Review – Gustaf Ljunngren & Emil de Waal – Stockholm København

“It’s as much about the spaces between the notes as the notes themselves and the state of mind that you are left in.”

One of the surprise releases of the year for me in 2022 was Gustaf Llunngren’s ‘Floreana’, a delightful album that “will leave you in a place of utter calm and leave you ruminating on life, the universe and just about everything.”

The album was released through Jazzfuel music so I was exceedingly happy to receive an email from the label inviting me to check out Gustaf’s latest release in collaboration with Emil de Waal, ‘Stockholm København’.

Emil de Waal has been one of Denmark’s leading drummers for three decades. Gustaf Ljunggren initially studied the saxophone at the Rhythmic Conservatory of Copenhagen, where whispers spread throughout the school that he was the best saxophone player in town and yet never practiced. His career has seen him prove that he can bring grace, musicality and heart to any instrument he touches, from the pedal steel guitar, to the bass, piano, and more.

‘Stockholme København’ is the third collaboration between the two has a vast array of influences including Jazz, Americana, Film Music and Electronica. It is full of space, coaxing the listener into a meditative state and inviting them to drift away with their own imagination.

There’s an elegant, laid back grace to this release, eight tracks that are more about moods, textures and patterns than your usual songwriting. Every time I listen to it I am taken to another place, somewhere otherworldly. The music speaks to my soul and brings my often worried mind into a state of relaxation and contemplation.

It’s hypnotic, mesmerising and utterly addictive from the cool, warm tones of the keyboards on opener Sangur and the delightfully upbeat, ethereal guitar motif of title track Stockholme København where Gustaf’s refined and graceful acoustic playing just lifts the piece to ever increasing heights of sophistication. Glar is a celestial soundscape of electronic musical waves washing over you, interjected with pulsing notes, like a soundtrack to an arty Sci-fi film set in a sun baked environment and the slightly off-kilter guitar notes of Kyklop give a slightly alien aloofness to this unhurried, lighthearted track.

Imnum speaks of the lazy days of summer, the leisurely drumbeat and hazy keyboards to be listened to under a blazing sun and without a care in the world. There’s a very relaxed ebb and flow and the electronica lays a musical, meandering path before it. Wistful and utterly serene, it’s an addictive way to spend five minutes of your time. At Line Level has a real 80’s feel to it with the staccato drums and haunting keyboards. Dreamlike and serene it worms its way into your psyche like watching the sunrise on a beach in the early hours. The notes of a keyboard dropping like gentle rain and a shimmering cymbal open Fever Revisit, another piece that seems almost Sci-fi influenced with the electronica sending my mind back to early classic like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. There’s an insistent tone to the music, like radio signals flying through space and it’s all done with metronomic perfection. The album closes with an intimate recording from a performance at STUK in Belgium. Pirates is a whimsical, heartwarming guitar led instrumental Americana piece that is just about perfect. The guitar playing is full of life and love and the ever so classy drumming just adds that layer of humanity to the music, a delightful end to a fantastic album.

Well, it’s happened again. Gustaf Ljunggren, this time in collaboration with Emile de Waal, has delivered an utterly sublime, beautiful and transcendent recording that has blown me away. This is music for the soul and, when all is chaos around you, just makes you very happy indeed.

Released 7th July, 2023.

Order from bandcamp here:

Stockholm København | Gustaf Ljunggren / Emil de Waal (