Without knowing it, I have begun to approach Tor Lundvall’s musical work in a similar manner to how I’ve always taken in what he does visually. I study rhythms, effects, vocals and track lengths like so many brush strokes on a virginal canvas. This is not entirely surprising but it is no accident that his sound has changed significantly over the years and this box set is the most convincing proof of that.
Albums like “Last Light” and “Empty City” sound melodic compared to the later records which are to be found on here. “Sleeping and Hiding” becomes the one thing I’ve always wanted out of it: longer. I couldn’t tell you how many times I played my vinyl (this release gets it’s CD debut on here) and was always startled at how abruptly the end came. But no more. Now it has the perfect duration, and what’s more I don’t have to break out of the trance-like state it imparts to change sides. The earlier albums definitely will be a treat for those who have not heard them, get ready for them. Out of print for years on end and just about impossible to find, they are now no further than your fingertips.
“Last Light”, in particular, is a coup because it has not been available the longest and also it finds our composer in a rarely upbeat, contented mood. Don’t ask me to explain how I came to this conclusion, it really is down to knowing who you listen to and not just consuming blithely.
Bravo for integrating Matt Howden’s contributions into “Empty City” at last, for years I’d heard rumors he’d done something on here but there was nothing concrete. His string arrangement is sparse but oh so effective, like the blush which some long-lost frame acquires again once it has been dusted off and lovingly polished. He even has a few words on this otherwise instrumental album that have a wonderfully hypnotic quality to them but speaking of hypnosis, how could I leave out “The Shipyard”. The one album Tor didn’t just tack extra songs onto at the end. For this release, he altered the track listing! Re-inserting songs which were originally envisioned to be on the vinyl (another CD debut here) but for reasons unbeknownst to anyone but himself were excised.
I’ve written extensively about “The Shipyard” so I’ll leave it at that and get to the main reason you want this thing in your collection no matter what it takes.
Rather than include another out of print work, or issue a vinyl-only release on compact disc, Tor Lundvall has opted to give us what I trust will one day be regarded as an unmitigated collection of perfection. “Night Studies” is a brand new album completed over the summer of this year and is entirely without a single word on it. Lundvall states that many of these pieces were done spontaneously and if this is him just composing off the cuff as they say, sign me up. These are rougher, edgier and far more brusque than anything he’s done in his career; a turning point has been reached. Short and sweet though they may be, as with everything he’s done those strangely placed melody lines will come back to haunt you.
Truly, these tracks are the sound of the depths of night. Between 1 and 5am, if you want to get particular about it. They have the suspended dissonance and calm serenity you come upon should you happen to be awake and say, just staring at your walls. And I know this from having spent my evenings some time ago doing precisely that. I often wondered if he could put a soundtrack to that kind of isolated and reclusive experience… he now has. Lundvall captures both motion and mood as few others can, why, even his painting are drenched with them. Go on and look. Keep your eyes focused long enough and you’ll see the subtle nuances of machines, men and melancholy all blended together with remarkable grace.
But I really should not wrap this up before I commend Dais records for their commitment to art as both sound and vision. To do one box set of this caliber is daring and now that I’ve been immersed by a second I can decisively state that this label and those who run it have gone beyond just releasing the works of artists. They’re preserving these incredibly powerful works, saving them from the rubbish bin of history; ensuring that future fans who may not yet realize they are get the chance to discover what I and others have had the good fortune to listen to (and sometimes take for granted, sorry about that) for years on end.
These releases have now been almost completely collected. Almost. Somehow I just know he’s not done yet. Those vaults no doubt run deep.