What would happen if the music combined Swedish Folk, Pop, and Jazz music? Well, believe me those combinations could work and it does from the mind of Trallskogen. It’s one of Annika’s projects they they’ve released their debut album this year. And if you love those three genres, you're in for a real treat.
The origins of Trallskogen started back while Annika was visiting the “Scenska Visarkivet” in Stockholm. She discovered old recordings of the singers who moved back from village to village and sang festivities and told stories. Discovering this fascinating idea, Annika came up with an idea. She would not only combined the trail songs, but mix folklore along with pop and jazz.
Annika Jonsson lives and works in Saarbrucken, Germany. She grew up with German-Swedish parents in Boppard, Germany and she completed her studies in Mathematics in Kaiserslauten before studying Jazz in Saarbrucken from 2011 to 2016 at the Saar Academy of Music with Anne Czichowsky. Her final project during that time frame, she went to Sweden to search for her musical roots. And one of the projects would be Trallskogen. And their debut album, Trollskogen is released on Annika’s new label, Nikasound.
Listening to this album, will make you go back and pull out some of the Swedish bands/artists that were part of the Silence label in the golden era of the 1970s in its early years. But Trallskogen’s music is like looking through an old storybook and revisiting those tales that you were told as a child and revisiting its fantasy side. The band considers Steffen Lang on Guitar, Martin Jager on Piano, Felix Hubert on Double Bass, and Kevin Nasshan on Drums.
The eerie opening musique-concrete on Intro (Have tar, Havet ger), starts with Martin’s plucking piano strings, Felix’s foghorn sounds on double bass, Steffen’s guitar, and Kevin brushing the drums. You can hear the reverb effect on the double bass along with the delay/effect on the guitar and intensive pulse from the piano and drums that gives the listener to know that the story has just begun and the book is finally opened.
Annika comes into the forest as if she’s walking through the trees as she sings while her bandmates follow her into this new location that she brings us towards into. The music is part Ummagumma and part Thelonious Monk near the end section between Lang and Nasshan. The title-track is walking through the opened door that’s already opened for us to enjoy the party.
Its textures makes the track opening a flower that is ready to burst. Annika sings a melodic structure as if she’s singing through a scale by going upwards including a scat-singing section. Martin follows her on the piano and it’s a wonderful in the piece before Kevin’s drum solo takes front and center channeling Elvin Jones from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.
Bergtrall is Trallskogen honoring the legacy of Vince Guaraldi. The first minute gives Martin a chance to honor the jazz musician as if they band were doing a score for another Peanuts special to see what the gang and Snoopy will come up with next. But then, it moves forward into some cliffhanger scenario as Felix does some walking tightrope lines on the double bass.
And then, out of the blue, Martin and Kevin create that moment to build up the climax more and more to raise the bars even higher. Then, it suddenly goes into a train that goes into a mid-fast tempo to create the speed for the piano, drums, and bass going into a full-scale atmosphere. Annika comes in the last minute for her vocalizations as if the forest has approaches by a ghost to give a chilling end.
With its bright, fast, and chilling momentum, it goes back into the Guaraldi section to close the composition for a few seconds. The piano on Alvdans goes into a swirl for the sun to rise. Annika’s vocals and Steffen’s stop-and-go intro on the guitar chords as the mid-fast sections are catchy while the percussion's come up with a clicking sound through the kit on the drumsticks. The composition itself feels like it was something straight out of Jacques Demy’s 1964 classic, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but with a jazz setting.
Now Bitar, is a track I got a kick out of. Featuring the psychedelic wah-wah guitar and a soulful piano and Annika’s scatting that is almost through a Leslie speaker done in an homage to Robert Wyatt, Trallskogen show their nod to the Canterbury scene for its swirling turn for Martin paying a nod to the late great Phil Miller (Delivery, Hatfield and the North, Matching Mole, and National Health).
Before I close this review, let me just say this. Trallskogen’s debut album was not easy album to review. It’s for me a great debut I’ve listened to over about three times now. Annika has come a long way not just both in mathematics and music, but with the projects including her Pop-Jazz project of Caleido Club last year. But for me, Trallskogen would be something that will peak my interest for the years to come to see what Annika would come up with next.