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Hans Appelqvist - Sifantin Och Mörkret

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Artist: Hans Appelqvist

Album: Sifantin Och Mörkret

Label: Hapna

Review date: Aug. 7, 2007

Mixing melodic pop with cartoonlike sound effects, children's voices and field recordings, Swedish musician Hans Appelqvist creates songs that are sweet and charmingly weird. It's a delicate high-wire act, and one that Appelqvist performs with aplomb, never becoming too silly, too saccharine, or too strange. Sifantin Och Mökret is Appelqvist's third CD on Sweden's eclectic Häpna imprint and his second release of 2007. His first CD of 2007 was Naima, which was largely overlooked (at least outside of Sweden). With any luck, that won’t be the case with Sifantin. At 24 minutes, Sifantin is really an EP, rather than a full-length, but over the course of its 12 tracks, Appelqvist packs in more ideas than most artists manage on records three times its length.

With its interlocking pieces, Sifantin has the fanciful feel of a radio play based on a fairy tale. Themes and samples are reused and recapitulated, giving the album a dreamlike narrative flow. Appelqvist kicks things off with a quirky piano and recorder number called "Wanxian," introducing some of the sounds that will pop up throughout the record: birdsong; a buzzing fly; a mewling kitten; the whooop of a slide-whistle; rumbling thunder. Following lightly on its heels is Sifantin's centerpiece, the folksy "Tänk Att Himlens Alla Stjärnor," which juxtaposes Appelqvist's delicate acoustic guitar and feather-light singing with a seemingly incongruous array of samples and eccentric sound effects. As the song progresses, however, you surrender to the fanciful logic of thunderclaps, hooting owls, and lowing cows. The CD includes an equally wild 'n' wooly video for the song by director Andreas Nilsson, which finds a campfire-lit Appelqvist performing amidst a nighttime forest full of noisy, cartoon beasts.

The record continues apace with a sequence of odd sonic vignettes – some calm and pastoral, some manic and goofy (at one point there's even an anxious, heart-pounding chase with a lion) – as well as the occasional, ever-so-slightly straightforward song about a cuckoo ("Jag En Gök") or the moon ("Full the Moon").

Woven into each track are Appelqvist's beloved field recordings. He uses their rhythmic and melodic patterns with playful skill. His most cheeky moment is the final track, "Talkijangnas Akt" (the title seems to have something to do with talcum powder, but my Swedish is non-existent, so one can't be sure). The track is a rousing guitar anthem, built around a recording of chanting and cheering children. It's unlike anything else on the record and acts like an invigorating splash of cold water, waking you from the strange reverie of all that came before. Like most things Appelqvist, it would sound so wrong if it didn't sound so right.

By Susanna Bolle

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