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After excursions into leftfield disco and folk-jazz meditations, Vhassal is Prins Emanuel’s third longplayer. Whereas his first lp oozed youthful carelessness and euphoria and the second one takes on a more visceral note, this album breathes hope and sentimentality. It will come as no surprise that the part time fruit picker from Malmö became a father in the meantime.
Still, Vhassal feels like a natural follow-up to predecessor Diagonal Musik. Essentially, it’s minimalism with plenty of surprises and the album showcases a delicate mix of instrumental proficiency and a keen sense of space. The medieval dance tempos are garnished with drum computers, and despite the synthetic sounds of the machines, all the songs have a very intuitive and organic feel, striking in some way as a culmination of PE’s previous albums.
‘Vaffan Sparks Du…’ opens with a repetitive knock on the door, after which a drum machine driven lullaby creeps through the cracks. It’s fragile, wispy, enchanting and a definite moodsetter: this is sentimental adult music, in true Jj funhouse fashion. And so is ‘Vhassal’, a delicate, dubby trip that swirls through the room like a laser through smoke. The baroque, cloistral atmosphere is so thick that you can actually taste the smoke. ‘Lazarus O’ E’ closes off the A-side with icy foghorns. Is this a medieval lament or a hymn to sprouting snowdrops in a wintery landscape? We’re not sure, but if the Titanic houseband had synthesizers, this is probably what they would’ve sounded like.
Side B kicks off in a more cheerful way with ‘Vhist’, a searing sliver of goosebump melancholia with beautifully bent robotic whistling. ‘Girra’ sounds like an instrumental lifted off some Estonian children’s choir 7” on Melodiya. It’s a deceivingly simple ditty with a far-off romantic sound that seems to reach euphoria, but then rapidly declines. ‘Saker Som Sagts Och Gjorts’ irrevocably shakes off the negative feelings by filtering the sound of a summery moonlit night in the French Provence through your speakers. It’s an apt prequel to the closing track, for which you should dim the lights, peak through the blinds and lay back in your ultimate easy chair. ‘Principen’ is the
perfect soundtrack to sip a final scotch, whistle along and shed a tear to yesterday. A better future lies ahead, somewhere.