erasing clouds

Club 8, Golden Island

review by dave heaton

Club 8, the duo of Karolina Komstedt and Johan Angergård, is up to their 10th album, since forming in 1995. One would probably classify them as “Swedish synth-pop”. That’s true, but… their music has changed greatly over the years. You’ll find a big difference between their 1998 pop single “Missing You”, the globally inspired dance music of 2010’s The People’s Band and their last album, 2015’s dark quiet-storm album Pleasure.

And this one, Golden Island, is another story altogether. In the press materials, Angergård describes the titular island as in between reality and imaginary (“I haven’t really been living in this world lately.”) And it sounds like it – enveloping but amorphous, exploratory. It does not have a beat you can dance to; rhythms scatter and shift, strange instruments and sounds defy easy identification. Words like ‘junkyard’ and ‘kitchen-sink’ are brought to mind by the music. Voices twist and mutate, and occasionally mute themselves. Other times they breathe heavy or echo each other. Sounds bury each other in some kind of cosmic landscape that’s trying to find its own footing.

The album opens with sort of a hymn or mantra about being swept away. “Sun is high and so am I”, Komstedt sings, “I am swimming with the tides”. Several of the songs reference drifting, disappearing, running away. When something resembles a party (the submerged dub/pop of “Fire”) it still feels like a struggle to stay alive. This is still romantic, bittersweet music, like all of Club 8’s discography, but there’s also a sense of desperation, and of surrender to forces beyond one’s control. Song titles include “Lost”, “Silence” and “Strange Reflection”.

When the singer gets stuck on a certain idea, it’s not always clear what we should do with it. For example, this would-be life lesson from “Got to Live”: “you’ve got to live before you know how to die / you’ve got to die before you know how to live”. Something like “You’ve Got Heart” sounds like a love letter for a second, but also like a warning.

Lurking behind everything is the feeling that the human race is lost, trying and failing to feel our way through the wilderness. The instrumentals “Strange Reflection” and “Pacific” are the soundtrack to our failing (with an unexpected resemblance to ‘outsider’ artist Lonnie Holley’s 2013 album Keeping a Record of It). In the end, what we’re left with is “Silence”. The song resembles snapping someone out of their sleep. Yet as beautifully and brightly as Komstedt sings words of would-be encouragement, there’s no light shining at the end of Golden Island. Instead: “Baby I thought that I felt the sun for a second / and now it’s gone.”


this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2018 erasing clouds