Fredrik

Flora

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    7
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By the time of Flora, Fredrik's third full-length, the Malmö, Sweden-based outfit expanded into a trio with the inclusion of an additional multi-instrumentalist/vocalist, Anna Moberg. But relatively little changed in terms of their music, which remains highly tactile, atmospheric, gently surreal folk-pop, although that genre tag hardly does justice to the idiosyncratic particulars of their sound, as they continue to wander gradually further from anything readily recognizable as either folk or pop. Meanwhile, their careful attention to intimate, intricate sonic detail has only deepened, with a new profusion of curious, clattering, enchanted, and occasionally haunted soundscapes; instruments listed in the credits this time include balalaika, zither, alto horn, music box, glass objects, owl whistles, and "tree trunk kalimba," but it can sometimes be hard to envision how music this murky and mystical could even be of human origin. Tonally and energetically, Flora falls somewhere in between its two predecessors: there's a greater sense of activity and a more pronounced rhythmic drive than on the largely subdued, often somber Trilogi (particularly on the pounding "Chrome Cavities" and the polyrhythmic, cowbell-led instrumental "The North Greatern," though it's true throughout), but Flora never quite recaptures the clarity and brightness that made certain moments of their debut, Na Na Ni, so utterly captivating. Song for song, none of Flora's seven vocal numbers (there are four brief instrumentals) announces itself with the melodic charm and arresting simplicity of "Black Fur" or "1986," or even Trilogi standout "Flax," although the sweetly tuneful "Inventress of Ill" is in the same general ballpark. But by this point in their career it's clear that Fredrik are less interested in creating immediate, hummable stand-alone numbers than they are in crafting an expansive, evocative listening experience. They haven't lost the ability to pen strong, simple melody lines -- there is still a handful of them here -- but the often dense, mesmeric layers of sound surrounding them, combined with Fredrik Hultin's typically hushed, understated vocal delivery, render them far less prominent. Still, it's hard to deny that their music has grown richer as it's gotten subtler, and in keeping with that tendency Flora is their lushest, dreamiest, most sonically and texturally abundant exploration to date.

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