- När Näktergalen Sjunger
- From Above
- Interlude 1
- I Väntan På Renar
- Interlude 2
- Black Times Two
Nils Berg – Coming And Going
About an hour’s drive from Stockholm, there is a place called Ilandet—a patch of Swedish countryside overgrown with an abandoned apple orchard, with century-old trees stretching across verdant fields. It’s one of those places that invites introspection, where the sound and sights and smells of nature can envelop you entirely, and transport you far away from the humdrum of modern life. It’s in this environment where Nils Berg, the jazz composer and multi-instrumentalist, conceived of his new album, the hypnotic and breathtaking Coming and Going. Across eight tracks of ambient instrumental jazz, spanning everything from tender clarinets to plaintive violins to soaring flutes, Nils invites the listener into this world of his own creation, one whose sole purpose is to arrest time and lilt its inhabitants into a state of peace and joy.
While one could argue that Nils’ music has somewhat always had this effect on his audience (for example: his Nils Berg Cinemascope project, a trio that uses found footage to craft unique live experiences, or his acclaimed band The Stoner, who set the standard for Nordic jazz in the ‘00s and ‘10s), but what sets Coming and Going apart is its explicit ties to the natural world that entices Nils so much. Throughout the record, birds, insects, woodland animals, all make an appearance, woven in between the simple-yet-arresting melodies that compose the songs’ structure.
“Most of the songs on this record started out by visualizing a bird, and spending time with it,” Nils says. “It could be playing a very simple movement again and again, like two notes that for some reason have the feeling of a blackbird singing. Then we’d come up with movements or sounds that other animals could make to accompany this blackbird—like how music is made out in the bush, if you just stop for a while in a forest or in a field and listen.” Take the opening track, “Hope”, for instance; much like an orchestra warming itself up to play some grandiose suite, subtle strings are plucked while Nils’ clarinet trills inquisitively, mimicking a wild creature suddenly aware of its surroundings. “There’s so much going on in nature, and you never really think about it until you stop to listen,” he continues. “Maybe it’s not perfect harmony, but it’s not disharmony either. It just is.”
In order to maintain that organic feel in-studio, Nils and his band recorded all of Coming and Going live, and the spontaneity of the tracks feels almost infectious. A notable track, “From Above”, was written from the perspective of an eagle, soaring high above the clouds, dominant but carefree. Punctuated by stabbing strings, the song builds and builds, bringing the listener on the duration of the epic flight, until it slows down and returns to its first simple melody. “I Väntan På Renar”, which translates in English to “Waiting for Reindeer”, is something of a document of an adventure sound artist Helena Persson (whom contributed to the record) had in Lapland, in the far north of Sweden.
In the end, it all comes back to the central theme of escapism, that sentiment that drives Nils to travel up to Ilandet to take the time to bathe in nature. “I need to be reminded of that,” he says, “that the essential things in life, maybe they can be found very close to you. Often they’re there, they’re all around you, like a good book, or maybe a good meal or a new friend. They can be just around the corner, and every once and a while you just need to change moods to understand that. I love those exotica, easy listening music from the ’60s, that were made for people to escape from suburban life to Hawaii or somewhere. And I guess this is my version of an exotica album, but I’m not trying to paint the picture of a faraway place—I was to take people into the head of a small bird in my own backyard.”