East Of Eden
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Released 08 Sep. 2009
East Of Eden is the result of an extraordinarily adventurous recording process in Pakistan with local musicians. The album also includes the short film “Taweel Safari - The Longest Journey” that was shot in Pakistan while recording. Production skills were handled in Sweden by Dan Lissvik (partner in the Swedish duo ‘Studio”) with guest vocals from Noah Lennox of Animal Collective on “Anna”. Taken by Trees is the nom de plume of Victoria Bergsman, previously best known for her work with The Concretes and Peter Bjorn & John’s worldwide smash hit single “Young Folks”. This new offering follows in the footsteps of Taken By Tree’s critically acclaimed debut album Open Field which was released in 2007. Victoria wanted to travel to record in a mysterious, relatively uncharted area, and avoid the usual clinical studio experience, which she has always disliked and found to be an essentially uncreative environment. In order to provide herself with both an interesting challenge and an inspirational recording environment, she chose Pakistan. The rhythm, drums and flutes of Pakistani music had long captivated Vic- toria and this coupled with a deep admiration for one of her favorite singers Abida Parveen and the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan helped her choose Pakistan as the place to record her new album. While it’s practically a miracle that the album was made at all, the experience and environment there has created a masterful work with a depth of expression and feeling that is breathtaking. Victoria is one of the very few, if not the only, Western women, to record in this region, and the bureaucracy, cultural differences and preju- dices she had to overcome to see this project through are beyond belief.
Victoria Bergsman wanted to travel to record in a mysterious, relatively uncharted area avoiding the usual clinical studio experience, which she has always disliked and found to be an uncreative environment. She chose Pakistan. The rhythm, drums and flutes of Pakistani music had long captivated Victoria and this, coupled with a deep admiration for her favorite singers Abida Parveen and the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, helped her choose Pakistan as the place to record her new album. Another attractive factor was her interest in Sufi musicians who play in order to enter a trance like state, using music to transport themselves to another time and place. Victoria is one of very few Western women, if not the only one, to record in this region, and the bureaucracy, cultural differences and prejudices she had to overcome to see this project through are almost beyond belief. It’s therefore little short of a miracle that this album was recorded at all. Victoria and her recording engineer and sole accompanying musician, Andreas Söderström, left Stockholm for Pakistan after months of bureaucratic paperwork and visa wrangles. They were in fact advised by the Swedish government not to go, unless they had a very strong reason. They were told they could not guarantee their safety. Despite this, and once finally in Lahore, a dramatic cultural hurdle had to be surmounted – Victoria was deemed “everyone’s property” when men discovered she wasn’t married. She was dragged away leaving Andreas to fight for her safety; they had to swiftly pretend they were a married couple. Whilst making enquiries about local musicians, they met Faseeh the hotel owner's son, who introduced them to his father, Malik, an enigmatic character who had recently owned a pet lion. Malik’s house was a local gathering place for Sufi musicians and so the recording operation was set up around his home, inside and out. Several barriers still had to be overcome though; the notion of a woman in charge of the recording session was an anathema to them. It was only over time, as they began to respect her as a musician rather than looking down on her as a woman, that Victoria’s vision for the record was translated and eventually recorded. Furthermore, the electricity would go off for an hour every third hour. But nothing could stop these local musicians, who had played with Victoria’s favorite artists Abida Parveen and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Constant reminders of the inherent dangers of being a stranger in these regions occurred throughout the recording process, and one such occurrence was documented in the film. One day, Malik who had many connections and who was hugely respected in the local community, arranged for Victoria to witness Ashura, (self-flagellation - where men and boys purge themselves with whips until they bleed, sometimes to death). Despite all the careful arrangements she still had to be briskly swept away when some people realized a woman was present and began to spit at her. These wildly unusual circumstances surrounding the recording process helped create an inspired and stunningly beautiful album that evokes images of Pakistan in a completely unique way. Söderström’s powerful, often minimal guitar work, Victoria’s sublime, mysterious vocals and enigmatic lyrics, powered by the sounds, beats and rhythms of genuine local Pakistani musicianship has created a magical musical concoction. Add to this the production skills of Dan Lissvik (one half of the ultra creative Swedish duo Studio) who pieced the whole project together back in Sweden in the Spring of 2009, and you really have a genuine Album Of The Year contender. The album also includes a cover of Animal Collective’s “My Girls”, which Victoria has re-interpreted as “My Boys”. She has been a long standing fan of Noah Lennox’s voice and upon hearing their new album Merriweather Post Pavilion, was so struck by the song she felt compelled to record a version for her own album. Consequently Noah was also invited to sing vocals on another track on the album, “Anna”. The final track on the album is a recitation over improvised musical accompaniment of a Hermann Hesse poem called “Bekännelse” which translated from Swedish means “Confession”. For Victoria it sums up a lot of what she felt out in Pakistan and seemed a perfect book-end to the album - the wonderment of the whole experience mixed with the guilt of knowing she could leave all the hardships behind and return to her liberal culture. East Of Eden is a truly magical and monumental album. Both CD and vinyl include the film Taweel Safar-The Longest Journey shot entirely in Pakistan.