Taken by Trees

Other Worlds

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After to traveling to Pakistan to record Taken by Trees' 2009 album East of Eden, Victoria Bergsman chose the far more relaxed island of Hawaii as a locale and inspiration for 2012's Other Worlds. On a vacation there she was struck by the state's beauty and feel and formulated a plan to make music inspired by two songs that had recently captured her ear; the Beach Boys' Hawaiian-inspired instrumental "Diamond Head" and Augustus Pablo's lilting dub instrumental "AP Special." She worked with Andreas Söderström (as she did on her last album) to capture the sounds and feel of Hawaii, went to L.A. to work with Beachwood Sparks' Farmer Dave Schur, and entrusted the Tough Alliance's Henning Fürst to produce and mix the results. Much like on East of Eden, the clash of cultures works perfectly as the swooping slide guitars melt like butter into the echoing rhythms and the atmosphere alternately conjures up smoke-filled echo chambers and the lazy tides of a calm beach. Each aspect of the sound locks together and creates a peacefully drifting mood that is never broken throughout the forty one minutes it spends caressing your ears. To focus on her collaborators is to no way lessen the importance of Bergsman's contributions. Other Worlds is her vision and is tethered to earth (and the listener's heart) by her warped melodies and always recognizable, always intimate, and charming vocal style. She rides the waves of sound like the world's most peaceful surfer, calmly avoiding spills as she bobs and weaves. Never been the most predictable vocalist from record to record, here she slips in a surprising hip-hop-style boast ("if you want my lovin'/it's not like any other) on "Not Like Any Other," that would be perfect for a very adventurous rapper to lift for a hook. Mostly though, she quietly sings of love's travails and triumphs as the music wraps around her in warm, bubbling comfort; occasionally bumping up the energy level with a dancefloor-friendly track (the disco-ska "Large" or the glittering "Dreams"), but usually camped in the sweet spot between sleepy, loving contentment ("Highest High," "In Other Words") and tropical sunshine (the steel drum jam "Pacific Blue," the almost straight-up reggae "I Want You.") Too often, a project like this can smack of cultural tourism of the worst kind, rendering the recordings either pale imitations of the jacked style or condescendingly educational works of "art." Bergsman's adventures never come off that way at all, thanks to how deeply she submerges herself in the inner workings of the foreign sounds, and also how she makes sure to never lose her own style and vision while doing this. Just like East of Eden, Other Worlds works both as a sonic experiment and as an expression of Bergsman's adventurous soul.

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