Formerly guitarist with Swedish gothic death merchants TRIBULATION, Jonathan Hultén surprised everybody, perhaps even himself, when he transformed into an artful singer songwriter. Both his debut EP "The Dark Night Of The Soul" and subsequent full-length, "Chants From Another Place" were spellbinding, and full of gently psychedelic and quietly inventive songwriting that plundered from everywhere and nowhere, all while steeped in the icy ambience of a frozen forest, with just a slight hint of lysergic intervention thrown in.
Comprising new and more experimental versions of songs from both previous releases, "The Forest Sessions" grew from a mainly visual project, wherein Hultén and colleagues filmed eight live performances at different locations in Stockholm, resulting in eight unique mini-movies and necessarily distinct new interpretations of the songs themselves. Those videos are included here on the accompanying DVD, alongside performances captured for Roadburn Festival's lockdown-inspired Roadburn Redux event in 2021 (two of which are featured in audio form too).
As winter draws in like some kind of demented bulldozer, these stripped down but defiantly odd new takes on Hultén's songs work perfectly well without visual dressing. In particular, "Wasteland" is an instantly immersive starting point, with its treacly drones and sepia-stained rumblings, while "Where Devils Weep" sounds even more like a throwback from the early days of psychedelic folk, lush vocal harmonies and watery, speaker-to-speaker panning included. Cascading pipe organ provides Hultén's voice with a newly grandiose backdrop for "…And The Pillars Tremble", while "The Call To Adventure" wanders into '80s art-pop, full of dark confidence and prog rock bravado. "The Mountain" is the most beautiful of all: a simple, austere folk song that blossoms into something more nuanced and peculiar, it has the same magical otherness that turned ancestors like John Martyn and Nick Drake into legends. The Roadburn Redux versions of "The Call To Adventure" and the autumnal acid-rock adventure of "A Dance In The Road" are enchanting, too.
Beautiful and strange, "The Forest Sessions" will keep us all warm until Hultén makes his enchanting next move.