The secularization of Christmas music produced some of the best, most evocative popular music of the last century. The genre’s longevity is not simply the result of radio and television programming, the songs we hear all around us at this time of year deserve their place in the mainstream.
Those remarkable pop songs had a (perhaps) unintended consequence though. They left little space at the busiest time of year for the kind of spiritual music that could have just as easily become part of the Christmas tradition. Fans of classical and choral music will always celebrate the great works, but they’ll do so privately for the most part.
All the more reason to celebrate great new recordings fitting that description. To call 1921’s gorgeous new disc In My Veins a Christmas album misses the mark. Instead, think of this as another in a long line of great spiritual works.
“Two of the lyrics on the album – “New worlds” and “The clear fount” – were written by the Swedish Christian mystic and author Linnea Hofgren (1868-1921),” says vocalist David Åhlén. “My lyrics are often influenced by the bible.”
It’s not just Åhlén’s writing. His falsetto voice is achingly beautiful. Paired with Andreas Eklöf’s electronics, the combination feels like a mash-up of ancient spirituality with modern tech.
Åhlén offers another way of hearing the work.
“We were inspired by organic flows and pulses in the body,” he says. “That we always, even in silence, are in a pulse, in a movement. In the music, we have worked with the shift between motion and silence. The lyric expresses a desire for a hidden light. Someone who calls back to the origin.”
Åhlén’s debut came 10 years ago, with a single called “Wasted breaths.” He’s produced three albums since: We Sprout in Thy Soil, Selah and Hidden Light.
Eklöf is a composer of contemporary art music, electronic music, pop and film soundtracks. NOR was his debut. The Wire named it an album of the year in 2008.