I have followed West of Eden for almost 20 years, and seen them go through different phases. Once they tried to come across as a mix of the Corrs and ABBA, for a long time they kept recording theme-albums, about ships, travelling and migration. The latter resulted in ”Look to the West”, to my mind their finest album to date.
Now they are back with a more folky album, ”Flat Earth Society”. As usual it is filled with songs and tunes written by wife-husband-team Jenny and Martin Schaub, who have been in charge of the band all through their career. And as with some of the later albums they are guested by Irish and British musicians and singers, like Damien O’Kane, Heide Talbot and John McCusker. Most of the album is recorded in various studies in Britain with some overdubbing done in Gothenburg.
In comparison to ”Look to the West” this is a more low key offering. The emphasis is on the acoustic instruments, with Martin Holmlund using the double bass maore, och the expense of the electric one, and lots of citterns. Henning Sernhede’s electric guitar is seldom heard, but his acoustic is more frequent. And drummer Ola Karlevo is more of a percussionist this time.
The songs and tunes are more subtle this time, and it takes a few listening to appriciate them fully. But it is well worth the effort. Once they have settled in my mind I find myself humming them when you would least expect me to. And there are lots of gems.
The first instrumental, ”Isak/Doris”, starts of slow, with Lars Broman’s fiddle taking the lead. He is joined by Jenny’s accordion. Half way through it changes pace and suddenly we are in a swirling jig.
One of the members is rumoured to once having asked Martin & Jenny ”Can’t you write normal songs?” And sometimes you agree. Listen to ”Prorcelain Days”, where the melody takes some unexpected turns. Martin written a marvellous dramatic string quartet score for the song. No wonder the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra uses him to write scores for them when they are visited by rock stars.
Another nice string arrangement decorates ”Come Winter, He’ll Be Gone”, a slow song which also host John McCusker on low whistle. A beautiful track. Another track in the same vein is ”Horsehoofs & Primroses”. If you did not know better you could have mistaken it for a traditional songs.
I must say West of Eden has done it again. It is an instantly recognizable West of Eden album, while at the same time being very different from their luast. (Not counting the retrospective sampler från two years ago.) A more mellow, acoustic product. But give it time and it will grow on you. An album to keep, cherish and come back to in years to come.
Web-site is here.
(West of Music, 2019)