Look at the artwork for ‘Juniper’. What do you see? In front of a lilac background there are some bushes, possibly juniper, painted in orange. In front for those are some purple, or dark blue depending on whether I’m looking on my phone or computer, petals that are falling. The mood it creates is one of serenity, but also of movement. If you have ever watched petals fall to the ground, you know that it doesn’t take long, but their descent isn’t a straight line either. They can be buffeted by the breeze and end up somewhere unexpected. This is exactly what Linda Fredriksson has created on ‘Juniper’. A slow descent to an unknown destination.
Throughout the album Linda Fredriksson has created something that sounds like a traditional jazz album. Deep horns. Subtle repetitive motifs, which deliver massive emotional impacts. There are wailing solos and freak-outs. However, underpinning this is an electronic foundation made up of throbbing synths and frenzied bleeps. All the while rolling percussion fills in any gaps, while keeping things moving forward.
There are times during ‘Juniper’ where I think “These are some of the tenderest pieces of music I’ve heard for a long time”. ‘Neon Light [and the sky was trans]’ is filled with yearning and passion, but with these moments of aggression that bubble up, then slow dissolve. The final third features Fredriksson on sax. Sometimes melodic, others playing free. Many of the themes on ‘Juniper’ are executed expertly on ‘Neon Light [and the sky was trans]’. One theme feels like an inability to express what you are actually feeling. This is something we’ve all had to deal with over the past two years, or so. It's hard to get across how frustrated you feel, or the sadness when reading the news. Or the elation when seeing a friend by chance in town. You have so much you want to say, but all that comes out is something about work, or how you need new shoes. Here Fredriksson is trying to articulate their inner torments, but only painfully squeaky sax comes out. It is a fitting end to a glorious song, but also a fitting start to one of the strongest albums released this year.
‘Nana’ features an elegant piano that tugs are the heart strings. At times it is eclipsed by all the horns and electronics, but when it comes to the fore you immediately forget about everything that has come before it. Focusing on his beauty. This happens again and again throughout ‘Juniper’. The standout track is ‘Transit in the softest forest, walking, sad, no more sad, leaving’. It opens with a lyrical sax motif. Under it, you can hear gossamer synths billowing. These synths grow and become more defined. Scattershot percussion appears, sounding like it was played on pots and pans as well as toms and hi-hats. Over this Fredriksson’s sax plays on. It sounds like very little, yet at the same time sounding like it totally belongs of its time.
What is most remarkable about the album is how well everything gels. Nothing feels out of place, and everything is for the sake of the song, rather than for the ego. It is an album that has the ability to change with your mood too. This is an album to get entangled with – much like the petals on the cover, which have become lodged with the bush below them.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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