Astrid Øster Mortensen
At its best, experimental music knows no bounds. All the better when it defies the expectations of that term. Toward the beginning of the Spring of 2020, the Danish born, Gothenburg based artist, Astrid Øster Mortensen, dropped Gro Mig En Blomst, her debut LP. It did a bit of both. Almost entirely overlooked during the moment, as the ensuing months progressed, whispers of its brilliance wound out from the source, slowly percolated in the underground. With Skærgårdslyd, her follow up, Discreet Music returns this artist of rare sensitiveness to our ears. Rethinking the boundaries between song and experimental practice at every turn, once again Mortensen proves herself to be an artist of rare vision, achieving a profound sense of beauty and intimacy within its radical forms.
Relatively new to the Gothenburg scene, very little is known about Astrid Øster Mortensen. Her debut, issued by Förlag För Fri Musik, came out of nowhere, effortless carving out a place alongside label peers like Enhet För Fri Musik, Arv & Miljö, and Blod, projects that have recently come to define some of the most exciting trajectories in Swedish underground and experimental music. Balancing the irreverence and immediacy of DIY and Lo-fi with an unmistakably refined sense of musical sophistication, Mortensen’s practice traces a fascinating boundary between songwriting, musique concrète, field recording, and experimental composition; delicate melodies offer equal presence alongside interjections of her voice, and a vast pallet of non-instrumental and environmental sounds.
Another masterstroke of sound collage - transforming musicality into something profound and unexpected - across the length of Skærgårdslyd, Mortensen pushes even further into explicitly experimental realms. Recorded in the southern Gothenburg archipelago during early 2021, the album’s eight compositions were inspired by the windy landscapes within which it was born. While traditional sensibilities of “song” are present, when placed alongside Gro Mig En Blomst, abstraction and chance play a more central role, gifting these pieces a richer, more subtle and contemplative character. The textures of ambient space dance with the happenings of within and without, cocooning fractured, off kilter melodies that slowly take form - via voice, guitar, fiddle, church organ, and piano - often feeling so fragile and delicate that they might pull themselves apart in real time.
Like its predecessor, Skærgårdslyd is a profoundly delicate and beautiful body of work, defined by a disarming sense of craft and sophistication. Its songs are proudly human, vulnerable, and direct, tapping something from deep within the human consciousness about the impulse to organize sound, while being radical and new. This is experimental music in a raw and fundamental form, rooted in the joy of making and stripped of grandeur and pretension. Impossible to recommend enough, Skærgårdslyd is a revolution, and proof of a rising star in our midst. Issued by Discreet Music in a limited vinyl edition that’s sure to place Mortensen as a household name.