David Ahlen: All the Way My Saviour Leads Me
Issued on the Dutch label Volkoren, David Åhlén's latest EP would seem to be a re-issue of the All the Way My Saviour Leads Me release that appeared on the Swedish Thehourislate imprint in 2009. No matter: Åhlén's music stirs the soul no matter when it was released, and the EP's seventeen minutes are as lovely a representation of his artistry as one might wish for. The primary selling point of Åhlén's music is, as always, his voice, a fragile thing of beauty that's usually delivered in falsetto. Not far behind are the five songs, which, whilst arranged using minimal means, are powerful in their own right.
Åhlén, who lives with his wife and five children on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, recorded the songs—his preacher father's favourite hymns—as a personal gift for his father on his seventieth birthday. As a preliminary scan of the titles shows, the songs are religious in character, though that doesn't mean that only those sharing Åhlén's faith will derive pleasure from listening to them (consider by way of comparison the degree to which listeners worldwide have been enriched by the music of John Tavener without necessarily sharing his Orthodox Christian faith).
As mentioned, Åhlén's songs are starkly arranged, with his voice often accompanied by little more than a single instrument or harmony vocal. But, not surprisingly, the music consequently gains in force when that additional element makes its appearance. On these songs, Åhlén's vocals, guitar, and organ are complemented by the singing of Priscilla Åhlén Sundqvist and the guitar, theremin, and E-bow playing of Christoffer Wadensten.
Establishing the recording's character, Åhlén accompanies his tremulous voice on the opening title song with acoustic guitar before slowing the tempo slightly for “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” his double-tracked voice hauntingly augmented by Sundqvist's wordless presence during the song's closing moments. On “Holy, Holy, Holy,” he sings the first two verses alone before Sundqvist joins him for the third, while “Rock of Ages” closes the EP with the stark sound of Åhlén's quiver accompanied by real-world sounds of traffic noises. If, in fact, the songs on All the Way My Saviour Leads Me were recorded years ago, perhaps that means that it won't be long before a collection of newly recorded material by Åhlén makes its way into the world.