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Friday, April 12, 2019

Sol Sol – Unaccustomed Soil (Signal And Sound Records, 2019) ****

By Gustav Lindqvist

The small Swedish label Signal And Sound Records releases their sixth album; Unaccustomed Soil with the newly formed quartet Sol Sol. This one was recorded in the famous Swedish studio Atlantis by the legendary Janne Hansson, and there’s a soft and smooth sound that flows through my headphones as I see the sun set as I go for an evening stroll in a city far away, listening to this for the first time.
But first something about the personnel on this album.

Elin Forkelid (formerly Larsson) is a reedswoman that you should immediately put on your radar. Similar to Anna Högberg, who we have covered and interviewed here on FJB, Forkelid’s got a tone and style that will go from sugary sweet to razorsharp and from joyful to drenched in tears, in seconds. She moves effortless through different styles as she plays the different horns. On FJB she’s most recently mentioned as a member of Anna Högberg Attack , but I would like to recommend checking out the albums she released with her group Elin Larsson Group too.

David Stackenäs on guitar is a seasoned artist who’s played in the Lina Nyberg Band, The Ägg and Seval just to mention a few groups -but also solo, most recently on the Clean Feed release Acoustic Guitars.

Mauritz Agnas on bass – not to be confused with his brother Konrad Agnas (who can be heard on Orakel, and on the five-star album De Långa Rulltrapporna I Flemingsberg), can be heard on Agnas Bros on which Mauritz plays with his three brothers, but also together with drummer Sebastian Voegler and trumpeter Thomas Caudery on the 2018 release Gröndal.

Last but not least, drummer Anna Lund, who like Forkelid plays with Anna Högberg Attack. She can also be heard with her own group on the album Hurrakel from 2017.

There’s a nod to maqam, a wink to hard bop, a wave to free jazz and a dance with the standards. The album starts with the slow-paced title track Unaccustomed Soil. It’s a soft start that searches for ways in and ways out. Both Stackenäs and Forkelid follow each other up, up, up to where the air is thin. Stackenäs somewhat reminds me of Mary Halvorson and it blends well with Forkelid’s lyrical way of playing.

Lund and Agnas seems to enjoy each other’s company as they gently travel together through the songs. Lund travels outwards and back, across and above Agnas. On Our Mobile Home a cool lounge beat is accompanied by Forkelid who at first seems to just enjoy the ride, but soon drifts away to the place where she clearly has a lot to say. And as Agnas, Stackenäs and Lund keeps cool, Forkelid has a sense of urgency and a deep need to finish what she came for. And then we’re back on the beat. There’s that middle eastern vibe again. This is music for the mind and for the soul.
Unaccustomed Soil is a balance act between the composed and the free. It’s Scandinavian Noir, it’s the summer that disappeared without a warning, it’s the sun going down. It’s the scavenger hunt, it’s the happy moments but also the cracked mirror.

I like Sol Sol absolutely best on Gotta Get Out where the Lunds easy going and relaxed beat is spread wide across the sound stage and Forkelid drops the gauntlet and just lets her horn scream! But I really enjoy hearing Stackenäs back there, not hidden in the mix, but just a little bit lower. It provides a vibe that Forkelid can use to bounce free form against. Stackenäs takes over the scene and has cut-off notes

On the final song Valparaiso Stackenäs gives us a James Taylor-esque introduction and then a soft and sweet melody ends a beautiful album that gives me hope, and a smile on my face. Sometimes walls mustn’t come down completely. Sometimes balance is good. And sometimes the world just needs some good music.

Unaccustomed Soil will be released on April 13 and can be purchased on Signal And Sound website, I’m told the webshop will be opened soon; - Signal And Sound. You can also listen to a little bit of the album here: