Emerging from the depths of the Scandinavian winter, Stockholm band A Projection‘s second album follows a similar musical path to Exit, their 2015 debut. Consisting of thirteen tracks, Framework sees them once again wearing their dark musical hearts on their sleeves. Signed to Hamburg-based Tapete Records, the band have played a number of gigs in Germany and, if social media is any measure, clearly have a following there. The German influence shows; images of the band are similar to the stark black and white Kraftwerk aesthetic and their videos look like they’ve been shot in windowless vaults and old factories. But that’s as far as the comparison goes, because A Projection have emotion and plenty of it.
The band themselves look like a well-nourished Joy Division. They wear black pea-coats and leather jackets with the collars turned up, slim fit black jeans with DM shoes but they wear thicker jumpers than you need in Manchester. They stand against clear skies and small low level Scandinavian towns rather than huddling out of the wind and rain in northern England. They also sound a lot darker than they look.
A Projection are career changers. Fed up with the hollowness of the corporate world, they have rechannelled their energies into something artistic and you can’t argue with that as a philosophy of life. What this brings to their work is integrity and commitment; this lifestyle choice has to work.
The opening track, ‘Hands‘, begins with Isak Erikkson’s initially unnerving deep vocal. In ever so slightly accented English, Eriksson leads the way over an upbeat anthem that could be played quite happily as you are being marched to Mordor. ‘Sensible Ends‘ has a similar quality. This time the drumming is an indie tribal call intertwined with careful guitars. The effect is spartan, a perfect accompaniment to this coldest of December nights lit only by the crescent moon. This is also one of the tracks where there is a more obvious synthesiser. Linus Hӧgstadius is responsible for these Blade Runner creations. They also echo across ‘Dark City’ and the first single from the album, ‘Transition‘ (a title which every time has me mistyping ‘Transmission’). This is Blade Runner where the romance has been lost and the pleas to a loved one are still raw.
There is a definite ‘gothiness’ about these tracks, underscored by references to ‘shadows in the night’, ‘dancing in the rain’ and ‘no more singing on the dancefloor’. But ultimately these gentler tracks capture the pain caused by the transience of love. The album itself is like a journey through the recovery process.
At the halfway point, ‘No Lights‘ and ‘Next Time‘ are catchier, and the tempo lifts. Where the earlier songs expressed self-doubt, this has been replaced with strength and resilience. There is a feeling that any sadness can be endured, even if that hasn’t been fully recognised yet. This is reflected in the balance and control of the music; everything is played and constructed with care. ‘Next Time‘ has fast melodic guitars and vocals. Whilst Eriksson proclaims there will ‘never be a next time’ and ‘nothing compares to you’, we all know there will be and someone else will come along eventually. The whole album is evidence of the healing power of time.
Framework closes with a bit of a ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead‘ moment. On ‘Hollow Eyes‘, Jesper Lönn’s drumming sounds like the bats trapped in the spiral staircase of the turret. Meanwhile, ‘someone is waiting down the stairs’ and there is a ‘presence in the air’. This is new love but it is mysterious and in a very cold place.
Finally, ‘Listen To The Dark’, is a fair description of what you’ve been doing for the previous 45 minutes. It is a short outro of a song and with it the album fades into the fog, making you want to start the whole process again.
The album is stylish and well-produced, in no small part due to the expertise of Niklas Berglöf at Redmount Studios and mixing by engineer Magnus Lindberg. It is an album to be proud of and quite rightly so.
This is what happens when you combine 1980’s indie music with good healthcare and an excellent standard of living. The album conveys artistry rather than despair – which is not to say that there is no suffering here – it’s just that it feels more personal; the emotions of heartbreak and a love that hasn’t survived, rather than the product of a deeply unfair social and economic system.
Framework is an album of considerable intelligence, and one you will discover subtleties in each time you listen to it. It is darkly beautiful and sounds like daylight will never come but optimism and resilience will. It is the sound of people who know how to survive a long, dark winter.
Framework is released on 13th January through Tapete Records.