Wooh Dang is the first worldwide release from Swedish musician Daniel Norgren and it’s a mix of jazz, new age, and contemporary folk. Said another way, it’s practically impossible to pigeonhole it as it moves from the ambient tones of electronica in the opening “Blue Sky Moon” to the spare, piano-driven epic “The Flow,” which melds the odd-sounding acoustic piano with electric sounds from Norgren’s bandmates. From there it becomes avant folk music, from the rhythmic chanting of “Dandelion Time” to the engaging train song “Rolling, Rolling, Rolling” to the touching balladry of “So Glad,” we get an unusual but rewarding listen as surprises abound on every tune.
Understanding the backdrop helps. The album was made last Fall in a single room of a 19th-century textile farmhouse in the woods near Norgren’s home in Southwest Sweden. “The interior looked it hadn’t been touched for the past 80 years,” says Norgren. “I moved a lamp and it left a dark red ring on the pink tablecloth underneath…goldmine! The house was huge, full of good, inspiring mustiness, creaking wooden floors, scary old portrait paintings on the walls, and an old, black German piano which I used in all the songs.” The album was recorded live and entirely on a 16 track analogues rig, without guitar tuners. We get then a mix of analog instrumentation, live performance, and rural field recordings. It’s.
To make an album of this kind requires strong chemistry among bandmates, and it comes through, not only musically, but in the background vocals and choruses that often seem purely spontaneous rather than pre-meditated. Norgren plays keys, guitar, harmonica, percussion, and “ambience” and is joined by guitarist/banjoist Andreas Filipson, bassist Anders Grahn, and drummer Erik Berntsson. You’ll hear the live-off-the-floor effect of this unit best on the poppy “Let Love Run the Game.” Some of the others are more solo-centric from Norgren like “So Glad” and “The Day That’s Just Begun,” nicely conceived piano-oriented ballads, with Norgren and harmonica-in-the-rack, sounding like Neil Young on the latter. “When I Hold You In My Arms” introduces more acoustics, including the banjo, alongside Norgren’s piano as his singing, as it does on many tracks, bubbles with enthusiasm. The closer is like a bookend to the opener as it’s all instrumental but on this one, a series of dissonant piano chords.
Norgren’s debut seems experimental but in a weird way, it works. The opening track may lead you to believe it is some kind of new wave Philip Glass kind of album, but it unfolds into one where Norgren proves to be a interesting songsmith. Just try it, you might be pleasantly surprised too.
- Jim Hynes