Toy piano, accordion, glockenspiel, theremin, traktofon, synths and more synths… These are the things dreams are made of, my friends.
If you’ve been following The Indie Handbook over the past few years, you know that often, my role here ends up being the Swedish ambassador of sorts. It’s not that I think we don’t cover Sweden enough, it’s just that there is so much great music coming out of Scandinavia right now. And when I talk about Sweden, it usually is somehow related to this guy, Martin Molin.
You may know Martin as part of the brilliant band Detektivbyrån, that I covered way back in 2010, or you may know him from that lovely remix of Those Dancing Days that I mentioned last year. At any rate, you can’t have missed him and his signature tinny toy piano, theremin, and glockenspiel sounds, or my undying devotion for it all. Blame it all on my weakness for a good accordion part if you like, though you must admit that it is a tragically underrated instrument. Or blame my obsession with his particular alt chamber sounds, mixing low-fi percussion instruments (scissors and typewriters anyone?) with auto-tuned theremin and old-school style game music melody lines. But either way, you do have to admit that it’s fascinating, fresh, and always perfect.
So, when I received an email from Martin a few months ago talking about a new project he was starting up with a few fellow musicians, alternative instrument devotees and electronic instrument geeks, I could hardly contain my excitement. Actually, to be honest, I did not contain my excitement at all. Not even a little. I just danced it out for a while and then played back through my entire Detektivbyrån collection to prepare myself.
His new project is called Wintergatan and they have just released their first full-length album, full of accordion, scissor snaps, dreamy waltzes, magical synth melodies, and a lot of new sounds as well. Four space-suited musicians choreograph pieces with more instruments than you can imagine, creating both an aural masterpiece and a visually fascinating performance.
The album is nine tracks long, all available to stream for free on their media page, and a truly rewarding listen. If you know Martin’s previous work, you will definitely hear a lot of familiar sounds. There are the waltzes, the accordion hum, and the theremin, but there are a lot of new things as well. Tracks like “All is Well” bring in a much more dance sound, albeit played out primarily on bells, and “Västenberg” features a harp melody and much more dreamy, atmospheric opening than I have heard before, though it leads straight into a driving accordion and vibes section, reminiscent of “Honky tonk of Wermland” from Detektivbyrån’s Wermland album. However, the most surprising track is the last, a 14 minute long kaleidoscopic piece called “Paradis.” It ends the album on a perfect note, and marks a clear contrast from Martin’s previous work with Detektivbyrån. Hammered dulcimer and harp weave together into a unique mix over a synthesized bass as the originally pentatonic melody morphs into a full, complex mix of sounds – piano, synths, dulcimer, drum kit, and so much more. It’s more aurally complex, more mature, and even more delightful.
As you can probably tell by this point, this album is not really like anything else. Though I compare it a bit to Detektivbyrån, in truth, I only do that because it’s the closest relative I can find. If you are looking for something approachable on the surface, but complex enough to listen to again and again, this is it. The instrument combinations alone can keep a person occupied for days. But don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at these two music videos they have posted. You’ll even get small behind the scenes peaks at their instruments and recording techniques at the end of each.
And if you haven’t yet, head over to their website where you can stream the entire album and let Wintergatan take you for the space ride of your life.