Henrik Lindstrand is something of an anomaly. Keyboard player with Danish heavy rock group Kashmir, he found himself a part of one of Scandinavia’s most famous bands, working with luminaries such as Lou Reed, Tony Visconti and David Bowie. The band went on hiatus in 2013 and since then Lindstrand has returned to his classically trained roots – working on film soundtracks and releasing two neo-classical instrumental albums. Leken was released in 2017 and was followed by Nattresan in 2019.
Nordhem sees the completion of this trilogy and like his two previous albums, it is intimate yet cinematic, with the piano being the only instrument used. Nordhem means ‘north home’ and as Lindstrand explains ‘The main theme in the trilogy is going back to my roots, peeling off all the layers and seeking something beautiful, heartfelt and honest’. Nordhem does just that, paring the music and arrangements back to only sounds created by the piano. Yet, like fellow innovative pianist Poppy Ackroyd, Lindstrand pushes the boundaries of what the listener can expect from an album of piano solos.
The most interesting tracks on Nordhem play with melody and soundscape while pushing the limits of what the piano could and should sound like.
In the evocative opener Dungen, a simple yet emotive melody is played over what sounds like brushed drums, while the subtle layering of Jum-Jum uses soft pedal and bass arpeggios to create the illusion of a pattering of percussion instruments. Listening to the hopeful Loranga, you would bet money on the inclusion of a wind instrument, while the standout Bia Berget swoops and builds to what at first listen appears to be a choir of voices. The autumnal melodic conceit of Hallonlandet is augmented by a textured bass that gives the illusion of crunching leaves.
These are thoughtful and delicate pieces infused with touches that set them apart from standard solo piano works – the distant hints of other textures, touches of unsettling, unplaceable sounds, give a depth to these otherwise simple, folk-inflected melodies.
At times, Lindstrand wears his influences close to the surface. Syrsor is reminiscent of Steve Reich, with its harmonic rhythms and playful repetitive melody which loops backwards and forwards from the bass to the high register. Valborg and Portal-Neu echo Satie and with their tender, thoughtful melodies and simple arrangements.
A few pieces here make little impact and at times Lindstrand’s music can veer into background territory but at its best Nordhem combines emotional melody with clever arrangements to create a hypnotising sonic world.
Contemporary classical piano music is having something of a moment, with artists such as Dustin O’Halloran, Nils Frahm, Max Richter and Sophie Hutchings all vying for attention. It’s not easy to make this kind of music impactful and the very simplicity of Lindstrand’s work belies the real technical artistry needed to create these sounds from just one instrument. His tonal handling, purity of melody and depth of arrangements mean that Lindstrand might not be returning to stadium rock anytime soon.
4. Blå Berget
6. Gamla Skolor
9. Stora Huset
10. Stjärnvägar (I)
11. Stjärnvägar (II)