Review Summary: Disturbingly beautiful: Fredrik take North European folk, mix it with electronics to produce something wonderful, but somehow unnatural.
There are some things in this world that can be said to balance on the edge of a knife; the success of Fredrik
's style is one of them. We see the combination of two polar opposites: an endearing warmth and remnants of cold hostility, inspiring happy childhood memories that seem somehow tainted... like they're not quite right. With their first full-length album, the Swedish, electro-folk group succeeded in balancing this perfectly. Now that they've tasted blood, Fredrik
take their schizophrenic attitude and expand it: the charm is still there, as are the tales of running from monsters, but now there is a real presence of something sinister. In essence, although it may not appear so at first glance, Flora
Unsurprisingly, in relation to their debut, the music to be found on this LP has begun to move away from the Scandinavian-folk roots and into the ambient/electronic realm. Tracks will greet you with an almost oppressive, opaque wall of sound; although the strong presence of horns and chimes remain as a reminder of the folk elements to Flora
. The track Chrome Cavities
, for example, maintains a constant wall of light bass and synths, peppered sporadically with echoing percussion and a fill which could easily be taken for screaming. Confusingly, the end result is beautiful despite the disturbing uncertainty lying behind it all. Conversely, Rites of Spring
is tightly woven around a strong, persistent beat reminiscent of a dance song or parade march. However, it's set at a tempo that, along with the hushed vocals, turns this beat into a kind of slow, ethereal shuffle.
The variation present on Flora
is impressive, especially considering how finely Fredrik
have to measure out their influences. Genres such as drone ambient, straight folk, cinematic orchestral and dance all make an appearance, though here they're united enough by the constant folk and electronic presence to prevent Flora
losing a sense of coherence. This collective feel is enforced by how some songs will fade into each other and how the placing of certain songs gives them added meaning. For example, Axis
, as a comparatively soft and innocent song, is placed at the end to produce a sense of respite.
's use of vocals has definitely reclined further since their debut. The mixture of male and female voice is only really present in a handful of songs, and even then they're often reduced to supporting the ambient synths. Once again, this is not because the vocals are particularly weak, instead it's a testament to the incredible strength and power of Flora
's instrumental sections. The lyrics, when present, mirror the folk trend of focusing on dreams, memories and tall-tales. While they may not particularly connect or inspire, they certainly contribute a great deal to the atmosphere.
Sadly, owing to the brilliantly experimental nature of Flora
, it's slightly rough around the edges. Cracks start appearing in some songs when the atmosphere doesn't fit quite
right and the charm slips, but the LP certainly has the personality to prevent this from damaging what is a truly excellent album.