As reassuring as it is unsettling
Fredrik is what happens when mournful folk, synthpop balladry and experimental electronica combine and create an unlikely but organic fusion of Nick Drake, the softer side of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Brian Eno. The Malmö, Sweden ensemble, lead by singer/guitarist Fredrik Hultin, create a careful, extraordinarily nuanced sound that, on their third and most accomplished record, evokes the both simplicity and spirituality of nature. By playing up the familiarity of its pop melodies while maintaining the abstraction of its lyrics and sounds, Fredrik joins the ranks of well-produced yet adventurous singer-songwriters even as it remains true to indie's quiet avant-garde.
Shunning conventional drumming, multi-instrumentalist O. Lindefelt beats on a lot of odd stuff — "treetrunk kalimba," "glass objects," toms, mallets and a drum machine. He, Hultin and Anna Mobert strum and strike and blow various strings and horns and percussion, and then digitally process the results beyond the point of recognizability. The results suggest woodland ghosts circling around Hultin's confidential, breathy baritone like a supernatural choir. The easiest way into a beguiling, sustained achievement, "Inventress of Ill (and Everything)" comes packed with nightmarish images of flying pigs and other ominous details, yet its comforting tune suggests a children's lullaby. Like the rest of Flora, it's as reassuring as it is unsettling.