A Journey Down The Well are known for their unique style, using classical music instruments to create a special sound which flirts with rock, ambient and experimentalism. “Sorry Monsters, I Have To Grow” is their second station on their journey; the strings create a smoky and haunting downtempo ambience with the piano; lyrical songs wink poetry.
The band was also backed by the members of Strandvägen Choir in the recording process. “Working with a choir has made a powerful impact, I can’t imagine ‘Sugarman’ and ‘Sorry Monster, I Have To Grow’ without their parts” remarks cellist Martin Bjelfvenstam. According to the band members the album is about brutal wars, oppression of personality and trying to grow as a human being while leaving all the unnecessary fears behind; “Despite the bombs, despite the guns, despite people building prisons for themselves and others.” Taner Torun adds.
According to Anna Erneman, their contemporary classical influences move one step ahead in this album. “We are inspired by many elements. The chilly sound of post-punk, eye openers like A Silver Mt. Zion and Godspeed You Black Emperor; Brian Eno and many others... But in this album our sound, with hints of contemporary classical composers like Arvo Pärt, Richard Einhorn and Henryk Gorecki, is dominant.”
Sic Magazine : Rating 8/10
The general tone and mood of a year can often be reflected in its music. If the first new record I’ve heard in 2009 is the soundtrack to the coming months, then I think I’ll just hide under my duvet until 2010 rolls along.
A Journey Down the Well are a trio of two Swedes and a Turk (Martin Bjelfvenstam, Anna Erneman and Taner Torun) who make music that fits the bag marked post-rock / neo-classical crossover, but who sound very little like most of the acts who share that increasingly overfull niche. There are no grandstanding displays of virtuosity, and no warm, lush and comforting pieces. This is music that is fairly sparse, and exceedingly bleak.
“Sorry Monsters, I Have to Grow” is an explicitly political album. As is often the case when writers use a language that is not their first, the lyrics often have a strange turn of phrase and an unintentional ambiguity that somehow works. The words on “Happy Bird Day”, for example, don’t read well, but fit the music. It’s a plea against intolerance and bigotry that is coupled with a desolate backing that seems to be resigned to that plea falling on deaf ears.
On the first two tracks, the trio are aided by the Strandvägen Choir whose mournful, phonetic phrasings make them sound more like a ragged band of refugees than a classical chorus. “Sugarman” is a jarring track. Its eerie cello figure and voice sound like the embodiment of human suffering. “They create a history out of lies and they call it future” is the age old, but still depressingly true, complaint that history is written by the winners and the powerful.
There are moments when the generally oppressive atmosphere is lifted. “I Will Never Become What I’m Afraid Of” is a charmingly ragged ballad, and “Two Beautiful Swans in a Dirty Lake” is a richly beautiful violin / cello duet. It opens with a robotic evangelist (is there any other kind?) seeing Heaven in a vision of two swans on a dirty lake. Christians do have that cheesy tendency to proclaim as miracles anything that is out of the ordinary or unexpected, but the juxtaposition of beauty amongst filth is more a general metaphor of hope amongst despair.
The moments of hope, though, are fleeting. “New Abandoned Places on Earth” is a percussion-heavy epic instrumental that has echoes of post-punk acts like 23 Skidoo and Savage Republic. As the US-backed Israeli forces wreak havoc and death upon the civilians of Gaza, it’s a chillingly apt and timely piece of music.
Sorry Monsters, I Have to Grow has some parallels with recent albums by A Silver Mt Zion. But where the Canadians never let go of the hope for a better world, A Journey Down the Well seem to despair that nothing can change, and that the weak and defenceless will always be the victims of the powerful. Like Towering Inferno’s Kaddish, it’s not always an easy album to listen to, but nevertheless a brave and ambitious work that deserves to be heard.
The growth as human beings
Of the blooming sophomore album.
After The Funeral Album, released in 2007, Sweden's A Journey Down the Well present their new album titled Sorry Monsters, I have to grow. While it may be a bit less pessimistic and depressingly sounding, their sophomore album is still unsuitable for cowards, suicidal juveniles and their puzzled mothers or the lone night-time walk through the woods.
Sugarman starts with vocals, that could have been taken directly from an old horrorflick. Then the cello interferes, everything builds up to the climax, until - typically for the band - lonely voices, which remind more of pleading than actual singing, resound. Also the title track begins similarly. When the ghastly choirs become silent though, tones from a piano reach the ears, the chords sound more threatening gradually, letting the choir finally come back to life. It is then transformed to a moving duet in the third song, accompanied by the stoic calm of the cello. It seems that A Journey Down the Well feel the most comfortable in moments like these, demonstrating impressively how a band can generate extremely burdensome atmosphere with relatively simple means. As sentimental as this atmosphere has been built, the subsequent interlude, moderated by a war correspondent strives to hold the tension.
The next two songs of the album, which - according to the band - is about brutal wars, oppression of personality and trying to grow as a human being while leaving all the unnecessary fears behind, hold the same direction. Classical instruments fancy with the post rock or experimental genre, while the vocals sprout moanfully and dolorously again. The last, a good ten and a half minutes long song however, seems particularly mentionable. Anna Erneman , Martin Bjelfvenstam und Taner Torun experiment with ambient sounds and LoFi-drums while the string bowed instruments, in their frightening style, lay ontop. The perfect way to end a sophomore album, that positively screams: Sorry Monsters, we HAVE grown.
This is Book's Music
The first time I listened to this, I was freaked out (metaphorically) by the opening track, “Sugarman”. The voice is that of a woman that sings somewhat child-like, along with a choir of people who are singing as if they were brought into the studio via time machine, and mixed in with a trumpet, eerie strings, and a pounding drum that plays one beat every three seconds, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. But what I did get into is one of the more original albums I’ve heard in awhile.
They are called A Journey Down The Well and are a trio from Sweden who mix up classical music with experimental touches, traditional this isn’t. Some reviews have called this post-rock, but it would be post-rock if everyone ended up committing suicide after listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall repeatedly. The layers of vocal overdubs (by the Strandvägen Choir) take this over the edge, and when I say this I am refering to Sorry Monsters, I Have To Grow (Fluttery). If the title of the album brings to mind the children’s book Where The Wild Things Are or the movie Spirited Away, you are maybe close to what this group are about. Either that or their sound has moved me so much it has made me not know what it is. They get into politics but you have to take a really good listen to truly hear what they’re trying to say. Is it epiphany music you experience before you’re executed, or is the execution that of youth, and you are reborn into the bitter reality of adulthood?
Think of some of the projects violinist Carla Kihlstedt where the music may sound distant when it’s really about peeling the layers of ones self, and this music is just as disturbing, revealing, and beautiful all at the same time.