Astrid Swan ‘Astrid4′ Soliti 018 (Released in Finland 25.10.2013)
“I don’t care for the forest. Never been a nature creature really. I don’t go berry picking in August, I’m fine in the city. But a natural order began to outline itself in the concrete. There are black bears behind my closed eyes, wild deer hoofs in the night. For an unknown reason these creatures began to populate my mind even when I was awake. Suddenly Navaho indians interested me because of their ancient knowledge of the rhythm of life. And so, in the course of taking time and making Astrid4, life and death appeared to me in the flesh. “
The story of Astrid4 and how it finally reaches the public domain is one winding tale that covers the most mysterious sides of human existence: birth and death. Out of the frustration of a lot of touring, a personal stagnation (and a realization that niceness isn’t a virtue worth cultivating) came something new. It had to be lived through. It took time to formulate.
Favors were handed down and passed along, songs were formed on the move and in the complete stillness after ties had been cut. The bestkept plans were mined through different channels at the last minute. A lesson in adapting to any given situation. This is the postmodern way; it’s also the postpartum way.Astrid Swan had written some songs during the course of living on the road with her band The Drunk Lovers. The songs were demoed with the band but Astrid didn’t feel like it was the right direction for the album. She needed to take more space, go back to the piano and breath in the silence after the loudness of rock’n’roll. A change of label took place in 2010 and Astrid Swan’s Pavement covers album became Soliti’s first release (Hits (Pavement For Girls).Then a twoyear making of interspersed with many breaks brought Astrid4 to life.
Astrid4 was built from the ground up. There were no resources, there was a lot of ambition – even dogma. A friend (and former Astrid drummer) Anton Laurila bought a house in Hyvinkää and built a studio on the second floor. The drum room was the smallest rectangular room we’d seen, you could barely squeeze Niko Votkin’s huge kit into the room and fit him in there too… Somehow, the room worked like magic (or was it the drummer?). Anton later discovered mould in the house and the courtcase is still ongoing. This was late 2011. Otto Donner expressed an interest in working with Astrid on the album’s horn arrangements. He also offered the use of his Steinway piano. So in October 2011 Astrid recorded the grand piano in Otto’s Tammisaari house on an island. You could watch the waves in a bay crash gently onto the cliffs right in front of the house. He had a guesthouse/recording space next to his house where many a famous record had been made in the past. The Steinway was fine and in two days Astrid laid down her piano tracks.
Then a baby was born in the winter chills. Time stood still, then it slowly picked up but in a new order. Again, the rhythm had changed. Progress on Astrid4 became an irregular thing. Astrid sang some songs at home and edited bits here and there. Homebound gestation. Astrid4 had a name and basic tracks but nothing more. It was a solitary vision and experience for Astrid Swan making this album, even if they’ve tended to go that way. By the time she was ready to return to the album, there was frailty all around.
In the spring of 2013 vocals were recorded for a bulk of the songs. Longtime collaborator Mikael Hakkarainen was drafted in to add some guitars and bass: this happened over the course of a few months in Spring 2013 at his own studio in Tikkurila. Another location, different ideas. The songs were being fleshed out. Otto Donner was still in the picture. He wore a white suit in early June and promised arrangements for early July. A week before the horns were to be recorded, Otto was gone. For a moment it was in question again if Astrid4 was really going to happen. An emptiness abided.
Picking up the pieces and moving forward without Otto, Astrid found Johannes Salomaa. He provided horn arrangements at short notice, and they were recorded in one long day’s session in July with Hannu Lamminmäki and Markku Renko. Everything fell into place. Astrid added some last minute backing vocals. Then a vision was realized and completed. Astrid4 was ready.
Is this mother nature talking? A minimalist dogmatic album of piano, horns and drums became full and blooming. Astrid4 has finally arrived full of its own wildlife.