It seems that subtlety is ruling much of the musical community in 2020. What I mean is that many of my favorite albums thus far have been reserved, quiet, and ponderous. This is the case for the new album from Jonathan Hultén. “Chants from Another Place” releases on March 13th through Kscope, and it is a satisfying, vulnerable experience.
Jonathan hails from Sweden, and is perhaps best known as the singer for metal band Tribulation. As you can tell from the press images, he is known for being mysterious, illustrious, and dark. His creativity is self-evident, as he is also the artist behind the cover and song art. Jonathan handles all instruments on this album, except for some percussion on one song performed by Nacho Montero.
As a vast departure from his metallic side, “Chants from Another Place” displays a reserved, reflective, and resolute side to Jonathan’s musical genius. The music is inspired by a capella folk and church choir compositions, so you will hear acoustic rhythms, some keys, and vocal harmonies as the primary components of this album. Some songs have energy and beat, while others do not. It seems to me that Jonathan is ultimately attempting here to explore a more organic style of music: one that is close to his heart and to his homeland.
What can I say about this album? It is deeply personal, yet adventurous in some nameless fashion. You can feel the winds of introspection and the waves of declaration throughout, shaping this album into something quintessentially human. This is the kind of music that feels complex in its purposeful simplicity: music that can be best appreciated under the expanse of the stars at night. It feels like it can carry you away to the familiar lands and tranquil skies within your own soul.
In my opinion, the first half of the album is the strongest. Songs like “A Dance in the Road”, “The Mountain”, “The Call to Adventure”, “Wasteland”, and “Outskirts” all inhabit this space. “A Dance in the Road” is an excellent folk ballad that revels in its acoustic style. It opens the album well. “The Mountain” and “Wasteland” are the singles, and both are fantastic. I prefer “The Mountain” slightly for its hypnotic acoustic rhythm. My kids have really taken to that song, as well. “The Call to Adventure” and “Outskirts” are two favorites, as well. The former is a slow burn, but also features some subtle keys that really add to the experience. The latter is an instrumental track that builds a nomadic vibe to a very pleasing climax with Nacho on percussion.
The second half of the album loses some steam, but I still enjoy it. This is perhaps because a couple tracks, like “Holy Woods” and “Ostbjorka Brudlat” are primarily centered on vocal harmonies without lyrics, and “The Fleeting World” is an instrumental track focused on piano. I suppose that makes them a little less memorable, if only because they are even more subtle than the rest of the album. Of course, the second half does have the trotting rhythms of “Where Devils Weep”, feeling very much like a ballad from the wild west of America’s frontier days; not to mention the hand-clapping beat of “The Roses”. “Deep Night” ends the album well, too, with a monastic vocal atmospheric that echoes and feels very much like the closure of intimate thoughts.
“Chants from Another Place” is an eerie, contemplative album that radiates artistry and inflection. This is music that will allow your mind to breathe: that can put your whole body at ease. Hearing these compositions, I feel as if I know Jonathan, as if his heart is on full display here. That is a special kind of album, and I believe Kscope has a real gem here.
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