Taken By Trees: Other Worlds
For the recording of her last Taken By Trees album, 2009’s East of Eden, Swedish songstress Victoria Bergsman voyaged to the politically turbulent Pakistan, where she was abducted by a gang of locals and rescued by her recording engineer Andreas Soderstrom.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why Bergsman relished the opportunity to write her follow-up in a less hostile environment. Other Worlds was inspired by a trip to the Hawaiian islands, where Bergsman soaked up the quintessential laid-back sights: beaches, waves, waterfalls, coconuts, probably some dudes strumming ukeleles and smoking hash. Other Worlds is an immersive, expansive listen, filled with warm electro-dub grooves and plenty of ear-tickling headphone details—but it can also be a snooze.
Opening with what sounds like seashells being dropped into an empty bathtub, “Horizon” blooms into a vivid tropical atmosphere, with Bergsman’s half-high coo bouncing off woozy electro-psych synths and heavily flanged guitar. “Highest High” is a trippy wide-screen beauty that makes the most of the island imagery, with a barely-there hook wafting in and out over watery percussion, booming bass, and a graceful sigh of steel-guitar, before settling into a cornball gang sing-along outro.
“As good as it gets,” the voices chant—and, sadly, they’re right. Too many tracks simply drift by without much impact, putting emphasis on sleepy, beach-y textures (The tracks are segued with actual “nature sounds,” which, in this context, is about as necessary as adding a laugh track to an episode of Show Time at the Apollo). Since Bergsman’s voice remains so dry and unexpressive, staying in the same basic range and utilizing the same reverb mist through the entire album, Other Worlds’ highlights aren’t songs—they’re specific instrumental textures: the punchy electric guitar groove at the end of “Dreams,” the cracking snares on the sensual “Your Place Or Mine.” Elsewhere, Other Worlds is populated by undercooked tracks like “I Want You” and “Indigo Dub,” in which chase dead-end melodies down electro-dub rabbit holes.
Bergsman should be commended for her creative fearlessness—she refuses to box herself in, constantly soaking in new cultural influences. Maybe next time her muse will take her somewhere more lively.