I was saying only the other day, in a review of Ocelot, that Finnish bands and artists are (and I quote) so different – and consistently so, no matter what the genre – from what emanates from any of the other Nordic countries, or anywhere in Europe for that matter, that you have to ask yourself whether they are collectively working at a different artistic level to the rest.
That’s always been the case with Astrid Swan, a lady who has been through some trials and tribulations over the last few years, but who prefers to put them aside in favour of writing and singing about children, and especially her own daughter.
A couple of years ago I came across her song ‘Silvi’s Dream’ her first solo piece for four years and which I believe was dedicated to her daughter. She picks up the pieces again here in ‘In the Woods’ which she says “is a song for daughters of any age to let their sorrow out. Let it show, feel it. This song is a place for sadness so that in your everyday life, you can live without carrying around the heavy weight of ungrieved sorrows. Don’t be afraid of grief, it won’t crush you!”
Do you see what I mean about ‘different’? What other artist would write a song that serves no other purpose than to act as a conduit for otherwise unchanneled sadness, in a child?
There is a video to go with it as well and it tells a story about the relationship between parents and their children, concentrating on the moments of parents being absent; that absence resulting from reasons as diverse as parental exhaustion, the need for privacy, leaving for work, or death. So, many of the ephemeral and final reasons for such absence are covered. I guess the final reason is connected to the fact that Astrid Swan lives with a chronic illness and has done for several years and that must influence her approach to song writing generally
In the video, “the mother enters another reality seeking comfort and engaging in the conversation between shadow and light. The light embraces the mother’s needs, ensuring that everything is taken care of after we are gone.”
You know, this really could be depressing. It is a subject that shapes much of her song writing as I said and a couple of years ago she released an EP with Stina Koistinen, who has also suffered from chronic illness, which covered the whole gamut and could have been unlistenable.
It was anything but, in fact it was life affirming, and in its own way so is ‘In the Woods’. It’s happy and sad at the same time. Musically, Astrid Swan is a master at introducing instruments such as synthesisers subtly into songs where you wouldn’t think they belonged while her lyricism is always evocative:
“Go past the places you know/into the strange and the cold/in the heart of darkness you’ll be free/Free to cry the tears that your heart bleeds”.
The video (by Valreza Collective: Tekla Vály & Tereza Holubová) is replete with imagery, much of which I’m still struggling to get my head around (why are there two bed sheets hung on a washing line –what does that signify?) but which in the early part arcanely reminded me of the final part of Lars von Trier’s ‘Melancholia’ in which Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg prepare for the end of the world as the rogue planet approaches, one calm, the other shaking.
Yep, both the song and the video are in that class.
‘In the Woods’ (Radio Edit) is released on the 14th October 2022.
Astrid Swan’s debut novel will be published in 2023.
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