Album Review: Jonathan Hultén - The Forest Sessions
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
Leaving Tribulation after 16 years in the band was no doubt a huge personal challenge for Jonathan Hultén. In 2020 he released his debut album ‘Chants from Another Place’ which received critical acclaim and comparisons with artists such as Nick Drake, Sufjan Stevens & Wovenhand as well as more traditional folk artists such as John Martyn right through to his contemporaries in Anna Ternheim, José Gonzales, Anna von Hausswolff, Chelsea Wolfe & Hexvessel. Now Hultén has revisited both Chants from Another Place and his EP The Dark Night of the Soul, and collated ‘The Forest Sessions’, a short film of videos and interludes with animated illustrations and poems. Of course, we only get the audio to review, and from what I have read and seen, the whole package is likely to be well worth consideration.
Eight live performances filmed in the Swedish wilds in 24 hours is hugely impressive. Hultén explains: “It all began with an idea of live streaming a concert from the woods! I got a team together; a plan was worked out and eventually the project morphed into the making of 8 unique music videos based on the setlist of a live performance. All the filming locations were scouted in reference to the song titles and our plan was to film all the material in 24 hours around an area about 40 minutes from Stockholm, Sweden.”
Even without the visuals, ‘The Forest Sessions’ is an audio delight. There is a mix of folk, Country and Western and progressive rock, guided by gentle passages which accentuate Hultén’s haunting and melodious vocals, and it’s all delivered in an intimate and emotion-soaked way.
The soundscapes that are carved out are stunning. Cinematic in feel, yet still absorbable aurally, songs such as ‘And the Pillars Tremble’, second single ‘The Mountain’ and the fragility of opening track ‘Wasteland’ are all captivating. It’s sonically mesmerising, beautifully crafted and delivered. ‘The Mountain’ shimmers in its beauty, hauntingly fashioned.
The package benefits from the inclusion of two tracks from the Roadburn Redux Festival. The Call to Adventure is a sumptuous piece, whilst the final song on the album, ‘A Dance in the Road’ with it’s ethereal feel is beautifully delivered and reaches a soaring climatic finale that sits perfectly to close out this wonderfully creative release. And that’s just the audio which is available on LP and CD. I for one am really looking forward to finding the wider package over the next few weeks. It should be something special.