ERLAND DAHLEN-BLOSSOM BELLS.
ERLAND DAHLEN-BLOSSOM BELLS.
Back in 2012, drummer and percussionist Erland Dahlen released his long-awaited, and much-anticipated debut album Rolling Bomber. By then, the forty-one year old was a veteran of the vibrant Nordic music scene.
When Rolling Bomber was released, Erland Dahlen was a veteran of countless bands, including HET, Boschamaz, Kiruna, Morris, Piston Ltd, Batagraf, The Sonic Codex Orchestra and Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses. This however, was only part of the story. H
Erland Dahlen was also one of Norway’s top session musicians. Over a ten year period, Erland Dahlen had played on over a hundred albums. Any Norwegian musician looking for a drummer, seemed to have Erland Dahlen’s number on speed-dial. This included Norwegian blues-tinged, alternative rock band Madrugada.
They recruited Erland Dahlen in 2005 Madrugada. For the next three years, Erland Dahlen was the band’s “semi-permanent” drummer. This was the best of both worlds. Erland Dahlen could continue doing session work, and played with Madrugada live and in the studio between 2005 and 2008.
Having joined Madrugada in 2005, Erland Dahlen played Madrugada’s fourth album Deep End, and the live album, Live at Tralfamadore. Both were released in 2005. Then in 2007, Erland Dahlen played on Madrugada’s eponymous sixth album. When Madrugada was released in 2008, it Madrugada proved to be the band’s swan-song. After this, Erland Dahlen returned to being a hired gun.
As one of the most respected drummers in the Nordic music scene, Erland Dahlen was never short of work. Like the musical equivalent of a gunslinger, Erland Dahlen travelled from city to city, playing album after album. Studios were a second home to Erland Dahlen. However, by 2011, and a lifetime making music, there was something Erland Dahlen…record his debut album.
So Erland Dahlen set about filling this one gap in his musical C.V. He had done just about everything else. Erland Dahlen had released a string of albums with the various bands he had been a member of; collaborated with some of the biggest names in Nordic music; and won a Gammleng Award. There was not a lot else he still had to do. Apart from releasing a solo album.
This came in 2012, when Erland Dahlen released Rolling Bomber on Hubro Music. Rolling Bomber was released to widespread critical acclaim, and was hailed as one of the most innovative albums of 2012 from this Nordic one-man band. Since then, critics, cultural commentators and music fans have eagerly awaited the released of Erland Dahlen’s sophomore album. They’ve had to be patient.
Three years passed before Erland Dahlen recently released Blossom Bells, on Hubro Music. That’s not surprising.
For Blossom Bells, Erland Dahlen has collected vintage percussion instruments. Erland Dahlen has spent countless hours searching second hand shops as he tours the world. When he’s at home, Erland Dahlen scours internet sites, constantly searching for instruments that can bring a new, intriguing sounds to his music. This includes havingnew instruments custom-built. Not many musicians would go to such lengths. However, Erland Dahlen is a musical innovator who constantly, pushes musical boundaries. That became apparent as recording of Blossom Bells began.
Erland Dahlen didn’t bring onboard a band to record Blossom Bells. Instead, he become a one-man band, playing everything from traditional instruments and a myriad of percussion, to homemade instruments that would grace any music concrete album. Then there’s the everyday items that can be found in most homes. This includes knives and forks and even a toy robot. All these instruments were taken to Oslo Klang Studio, where Erland Dahlen got to work.
At Oslo Klang, Erland Dahlen was joined by his co-producers Hallvard W.Hagen, Jens Petter Nilsen and Johnny Skalleberg. They watched as Erland Dahlen unpacked instruments, utensils and even toys. This included WFL drums from the late-thirties, steel drums, a log drum and marching toms. Then Blossom Bells, rack bells, hand bells, a temple block maracas, gongs and a xylophone made an appearance. So did keyboards, guitars, drone-boxes and string instruments. Sticks, mallets and bows were sued to play the string instruments. Slightly more left-field were toy robots, a typewriter and knives and forks. Then there’s a some custom-made instruments.
This includes cake moulds with springs built by Hallvard W. Hagen. Then there’s a custom-made percussion bass built by Harald Hougaard. Finally, Kenny Wollesen was responsible for building a windup wood instrument with elastic bands. These custom-built interments were playing an important part in what was an intriguing album, which also featured vocals which
came courtesy of Erland Dahlen. Most of the recording was done at Oslo Klang, with Hallvard W.Hagen and Jens Petter Nilsen recording the six tracks that Erland Dahlen had written. Other recording took place at Coffee Fabric, in Oslo. Once Blossom Bells was completed Helge Sten mastered the album at Audio Virus Lab. All the Erland Dahlen needed was an album title.
That wasn’t difficult. Erland Dahlen wanted to pay homage to the maker of one of the instruments which he played on the album. So Erland Dahlen’s sophomore album became Blossom Bells, which were made by
legendary instrument-maker Pete Engelhart. These unusual chromatic set of bells feature several times on Blossom Bells, which was one of the most eagerly awaited albums of recent years.
The first thing you realise when you go to play Blossom Bells, that this isn’t a sprawling album. Far from it. There’s just six tracks lasting around thirty-seven minutes. That’s not surprising. Hubro Music release all their albums on vinyl and compact disc. Indeed, if you buy the vinyl edition, it comes with a compact disc version. This means you’re getting the best of both worlds. However, for an artist, their album being released on vinyl disciplines them.
There’s a limit to the amount of music that can be fitted onto one vinyl album. Thirty-seven minutes, which is the length of Blossom Bells, is a return to the golden age of vinyl. Back then, albums weren’t sprawling affairs. Instead, they featured anything between six to ten tracks. This meant that you heard the best an artist had to offer. That’s the case on
From the opening bars of Snake, which opens Blossom Bells, it’s apparent that this is an ambitious, groundbreaking and genre-melting album. Mesmeric and pulsating describes the arrangement. Then an array of eclectic and captivating subtle sounds assail the listener. They arrive from right and left, teasing and tantalising the listener. It’s a case of expect the unexpected in this multilayered arrangement. Subtle percussion, a chirping string and chiming guitar. Soon, glistening chimes that hang in the air like an unanswered question. They’re joined by darkness and drama, as the arrangement becomes moody and broody. Cinematic, captivating and hypnotic also describes Snake’s arrangement as it meanders along fusing elements of ambient, avant garde, electronia, experimental and post rock. This whets the listener’s appetite, as the album prepares to unfold.
Straight away, a curveball isn’t so much thrown as launched on Pipe. What sounds like footsteps precedes drums that propel the arrangement along. Bells ring out, and a drone sounds ominously. By then, there’s an urgency to the arrangement. Again, it’s cinematic, as a wash of guitar unite with the drums and cascading bells, providing a propulsive, urgent, but joyous and playful post rock backdrop. It’s the work of just one man, Erland Dahlen and his unique and disparate musical arsenal.
Knife drones melodramatically and threatens to surge towards the listener. That’s before pedestrian drums begin to plod, threateningly and ominously. Meanwhile, otherworldly and futuristic sounds make their presence felt. Sounds flit in and out. Some linger longer, including the searing, rocky guitars. Others, including bells, make just fleeting appearances. They’re used sparingly, but effectively. They’re part of Erland Dahlen’s musical palette on what could easily be the soundtrack to a sci-fi film from David Lynch or Wim Wenders.
As Iron unfolds, elements of avant garde, experimental and music concrete. There’s even a nod to free jazz, as instruments flit in and out. Again, there’s cinematic sound. Just like before, the listener has to supply the scenes to this as yet unmade film. All they need to do, is listen intently and let their imagination run riot. When they do, they’ll here countless sounds that together, veer between moody and broody, to dark and dramatic. At one point, a string instrument seems determined to recreate the sound of a ship docking. Elsewhere bells and chimes join a myriad of percussion. They add an otherworldly sound, to what could be a the little shop of horrors. Maybe, Erland Dahlen has a future writing film scores? I wouldn’t be surprised, as the atmospheric Iron sounds like the perfect backdrop to a modern day horror movie. Indeed, Erland Dahlen’s music says more than a thousand words which is testament to a truly talented and innovative musical pioneer.
The ominous sound of a bass being picked opens Hammer. Meanwhile, a rocky guitar solo threatens to kick loose. Percussion and bells are added, as layer upon layer of music makes its presence felt. Soon, the drums are driving the arrangement along. An otherworldly, quivering, spine-tingling sound joins this six minute post rock opus. It sounds as it’s the work of five or six musicians minimum. It’s not. Instead, it’s the work of one of the most imaginative and inventive musicians in the vibrant Nordic music scene… Erland Dahlen. No wonder Erland Dahlen has played on over 160 albums. Sadly, his stunning sophomore album Blossom Bells is almost over.
Closing Blossom Bells, is the title-track. Its understated introduction showcases Pete Engelhart unusual chromatic set of bells. They take centre-stage, while a shimmering, otherworldly sound seems to have arrived from another world. Then Erland Dahlen adds his drums. Slowly, and with the utmost care, he fills out the arrangement. It sounds as if it belongs on a Pink Floyd album. Lysergic, otherworldly, spiritual, haunting and ethereal, it’s the perfect way to close Blossom Bells, a career defining album from Erland Dahlen.
He’s now forty-four, and has spent a lifetime making music. This includes playing on over 160 albums by other artists. He’s collaborated with some of the biggest names in Norwegian music, and is a veteran of many bands. However, until recently, Erland Dahlen had only released one album, Rolling Bomber in 2012. It was released on Hubro Music in 2012, to widespread critical acclaim. Surely, a followup would be released the next year?
2013 came and went. So did 2014. It wasn’t until recently, that Erland Dahlen returned with Blossom Bells, on Hubro Music. However, Blossom Bells has been well worth the three year wait.
Blossom Bells is a near flawless fusion of ambient, avant garde, electronica, experimental, Krautrock, Nordic Wave, post rock, psychedelia and rock. Genres melt into one, on an album that’s variously moody and broody, to dark and dramatic, to lysergic, otherworldly, spiritual, haunting, atmospheric and ethereal. The music on Blossom Bells is definitely cinematic. That’s the case throughout Blossom Bells. It sounds like the soundtrack to a film that’s yet to be made. Other times, the music on Blossom Bells becomes anthemic and up-lifting. Always, though, the music on Blossom Bells is captivating, cerebral, cinematic, inventive and innovative. That’s why Erland Dahlen’s sophomore album Blossom Bells deserves to find its way onto the lists of the best albums of 2015.
ERLAND DAHLEN-BLOSSOM BELLS.