Rough Trade, 2009

When Victoria Bergsman left the Concretes a few years ago it appeared as if she was finished with the music industry. Leaving a band about to make it big is not often a smart career move but then again Victoria doesn’t seem to be the person that is afraid to break norms or take alternative routes. Her new album demonstrates this more than anything. In recording East of Eden, her second album as Taken by Trees, Victoria took the path south of the Himalayas and east of Persian Gulf to the city of Lahore in Pakistan to discover the rhythms of the east.

By overcoming cultural differences, struggles to keep the electricity going and through encounters and cooperation with Sufi musicians an album out of the ordinary has been created. While Open Field was a minimalist album with few instruments on every song East of Eden contains far more layers. The South Asian influences can be heard more or less throughout the album with local musicians doing backing vocals, traditional South Asian drums and various flutes frequently being used. It would however be erroneous to place the album within the category of world music. Victoria is after all the Swedish crown princess of indiepop. Her twee-like voice  and the straightforward and somewhat melancholy lyrics on the album verify this.

Opening track, “To Lose Someone” best encompasses the different influences. It‘s a gentle pop song but with an extra spice to it through the various Pakistani instruments being used. The mark of Dan Lissvik (one half of Swedish production team “Studio”), who helped produced the album, is also noticeable with certain rhythms and the beats of soft drums (not bongos but dholak and tabla) which brings to mind his band. East of Eden is also at times reminiscent of El Perro del Mar’s new album, perhaps a result of both being produced by members of Studio with Sarah Assbring (El Perro del Mar) herself contributing backing vocals on the album.

East of Eden at times does suffer from tracks running too similar to each other, but there are some exceptions. In “Tidens Gång” Victoria sings in her native tongue and sadly enough it doesn’t seem to fit. It’s not that she sings in Swedish (“Bekännelse”, also in Swedish fits beautifully), it’s rather the sound of the song which departs from the rest of the album, bringing troubadours from the early 1970s to mind. It all falls into place though with Victoria’s reinterpretation of Animal Collective’s “My Girls” in “My Boys”. Victoria makes it her own by mixing the influences from her past with her current surrounding just right. The second album can be the hardest one to produce and Bergsmen hasn’t taken the easy path. The end result is delightful and one that surprises. Hopefully it will inspire other acts to choose more unconventional routes in their creative process.