Victoria Bergsman, under her official moniker, Taken by Trees, recorded a cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” for the remake of The Last House on the Left. And we all know that the best kinds of covers are those that offer something new and inviting, instead of a carbon-copy with different singers. The cover can be heard here and it’s a treat to hear; Bergsman’s voice is frail and unadulterated and her accompanying piano and beats make for a resolute cover.
Her new album brings her music into an entirely different state of mind. Where that cover is cleverly smart and indebted to the California band who wrote it, East of Eden finds the singer, along with multi-instrumentalist Andreas Söderström, traveling to Pakistan in hopes of a new-found love. What they discovered was a common love for the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and a group of musicians who had previously played with Khan.
There’s absolutely no need to feel skeptical about this sort of encounter; as noted beforehand, Bergsman is one that enjoys attempting adventurous obstacles and again, resolutely conquering them. For those that don’t know, she’s the chief voice behind Peter Bjorn and John’s smash hit, “Young Folks.” So, introductions aside, East of Eden is a worldly sounding album that still maintains an intimately personal feel. Affectionate, intriguing and absorbing, Bergsman’s music is of the finest variety.
Travelling to Pakistan sounds like such a challenging choice, one can only imagine what the pay-off must have felt like. Söderström’s instruments lend a supportive role to Bergsman’s lyrics and beats and the local Sufi musicians appear in both vocal and instrumental roles. The “Greyest Love of All” at first, appears to be some sort of disappointing revelation but, decorated with humming flutes and the twittering pallet of percussion, it arrives as one flowering opening. Harshly juxtaposed with its following counterpart, “Tidens Gang” is an ominous, gloomy fixture. Perhaps it is the foreign language, the minor chords or even the strumming of the guitar; the songs are like night and day.
Taking chances is always something that needs to be rewarded. Not because it’s the easy thing to do but because it is purely logical for an artist to give in to their inner desires. “To Lose Someone” introduces us to her acquired sounds and while she effortlessly sings, “No one can take your place,” the music’s fusion of beats with Middle Eastern voices and instruments is sublime. Whether she’s singing love songs about finding someone in an “unfamiliar town” or about capturing the necessities in life first, her voice is magnetically mesmerizing.
The presence of Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) on “Anna” is a terrific choice and his summery vocals offer a distinct charisma to the song’s placid feel. And while she does extremely well in delivering another cover (taking Animal Collective’s “My Girls” into a poised, captivating version entitled, “My Boys,”) the star of the show is Bergsman’s musicianship. She even, daringly smart that is, finds ways to let go of everything and encapsulates herself into the culture she visited. “Bekannelse,” through quiet swarms of ambience and drones, reflectively places Bergsman to the backdrop of children’s voices. And while she intuitively beckons in response, she depicts the imagery of the cover gorgeously: looking over the ledge of a bold sunset, covered from head to toe in a protective sheen of mist.
You can’t fix something unless it’s broken and even at that, you need to give someone the chance to correct a mistake before entirely giving up. Fortunately, in this scenario, Bergsman’s coming up triumphant with every course of action. Through it all, it’s clear that she’s made the progressive step forward to providing us with a sensational album of significant heights.
“Watch the Waves” by Taken by Trees