Pershagen are a Swedish quartet that has just signed to Lövely Records, and released their third studio album Hilma at the end of April. They have a signature sound that is defined by strong cinematic songs, where colourful instrumental rock mixes psychedelic rock with indie, grunge and alternative rock – they were once described by Swedish music site Festivalrykten as “Pine forest-rock”! – as in “Of all the ingenious new sub-genres that‘s been coined in recent years, Pershagen‘s “Pine forest-rock” is one of the most accurate”.
Regardless of genre label, Pershagen like to captivate! After several tours in Scandinavia, China, Russia and parts of Europe, the band has gained a reputation of being an outstanding live act that is able to enchant its audience in almost hypnotic way – whether it’s in a smoky club in Germany, a rock bar in China, as a headline act at a festival, or at a hippie party with the forest as a backdrop, they’ve developed a reputation for being a contagious live act with a very loyal following.
The band was formed on an August evening in 2014, inspired by Neil Young’s gig at Stockholm Music & Arts College. Jimmie Nilsson, Johan Kalla and Miranda Johansson seized the moment, the idea being to create instrumental music that reflected their home town Norrbotten’s winter months – down to earth, cold, beautiful but still with melancholy! They produced a first EP Silverarken, then graduated to their debut full-length album Den siste av mitt namn in 2015. Extensive touring followed before they penned the second album Tarfala in 2018, each successive release being a natural development and critically more successful. The band opened at Sweden’s largest gala for independent music, The Manifest Gala, joined on stage by the Swedish psych rock legend Gustav Ejstes (Dungen, Amason) who also featured on the album. The band’s personnel has since changed slightly, now featuring Jimmie Nilsson (guitar); Theo Stocks (pedal steel, guitar); Andreas Sahlin (bass) and Johan Kalla (drums) – all of which brings us up to date and the new album!
Hilma sees the band delve deeper into their very own niche of dreamy and cinematic instrumental music. Nine tracks all share a combination of psychedelic rock intertwining with post-rock; Scandinavian gloominess melting melodically into colourful moments of sheer bliss. Constantly moving between darkness and light, Hilma throws the listener on a journey of both improvised jams as well as elegantly arranged compositions. So the album opens with the short ‘Klangskog’ (yep, all the titles are in Swedish and my translation skills are thin), it’s a slow, pastoral number, shades of Pink Floyd ruminating on sunsets, that sort of thing. And it’s quite lovely! The title track is totally different, a fuzzed-out chord progression providing the meaty underpinning to their signature pealing notes. Very Post-rock, very insidiously working its way into my brain!
‘Langt Bort’ Nara takes us back into that dreamy sense of a cinematic sunset, an elegaic end to the day, before gradually building into a very spontaneous-sounding work-out. No lyrics but totally absorbing! The following ‘Alla Mins den Sista Gangen’ is another atmospheric masterpiece – see the video below – it swirls and remorselessly encaptures. I’m hooked!
Next up is Karelia, at seven minutes 26 seconds the longest track on the album. It occurs to me that Pershagen have an innate sense of playing what feels right, tuneful, sometimes bluesy, always atmospheric, and keeping things very simple without the need to over-elaborate. Even here, with a sort of live extended jam session, it’s still organic and “right”. And so it continues, the next track ‘Ofug…’ sounds looser, experimental, jagged even – but still clean and tuneful? As with all purely instrumental albums, without the “stories” in lyrics my brain does begin to wander slightly towards the end, but Im never remotely bored by it, it’s still hugely immersive. And just when I’m thinking the closing track Archangelsk is a bit light, it builds to a satisfying end.
The key word in all the above is melodic. Softly jangling, with elements of Nordic folk music meeting fuzzy, overdriven grinding, experimental psych rock and guitar driven Indie. This is sort of what I imagine Hank Marvin might sound like if he was born twenty-something years ago?!
I found Hilma to be a captivating, immersive listen throughout its 40 minutes, constantly introducing new soundscapes and musical components – but always with a freshness and that over-riding sense of melodic charm, whether it be psych-rock chords or dreamy full-on melancholic psychedelia. The closest recent music I can compare it with is Dawnwalker, but Pershagen are gentler, without the occasional doomblast of the former.
‘Hilma’ was created during 2020 and 2021. The album was recorded in Pershagen’s own Studio LUR by Elias Ortiz. Mixed by Albin Eidhagen and mastered by Anders Hellgren. They’ve done a grand job!