(Sweden) SoLBLoMMa– Charles de Gaulle (The Terminal Mix)
Stockholm’s Queen of Quirkiness returns with a re-mix of a track released earlier in the year – ‘Charles de Gaulle’. But this isn’t any old remix. It marks the return after 20 years no less of legendary Swedish producer Johan Vävare, known as the Brian Eno of his country, who apparently now resides in Vietnam and whose production skills have not been heard on any Swedish release since the late 1990s.
In the 80s and 90s Vävare established himself as one of Sweden’s leading music talents, with soundscapes and ideas that were integral parts of classic recordings with a host of Swedish stars too long to mention but which did include the Bowie-a-like Thomas di Leva, who is himself undergoing a renaissance at the moment.
I lost count of the instruments and paraphernalia Vävare’s added here – everything from a harpsichord to an alarm clock – but nothing overshadows the almost plaintive piano riff, which he left untouched. The line “Attention please, will all passengers travelling with SoLBLoMMato Planet Earth please report to the information desk” is pure genius.
Vävare said, “One day I happened to find SoLBLoMMa online – an irresistible blend of Goldfrapp, Pippi Longstocking and Albert Einstein. I just had to make contact with her! I mean, how many other artists create IQ-tests in their spare time? I really love this song… Emptiness. Time that stands still. A crazy, lonely lady walking around the terminal talking to herself” … “The airplane will come and get me”. Her dreams of flying away… elsewhere… sometime… maybe…”
It speaks volumes about SoLBLoMMa’s idiosyncratic appeal that Vävare was tempted out of retirement to do this re-mix. She’s an acquired taste but more than ever we need these people operating at the margins of society to help keep us sane.
‘Charles de Gaulle (The Terminal Mix by Johan Vävare)’ was released as a single on September 14th and is featured on the EP ‘Come and Have a Coffee with Me at Charles de Gaulle’ (released September 28th).
That EP also features a remix by EvOLu who works with members of Depeche Mode and Peaches and contains the original single mix and two new remixes by Solblomma herself.
“My old friend Neil Mason is a man who knows about music, he founded and edits the excellent Electronic Sound Magazine and has written for NME, Melody Maker and many others. When Neil raves about a new act, I always pay attention and am always rewarded. SoLBLoMMa (Swedish, by total coincidence) is a case in point. Like an immortal Instagram Pippi Långstrump, SoLBLoMMa has been sitting alone in Charles de Gaulle for a hundred years, just waiting for you to join her for coffee and fika, and she is so terribly lonely. ‘Charles de Gaulle’ is surreal and dream-like, but poignant and heartfelt at the same time. A four-minute masterpiece from an alternative universe.“
Solblomma måste ändå vara Sveriges charmigaste artist.
Med sin egensinniga stil och röst, samt hennes enorma kärlek till tåg är det svårt att inte bli charmad av hennes låtar och videor. För ett tag sedan släppte sångerskan singeln Charles de Gaulle, där hon sjunger om att hon är ensam och strandsatt på den stora flygplatsen Charles de Gaulle – lite som Tom Hanks-karaktär i filmen The Terminal.
Låten släpps både i sin originalversion som singel och som en mer chillad och vacker remix i videon som går under det passande namnet Tax Free. Videon är förresten filmad på Stockholm-Arlanda och Prag-Václav Havels flygplats, så en bit ifrån den franska.
Charles de Gaulle is the first international single in a year from Swedish pop princess SoLBLoMMa (a “one of a kind artist”, if there ever was one!) and follows last year´s single Still Happy, that spread her name to English bloggers (toomanyblogs, Gigsoup, God Is In The TV a.o.). The track will next month be released in a handful of exclusive remixes – for instance one by the Swedish music maverick Johan Vävare who moved to Thailand more than 20 years ago, and hasn’t been heard of since. A music video accompanying the single will soon be released.
SoLBLoMMa is colourful with an exceptional personal expression. Quirky, original and totally alone in her uniqueness in Sweden. The English music journalist Neil Mason (former NME) has described her like this in the Electronic Magazine: “Think Depeche Mode booted out the back of a transit on a cold, dark winter’s night, think Lykke Li taken by the darkside, think Kylie with Winehouse’s problems, think Emilliana Torrini on 45, Bjork dating Goldie… oh, hang on… well, then we begin to see something remotely resembling Solblomma. With eyes you could stand teacups on, she’s got something of the Cheryl Cole about her… only with a Katie Price makeover… at night… with doll’s clothes. Sounds original, check, looks original, check. You could file comfortably under the current 80s electro revival and no one would bat an eyelid.”
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more oddball, quirky character in the music business than Stockholm-based SoLBloMMa (Sunflower in English, and her real name). The philosophy graduate is a multi-tasker; she’s also a puppet master, a clown, a designer of online IQ games and a railway geek to rival Pete Waterman. Vocally it’s possible to detect something of Cyndi Lauper, Clare Grogan (Altered Images), Polly Scattergood and even a stoned Björk, as one critic dubbed her.
In a long career she’s been signed to EMI (she now has her own label), had chart success under a different name but has also busked her way around Europe, scored a Portuguese TV series, worked with leading jazz pianists and saxophonists and dabbled in everything from trip hop to death metal, gaining a cult following along the way. Her direction momentarily is increasingly electronic. Her public persona is a brave one to wear in a country where overt individuality frequently encourages a condescending response.
She writes quite thoughtful songs, sometimes with a slant on unrequited love but she’ll tackle any subject. This latest single is one of the few she’s recorded in her native language – most are in English – and a well known folk song there.
The next one – ‘Charles de Gaulle’, scheduled for release on 30th March, is completely different as she reprises the role of Tom Hanks in ‘The Terminal’. In typical SoLBloMMa style the supporting video was filmed not at the Paris airport but at Stockholm Arlanda and Prague airports.
Off all the fascinating artists I met at Gefle Gas, the festival I reviewed a few weeks back, SoLBloMMa (her stylisation) (or ‘Sunflower’ in English, it’s her name) stuck in my mind at least partly because she’s unique, a free artistic spirit. So I’ve researched her and have been on the lookout for anything new from her. While she has some ‘elements’ of other performers in her persona I have never seen or heard anyone else with whom she can directly be compared. She’s about as far removed from generic pop as you can get, and I’m all for it.
She’s multi-skilled, making her own videos to promote her electronic alt-pop work (many of them involve the ‘faceover’ you see here). Having once been signed to EMI she now runs her own label (Blomkraft) and even multi-tasks as a puppet master and as a clown (not a creepy one I might add, more as a genuine children’s entertainer). She designs online IQ games and she even rivals Pete Waterman as a railway geek; you can’t get quirkier than that.
Vocally, while I again stress her uniqueness, you can identify at least bits of Cyndi Lauper, Clare Grogan (Altered Images), and Polly Scattergood in her voice, while visually she often has the look of (a much gentler) Alex from A Clockwork Orange. She’s a self-creation of contradictions.
While I’m uneasy about using other peoples’ reviews, this truncated analysis from Electronic Magazine is priceless:
“Think Depeche Mode booted out the back of a Transit van on a cold, dark winter’s night, think Lykke Li taken by the dark side, think Kylie with Winehouse’s problems, think Björk dating Goldie… then we begin to see something remotely resembling Solblomma. With eyes you could stand teacups on, she’s got something of the Cheryl Cole about her… only with a Katie Price makeover… at night… with doll’s clothes.
I rest my case.
The video here for She Said Nothing was inspired by a recent business trip to the western USA which took in Las Vegas, the sort of place she’d be very much at home in, as a philosophy graduate, with its sharp contrasts between rich and poor, big business and ‘the ordinary people’, professional entertainers and street bums, cops and bad guys (think the original CSI) and, ultimately, winners and losers.
While the song is set in a wintry Amsterdam, it could equally play out in loser’s Sin City as her departing lover struggles to find the words to explain how he’s lost his love for her. (Probably at the tables, along with his credit). As Win Butler sings, when love is gone, where does it go?
The only problem I have is the lyrics, or at least some of them. It has some great lines, such as “you and me in the land of Shakespeare, breathing love in my ear; our trip, my dear, has just begun” and “I’ve lost my love, he said/hmmm, she said nothing/a bottle of stone crashed her heart”. But other stanzas leave me floundering. Most of the Scandinavian/Nordic world speaks better English than we does but whether it’s Iceland, Norway or Sweden I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said in these pages that something doesn’t make sense; that the meaning has been ‘lost in translation’. Perhaps it’s time for someone to devise a Scandinavian-English songbook dictionary.
Solblomma Hedin has taken on several different personas over the years. She’s busked her way around Europe, dabbled in Death Metal with one of many bands, The Strawberry Army, had chart success with the songs Girl at the Station and Sandman, worked with leading jazz pianists and saxophonists, scored a Portuguese TV series, and her first album (1997) was described as ‘epic experimental trip hop”, in which she portrayed a dozen different characters herself, prompting one critic to liken her to a stoned Björk. Oh, and she’s also adept at writing and adapting traditional Swedish folk songs.
Until a few years ago she wrote and performed as ‘KiN’ (‘Sun’ in the Mayan language), releasing two albums and four singles with a similar style but latterly as Solblomma she’s been going in two directions, one of them even more deeply into a sort of fantasy world with her current band The Sheep Army (which I’m not completely convinced by, as I said in the festival review). The other direction, under new management guidance with Comedia, is deeper into the electronic world where there are more possibilities for someone of her creative mindset, as this song and video suggest, and which at least falls within a ‘traditional’ framework.
It’s a necessary move in my opinion. The Nordic countries in general and Sweden, in particular, are home to The Law of Jante, which is too complex to go into detail about here, but which effectively describes a condescending attitude towards individuality and success; a mentality that de-emphasises individual effort and places all weight on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers. If you watch ‘The Bridge’ you can see it in the character of Saga Norén.
For that reason alone perhaps the time is right for Solblomma to seek her fortune elsewhere, where such laws have no reach. Not so much Leaving Las Vegas as arriving there.