One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got came from a publishing executive, early in my career. An article is never really finished, he explained. You simply choose to stop working on it.
It is an empowering idea. We sometimes become so invested in a project that it begins to take on a kind of personality of its own. That may not occur to us explicitly, but it implies that the work has something to say, separate and apart from what we’ve set out to communicate.
That can lead to some pretty unexpected successes. But taken too far, it can send us down rabbit holes and make it more difficult to produce a finished project.
Jonatan Nästesjö’s latest is a neat (if unpleasant) illustration of all this. A thief lifted his laptop, on which he had stored music he’d labored over devotedly between 2012 and 2016. The material was meant to be a trilogy of albums. None had been backed up.
The best he could do was pull together enough .wav files from friends and colleagues to make up a single disc. He couldn’t continue working on the tracks, but he did have enough to deliver us this lovely 48-minute slice of gentility.
Produced with organs, piano, guitars, synthesizers, field recordings and his own homemade software, Nästesjö’s work balances the harshness of a biting winter wind with warm musical notes. The combination satisfies our love of graininess while at the same time maintaining a degree of accessibility that serves the material well.
Nästesjö may not have intended to stop working on these tracks when he did. But that’s what happened. And so they are complete, no matter what next steps he had planned.
They’re also exceptional, and a lovely addition to any music collection.