Gustaf Fjelstrom, Intention

fjel_intentAs I was settling in with the indie-rock flavored, guitar-based tunes on Gustaf Fjelstrom’s Intention, I popped over to his site. There it says that Fjelstrom plays bass and synths. Then it lists two drummers and a vocalist. And I thought, hold on, where is all this shiny, melodic guitar coming from? Because if it’s all synth, I’m ready to hand out the award for Best Impersonation of One Instrument By Another. That, or he’s got a bass with high strings or he’s playing that sucker way up the neck. Intention is 41 minutes of catchy, glittering rock instrumentals with a tasty gloss of ambient and electronic lightly spread over it. The album starts off a bit slowly, but please be patient. The first track, “Intention,” spends five of its six minutes in a blend of airy washes, light percussion, and wordless vocals. It’s reasonably interesting, if a bit on the repetitive side, and to be honest, my mind wandered off—until Fjelstrom lit the fuse on his bass and the thing exploded (for a minute and a half) into an energetic song. Downside being, the really good part was over quickly. From there, however, the ride becomes filled with laid-back rhythms, catchy melodic lines, and the occasional foray into driftier spaces. This is never more true than on “Spectrum.” While keys pulse and waver, the drums snap out a cool lounge beat and more of Cathryn Talbert’s straight-from-a-dream vocals float through the background. A great chill-style tune. “Incantation” offers a folksy edge and a sweetly lilting melody on synth. Clean and upbeat, it feels like a bit of a guilty pleasure. “Autonomy” features an excellent build-up of sound that leads us to a cliff-face drop and a break where Fjelstrom’s muscular bass leads the way. It’s another dose of musical optimism that gets your head nodding. The final track, “Trajectory,” steers us into melodic spacemusic territory with sci-fi movie keys, radar-blip textures, and a song that plays out very patiently.

While I do enjoy Intention quite a bit, there tends to be a bit of a similarity of tone, track to track. For that reason, I like it melted into a larger shuffle. Fjelstrom’s clean, bright sounds and strong mixing hand really shine through that way—there’s no regard for feeling like you’ve just heard that song. My only other detraction, one that has honestly faded over repeat listens, is that although the album notes mention that Nick Grant and Brad Bjuman provide drum work, it often comes off like the tinny, too-rigid sound of programmed drums. I was surprised to find there were humans behind it. Several listens down the road, however, they feel less out of place. Overall, the detail work is excellent, the vibe is strong post-rock, and I just have to know where those damn guitar sounds are coming from. Perhaps I’ll figure it out when I listen to Intention some more.

Available from the artist’s web site, botched.com.

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