The problem with genres is that they can only really describe the limits of something. They are great at sketching out musical demarcations but not so good when it comes to trying to discussing anything which inhabits those points of collision beyond or between, or anything which seems to be more about following its own rules rather than the traditions of the past. In fact, anything which is too far ahead of the curve.
Astrid Engberg makes music which is all of those things.
Tulpa is the sound of music scenes evolving and whilst it leans towards sounds of the past, soul, jazz and some more R&B style grooves on songs such as Dreamers. Its beauty lies very much in its lightness of touch and the weaving of some wonderfully contemporary sounds through the proceedings.
Opening track Oasis is the perfect calling card for the new paths that the album wanders. The new fusions it creates, a blend of chiming and charming, jazz-infused delicacy but hinting at the more indie and electronic sounds, spaces and atmospherics which are very much an integral part of the album.
Daylight conjures a gentle musical landscape, one which seems to combine a slick and sophisticate uptown yesteryear groove with some shimmering and cinematic modernity and the title track which rounds the album off is an even more experimental take on such sounds. Perhaps the sound of jazz had it been invented 100 years hence and so resting on a whole different set of traditions.
At the other extreme Wave runs on some busy and bustling percussion and breezy brass and Marielle is a strange blend of spoken word samples, brooding cellos and tribal beats, all of which wave in and out of this short but beguiling sonic montage.
So, as I said, this is the sound of soul and jazz evolving, perhaps too much for some peoples tastes, but that is the problem all true visionaries are always faced with. And Astrid Engberg is a true visionary.
It would be all too easy for her to play to expectations, to follow fashion and fad and give people what they want. Instead, she gives people what she wants or maybe what she thinks they need, and that is always going to be a trickier path. But the results speak for themselves and what we are presented with is the opening of a new chapter, one where the very labels we use seem to be insufficient for the modern world, at least for music found beyond the mainstream, were people such as Astrid Engberg work. But that seems a much more interesting place than a trad-jazz bar listening to the same old standards. Doesn’t it? Of course, they have their place, but why be content with the past when you can experience a taste of the future?
This is the sound of soul and jazz evolving, perhaps too much for some peoples tastes, but that is the problem all true visionaries are always faced with. And Astrid Engberg is a true visionary.