Dag Rosenqvist – The Forest Diaries (Eilean Records, 2015)


It’s been a rough ride with Eilean for me and the last few records they’ve put out, as evidenced by my relatively unimpressed attitude with the recent Bamboo Stilts for example, but this latest album from Dag Rosenqvist, most popularly known for his work with Jasper TX, has seemingly broken this dry spell with a really tremendously beautiful production. Here on The Forest Diaries we’re treated to moody and ethereal electroacoustic explorations that hint tantalisingly at natural spaces and cathartic feelings, sensations of peacefulness and isolationism resulting in incipient relaxation.

The record as a whole tells a minute and detailed story that expands slowly and becomes clearer through time, beginning in early movements of quiet, desolate and haunting minimalism before gaining traction and pushing back against the darkness, shepherding in a new and bright day. Opener “I” breaks the silence through tolling piano strokes, soft hammers that sound dramatic in their loneliness, supplemented only by tantalising hints of spacious pump organ drone in the backfield, creating a misty and thin air. This refined and delicate atmosphere recurs in “III” as well, its reserved strokes of sound drifting out of the refreshing quietness with a respectful and humbled air, each measured stroke weighing the languid beauty of the forest scene ahead.

Tracks “II” and “IV” balance the early album piano with their own instrumentation, with sustained drones and indistinct notations being generated by the organ to create more indistinct pieces that seem to be content in fleshing out the sparsity of the surroundings, light dustings of melodic linearity and propulsion barely detectable but still able to give some sense of forward motion. It’s only in mid-album “V” that we begin to see real empowerment, throwing the organ at the idiosyncratic piano lines of the opener and giving them some passion, no longer languishing in the easy melancholy of the previous drones. An eerie remnant seems to linger persistently in “VI” though, with its humming pulses of deep and bassy drone pulses, shuffling, miscellaneous electronica and creepy organic sounds; the trees rustling after dark and and casting an unsettling mood. Even so, it still wends its way out of its shell, repelling some of its early, dark fears as it finds its feet and lays out waves of radiating, exploratory synth.

“VIII”, appropriately clocking in at just over 8 minutes long, is easily the longest track here and as such, as always, it is afforded the best opportunity for expansion and emotional space. It billows out effortless rushes of established organic sound, with rustling leaves, gentle breezes and the sound of infrequently passing cars ladening the steeped organ drones. It enjoys the freedom of the outdoors, relishes it, and you can feel the tension and anxiety rapidly blow away as the textural density climbs and climbs, its pinnacle a heady noise cathartic landmark that winds back quickly, its energy spent as penultimate “IX” rolls in, the thick slabs of sounds replaced once again with barely-there constructions. It’s by far the most sparse and meagre piece here though, its rarified airs completely drained of all emotional baggage with nothing to show except for a few flashes of tiny synths and blissful drone emptiness.

Finally here to put the finishing touch on our little relieving journey is closer “X”, revisiting the same idiosyncratic piano lines from “I” and “V”, the last glimpse of familiarity before the close. Unlike its predecessors it seems sharper, clearer, unburdened now, melting the piano and organ notes into one another with a new and fresh face that’s ready to face the world again feeling rejuvenated. It’s an extremely satisfying conclusion to what is unquestionably a really very interesting and carefully evolving record, each track a new and deliberate step into an optimistic future with the aim of dispelling the past, of leaving our woes behind in the labyrinthine trees through which we walk.