Genre-bending sonic collages
Finding a peculiar middle point between the snappy percussion of Curtis Mayfield and the brainy pop of Tame Impala, Joel Wästberg used his jazz saxophone studies and his umpteen travel and musical experiences – which include collaborations with the likes of Sean Lennon and Little Dragon – to the fullest. He grew into an eclectic producer and a fine multi-instrumentalist under the sir Was moniker.
Wästberg’s approach to music is fluid and genre-bending, creatingsongs from synths and breakbeats, jazzy flourishes and pop structures. His broad sense is captured on the 2017 debut album, Digging a Tunnel, in which sir Was plays all the instruments except the bagpipe and the harmonica. The album owes much of its aura to the strange background noises he employs, mostly from recordings assembled on his travels, like traditional flutes of undefined origin and Mexican maracas.
Two years later, in contrast to the subtle complexities and the multi-faceted soul of his debut, sir Was changed orbit for his second album, Holding on to a Dream. What was loud and open became silent and private.
The album is written, recorded and produced by sir Was and mixed, like the first, by Henrik Alser in a remote cabin in the isolated Swedish countryside. The tricks are still there, but lusher and dreamier, with the lead single “Deployed”, featuring Yukimi Nagano from the band Little Dragon, standing out for its vivid pop palette. The album follows a lo-fi course, showcasing once again their creator’s talent of mutating his musical inspiration and sounds in fascinating ways.