Dais Records (DAIS 068), 2015
On The Park, his newest instrumental ambient study, Tor Lundvall takes the tiniest of steps into the world we all share. This is somewhat significant, as much of Lundvall’s previous work has dwelt purely in space of his own devising. Prior efforts, such as The Shipyard (2012) and Night Studies (2013), have revealed places only Lundvall can see, and his music serves as a bridge between him, the tour guide of sorts, and us, the visitors.
The Park, however, is somewhere anyone can go to, at any time. Lundvall even lists the locations that inspired him on the LP’s package (Dais Records has also generously included a download code), so for the first time, we can experience these places for ourselves. This seeming down-to-earth and proximal nature is reflected in the music too; Lundvall’s work has always been masterfully sparse, but here, the surreal edge that dominated past releases has been blurred. There’s an increase in traditional instrumentation – pipes in “The Park,” guitar chords in “Slate Blute” and “Open Spaces” – and the noticeable presence of field recordings (birds, rain, wind in trees, scattered voices), sourced from the real-life locales. The analog tones and light percussion that are Lundvall trademarks are still here, as are the slightly eerie atmospherics, but these have taken a back seat. This park is not a strange place – at least, not entirely – but a place for quiet observation and reflection. With its march-like metallic tapping, “Nature Trail” carries a strong sense of pace, undoubtedly intended to convey the hiking experience, while “Rest Area” is formless ambiance, allowing the mind to drift while the body is in respite.
Lundvall’s work has always had a narrative undercurrent, and it’s developed intentionally here, providing the listener with a clearer passage of time and place. We move through the various locales, through a heavy layer of “Humidity” (which shares much, in terms of structure and odd distant mechanical echoes, with The Shipyard….perhaps those selfsame docks are within earshot?) until “Late Afternoon” descends with a sampled sing-song that recalls the chiming of a public clock (and again, the nebulous dreamlike mood is instantly reminiscent of Night Studies). It is time for us to make our way out, and we do, via a “Woodland Path” that is gradually becoming thick with shadow, with the tiniest dollop of tension carried by the echoing loops, strange animal-like calls, and persistent percussion. It’s here that the old surreality begins to show itself; who can say how the park might transform when empty, and what may roam these same paths and fields under the veil of night? We are left to wonder. “Closing Time” ups the ominous factor, with more bits of audible strangeness reaching our ears from the now-dark park interior, the slightly unnerving tones and measured drumming giving us the sense that we’re leaving behind a place that we may have visited, but we barely understood: we saw only the surface.
Only time will tell, but The Park bears the hallmark of a transitional record. Neither as dark in mood nor as experimental in structure as previous releases, and communicating a greater range of mood, it’s a fascinating record that shows Lundvall attempting to shift his established palette. While it’s understandable that some may not welcome his new approach, it’s an experiment whose success far outweighs any perceived inconsistencies. The Park is not as cohesive as, for example, Empty City or Yule, but it’s not intended to be. The more you listen, the more the subtle differences stand out. Partly a place of meditative solace, partly a place of deep velvet mystery, partly a place of things unseen, The Park is undoubtedly worth exploring.