What fills the spaces between dreams? Listening to the music of Dan Söderqvist, the Swedish progfather, it’s hard to find any gaps in the tapestry of the subconscious. Dark Flowers Awake, his latest album, weaves together collaborations chosen from the years 2002-2010, interlacing the surreal and the subliminal in a matrix of exotica.
The trip begins with two songs made with Anne Sulikowski, the Canadian composer and psychiatric nurse also known as Building Castles out of Matchsticks. Sulikowski provided the rhythm tracks for “A Seagull’s Dream” and “La La Land,” but Söderqvist’s palatial constructions are assembled from more appropriate materials: deep grooves that grind in a way reminiscent of Silver Ghost Shimmer; ethereal vocals that unfold like fractals; synths that maneuver between the stems of flowering poppies.
“Pretty Blue Forever,” incorporating lyrics by Gregory James Wyrick, moves in the direction of high-quality dream-pop. Detroit-based Wyrick’s art is a kind of surrealistic grotesque, and Söderqvist underpins his words with rhythmic patterns and synth sweeps that draw in spacey guitar lines with the sonic reach of a Vostok capsule. The final decay stretches on, until its trajectory passes the horizon.
The other highlight is “Blue Evening (Version),” a revision of a track that previously appeared on Twice a Man’s 2002 album, Agricultural Beauty. Its words are drawn from the contemporary Indian poet, Anjum Hasan. With a mesmerising rhythm built around a simple tabla beat, the song grows organically, forming a web of drones, bells and pads infused with the scents of sandlewood and jasmine flowers. It is sensuous, exotic and perfectly balanced between naturalistic and synthetic modes of expression: sounds from gardens where you feel secure.