Jonathan Östlund: Voyages

review ostland x1 cong

We always thought that if the fairies — and they do exist —wanted someone to play a gig, they’d get Östlund. He writes music that’s not wishy-washy or fey (the fey being a less pleasant race than the fairies to boot) but is ethereal and creates the atmosphere of being half-formed, in the sense of feeling that some of the music is in another dimension. It’s not difficult to listen to, but even in the denser sections, its other-worldliness carrying it through.

Russian composer Vyacheslav Artyomov writes ethereal music for outer space, conveying the size of infinity and the tininess of Us, while Östlund is ethereal in a misty woods sort of way; he is inspired by nature.

The opening piece of this double CD is L’al di là (Thema), clarinet (with a harp intro), the gentle music for a gentle dance involving a small person in a diaphanous dress.

Track two Etesian is harsher, the piano being played with some force, though it soon becomes merely lively, the pianist’s left hand rolling along the scale in a way that’s not dissimilar to a blues/rock n roll bassline in one place, then gentle and calm.

He’s all over the place on styles: not counting the hints of jazz, Twilight Wind And Mandolin features violin and piano (and no mandolin), the violin ranging from haunting to beautiful, with some Lark Ascending lightness in places. Veils Of Night — as its name perhaps suggests — goes a bit Artyomov staring-into-eternity, as the music gets denser.

Side two — it’s actually one long work spread over two sides and was originally download-only — features some church organ, mixed in with the strings, piano and orchestra. On Gate Of Northern Lights, the organ is joined by a violin — how often does that happen? — to create something that’s a cross between the heavy gothic and the romantic. In other places there’s piano that could be either 200 years old or something new by pop singer turned ambassador for the piano Chilly Gonzalez.

Tracks include Air On A Grieg Theme, Fantasia on Bach’s Badinerie and Dacian Prayer, “two fantasias on ancient hymns”, so he takes in all eras of music.

He writes in the sleeve notes that he wants to create “a dream-world where everything is continuously possible” and talks about “dialogues-through-time” so talking about fairies is not too far wide of the mark.

You don’t come across much that is genuinely unique, and even then, as enchanting and interesting as this. Östlund is Swedish, but lives in London. His previous album, Lunaris is also worth a listen.

This is out now on Divine Art, DDA 21232.


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