Plant life is central to the human experience: everything we eat comes directly or indirectly from plants; we derive shelter and medicines from them; and thousands of years of spiritual sustenance has been sought from them. We rely on plants completely, and yet we take them for granted daily and devise ingenious methods for destroying them en masse. We love them and ignore them in equal measure.
Swedish label Hibiskofon takes this functional definition a good deal further in this ambitious Själablomster compilation. It’s the third release from the label, and bugger me, it’s amazing. Presented in a foldout chipboard cover with beautiful silkscreened ink derived from red onion, it’s aesthetically and conceptually pure.
“Själablomster” roughly translates into “flowers of the soul“, with the subtitle referring to “parafloral observations in sound and tone“. The label’s owner has referred to “parafloral” as a play on concepts such as “paranormal” and “paramilitary”, where “para” denotes something that transcends ordinary flora. It speaks of our myriad intangible experiences with plants that make us human. Semilanceata’s “Ofrö dvaler till vissnad ört” opens the cassette quite literally with a mechanical click of a tape deck before presenting a slowly spiraling chime motif. It plays throughout the track against delayed wind instruments and a vague wooden clang: really beautiful stuff. Red Room’s lengthy “Det ensamma trädet multnar ner i jorden” delves headlong into field recordings of birds and botanical crackle, wind and bluster, and proceedings both human and mechanical. Strings, guitar and Martin Denny style exotica samples provide a playful edge.
B. Åstrom (also responsible for the cover silk screening) closes Side A with one of the standouts of the tape, “Folkewall”. A mournful melotron melody swirls atop strings and stuttered, restrained percussion. It’s overwhelmingly sad and absolutely beautiful, and I find myself going back to it again and again.
Side B opens with a lovely collage of field recordings from Krökta Rum, “Morfologisk mimicry”. It’s like sitting in an abandoned cabin overgrown with weeds, whipped and buffeted by forest winds and fir needles (which may well be what it is). Doors creak, chains clatter and rusty gates wheeze. The fidelity of the recordings is spot on, making it a very visceral listen.
Thilda Persson’s “Picea abies” is a subdued acoustic guitar piece: slow, steady picks and a slightly hummed tune. Lovely. But trust Kristian Olsson (Alfarmania, Blood ov Thee Christ etc etc) to drag proceedings into the weed-strewn mud with his trademark post-mortem. The lo-fi mess of “Priestess of the somniferal swamps (oneiromantic voyage)” is stylistically the most “industrial” of the tape, but sits well amongst the diversity of the other tracks. A queezy drone arcs over rumble and clatter, with impressionistic field recordings of far less obvious origin. It’s a strong closer to an outstanding tape.
My inability to translate most of the track titles doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the album. The tracks are largely impressionistic in their interpretation of the theme, and the album is airtight. I’ve not heard any other releases from Hibiskofon, but it is clearly a label to watch closely.
01) Semilanceata – Ofrö dvaler till vissnad ört
02) Red Room – Det ensamma trädet multnar ner i jorden
03) B. Åstrom – Folkewall
01) Krökta Rum – Morfologisk mimicry
02) Thilda Persson – Picea abies
03) Kristian Olsson – Priestess of the somniferal swamps (oneiromantic voyage)