Album Reviews

Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden: I get along without you very well

The Swedish composers return with their latest collaboration effort.

Following the release of their 2017 collaboration LP, For Organ and Brass, Swedish composers Ellen Arkbro and Johan Graden return with I get along without you very well.

Together, Arkbro and Graden capture the kind of fragile emotional intensity likened to Breathless’ latest LP, See Those Colours Fly. Both projects vastly different of course, as Arkbro and Graden find themselves immersed in the world of composition as opposed to dream pop.

A prominent pipe organist as well as boasting a solid repertoire for brass and winds, Arkbro is a vital voice in the avant-garde alongside modern day composers such as Sarah Davachi and Anna von Hausswolff. Meanwhile, Graden hasn’t been far away from this world, either (his brother Filip a cellist, while his father Gary a conductor and musical director).

Composition has taken the pair across various parts of the world with Arkbro a constant presence across Europe, appearing from everywhere from Paris’ GRM and Köln’s Kölner Philharmonie to The Barbican in London, while Graden lives in Amman Jordan where he plies his trade within the Jordanian experimental scene.

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Their far-reaching journeys are telling on I get along without you very well. An album that captures space and freezes time.

In the lead-up to the release of I get along without you very well, Arkbro said that the pair had spent as much time talking about the music as working on it. “Exploring our ways of thinking and being,” she said. And it’s evident when listening to these eight compositions. Unravelling in slow-motion, the series of subtle stings, sparse percussions, fleeting brass form as perfect bedding of sound for Arkbo’s neo-noir-like vocal delivery.

Ellen Arkrbo & Johan Graden - I get along without you very well

Starting with the beautiful opener, Close. Perhaps the finest track on the album, Arkbro and Graden take the scalpel to slowcore with the kind of cosmetic surgery that presents the genre in gorgeous new textures.

Cloaked in rich strings and Graden’s floating pianos, Out of luck sounds like a performance delivered from the dark alleys of Berlin. Background music for the broken-hearted, chain smoking whisky hounds. So too All in bloom, which builds with the kind of intensity of an Angelo Badalamenti composition. It’s essentially where noir and cinema meet.

While Never near rises elegantly like plumes of smoke, on Temple Arkbro is front and centre – her delivery like ice running through the veins. Meanwhile on Other Side, her performance offers an ephemeral fragility like no other moment on I get along without you very well. Her voice like a ghost passing through each room.

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Love you, bye and closing piece, Waqt, continue in a similar vein, however the syncopated percussion forms the kind of bourgeoning backdrops once delivered by Bark Psychosis. Merely sounds stuck the shadows and behind Arkbro’s spectral voice, the perfect vibe is concocted.  

With I get along without you very well, Arbrok and Graden take us on the kind of journey that feels like an out-of-body experience in slow-motion. It’s hard to pinpoint let alone explain. Talking of the process, Graden offered a rather salient point: “This music and the process of making it, in many ways felt like a return to an early source of inspiration.”

It makes sense, and while there is a nostalgia quality to I get along without you very well, equally there is an eerie sonic prescience to it. Like sounds you’ve never heard before. It’s an odd juxtaposition to be met with, however that’s what makes I get along without you very well so unique.

I get along without you very well is out now via Thrill Jockey. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

One reply on “Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden: I get along without you very well”

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