” repeated like an incantation. After only two songs, we're comforted in hearing the restraint with which Eklöf accompanies his partner, his synths and occasional drum patterns geared towards supporting the vocals without overpowering them.

Invariably, Åhlén strongly imprints himself on the material whenever he appears; the instrumental meditations “Inter,” “Arteries II,” and “Similar” consequently brand themselves as Eklöf productions by default. If there's a radio single here, the title track and “The Clear Fount” are both candidates, given the appeal of their insistent melodies and seductive vocalizing, with Åhlén's singing beautifully augmented in each case by Marie Bergling's. And that 1921 name, in case you're wondering? In the early stages of the project, lyrics for two songs, “New Worlds” and “The Clear Fount,” came from the Swedish Christian mystic Linnea Hofgren, and the duo decided to adopt her death year as the group name.

January 2018