H.B. Nielsen “FROM/HOME”

Gamlestans Grammofon, 2023

Folk/prog echoes from Sweden via USA from H.B. Nielsen.

artwork for H.B.Neilsen album "FROM/HOME"H.B. Nielsen boasts an unusual back story–with a journey taking him from his native Sweden to the USA and back, where he forged a career as a tattoo artist, having originally travelled there to play ice hockey. The songs featured on ‘From/Home’ were born on his travels in the USA from his base in New York and recorded on his return to Sweden. Nielsen tells us that his songs, written in the aftermath of the break up of a long-term relationship, are inspired by “loss and grief: a funeral, love lost, and a dense, confusing loneliness”, together with “a lot of joy and gratitude”, but it’s the gentle vibe, rather reminiscent of early prog/folk, which is the main take away from the release.

The short opening interlude ‘Intro (Gud Vilken Himmel)’ sets the tone of the 10-track album, a low fi piece with keys, synthesizer, sampled footsteps, conversation, and birdsong, and this gentle character continues through the collection. Nielsen’s vocals have a light, airy tone, well matched to the mainly arpeggiated acoustic guitar-led arrangements, though making it difficult to pick out some of the lyrics, resulting in an overall effect on occasion closer to vocalisations rather than narratives. ‘Breakers’ has a sprightly bounce to it, contrasting with the lyrical theme of lost love, while on ‘Sunflowers’ the strummed guitar in an open tuning doesn’t quite gel with the arpeggiated second guitar part, creating a sense of disorientation, presumably an artistic choice.

The strongest track, ‘Breakers’, has added depth from synth and keys, with gentle percussion pushing the song forward, an instrumental mix matched on ‘Fever Dream’, Nielsen singing “If I’m only a fever dream it’s alright I don’t mind”. Nielsen says of the song “I spent much of my time alone during the months of writing the album, and was surprised at how quickly and easily a place of solitude became the new normal state. We didn’t have a lockdown in Sweden, and I went to work as usual, but still closeness to people felt like a distant memory. ‘Fever Dream’ exists somewhere between a dreamlike state of longing for connection to a loved one, and a present, somewhat self-chosen solitude.” Closing track ‘Shell Beach’  has a more raw feel, with observational lyrics, ending with footsteps on the beach.

A gentle and atmospheric collection for a chilled listening session.

 

6/10
6/10

About David Jarman 83 Articles
Long time fan of Americana genre, from early days of Ry Cooder, through to today's thriving scene. Regular visitor to USA ( Nashville/Austin/Memphis/LA ) live music junkie, I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica, plus vocals, run monthly jam session in Broadstairs

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