Jakob Olausson Morning and Sunrise

[De Stijl; 2011]

Styles: psychedelic folk-rock
Others: Sus & Jakob, Joshua Jugband 5, Six Organs of Admittance, early Smog/Silver Jews

Swedish psychedelic folkie Jakob Olausson first achieved recognition in 2005 with his debut solo LP, Moonlight Farm, released on De Stijl and featuring an acidic, reverb-drenched Scandinavian variant on Skip Spence’s Oar (minus the heartbreaking humor). A onetime member of the Joshua Jugband 5 (not really a jug band), he also participates in the communal improvisation duo Sus & Jakob. While not hugely prolific in terms of a discography, Olausson’s work — championed by Ben Chasny among others — is more than a blip on the contemporary psych landscape. Morning and Sunrise is his second solo disc with eight pieces fleshed out through the magic of overdubbing (in addition to singing, Olausson plays all the instruments — guitars, bass, organ, drums). The vibe certainly nods, albeit independently, to Six Organs of Admittance in echoing, darkly-lush loner entreaties with hints of an early 1990s Drag City motel room grind.

The set opens with “Don’t Drown in Sorrows,” cottony fuzz cutting through a loping, shambled-time acoustic guitar and snare backbeat. Olausson’s vocals are husky and ringing, reverberant and wafting, as twined, bluesy electricity snakes along a pained lope. “Keep the Sky from Falling” is an alternately hushed, plaintive, and atmospheric acoustic tune, with Olausson’s deep tenor belting out lyrics that are granted seismic weight and detached drift. It’s a perhaps unconscious coyness that he has, delivering emotionally wrought lines that, despite his pronounced voice, are wrapped in trippy ambiguity. There’s a Silver Jews-like (or, if you prefer, a drunken Moby Grape) feeling to “Riding on the Wind,” shambolic strum and out-of-tune harmonies granted a dry insistence, but Olausson’s wistful desperation comes across honestly against disheveled full-band demeanor.

It’s not always decipherable what, precisely, Olausson’s delivering — words can be quite buried in tape effects — but the mood is usually sonically clear — “Engraved Invitation,” for example, maintains a sunny Inland Empire quality. “You Left Town When Your Bridges Burned” doesn’t require anything more obvious than its refrain, which is rending and wry even though it’s presented in a loose, weary, and earth-toned framework. The concept of a record’s “vibe” is worth mentioning again, because though that is endemic to Olausson’s work, it can get the best of him as well. For example, while instrumentally a bit fuller than its predecessor, Morning and Sunrise doesn’t use that to inspire variety, instead keeping subtle gradations of hue across eight frayed tunes, and that can wear a bit thin. Although it’s an affecting set — one can feel the singer’s mood quite palpably — there are certainly passages that seem inessential or repetitive. Still, Olausson is an undeniably powerful voice in modern-day lysergic folk.

Links: Jakob Olausson - De Stijl

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