The young virtuoso producer Prins Emanuel follows up his acclaimed debut album on Music For Dreams with something quite different than what we’re used to hearing from him. While Arbete & Fritid was an epic odyssey into the furthest corners of disco with an array of studio wizardry and complex rhythms, Diagonal Musik is a sparse and delicate exploration of the acoustic guitar.
Steering away from his comfort zone, the Prins follows his intuition for experimentation and lands somewhere in a field of genre-defiant folk-jazz meditations; a development that fits like hand in glove for the eccentric nature of Music For Dreams.
The album reads like a soundtrack to the country house Emanuel shares with his family and friends, a place on the map called Oran. From atop a hillside overlooking a lake, Oran is lodged deep in the heart of the Skåne landscape, the southern part of Sweden that once belonged to Denmark. This place encompasses the whole of the album, as the track titles all pinpoint crucial locations on the courtyard and its surroundings. “Orön” which opens the album is named after the small half-island that sits in the centre of the lake. There’s the hand-built sauna (“Bastun”) at the edge of the yard, and behind that in a slope the old root cellar (“Jordkällaren”).
While the nature here is anything but balearic, the overwhelming calm of the country life seems to inspire the same laid back attitude and passion for all things organic (and not just musically, as this is where Emanuel also makes cider from local apples according to the vin naturel school).
Upon listening to Diagonal Musik one might be keen to draw references to works in similar style, such as the output of late 80’s new age label Windham Hill or the dreamy lullabies of long-time friend and Music For Dreams affiliate 55 Cancri e. This is all circumstantial however, surprising as it may seem. While Prins Emanuel’s previous output has showcased a versatile mixture of styles all relying on a multi-instrumentalist approach, the idea to limit his use to only one instrument for a concept album has been lingering on his mind for some time. The fact that the acoustic guitar is one of the most recognisable instruments in Western musical history will surely open up for a myriad of associations, but this has little to do with the methods behind this album.
Functioning as a kind of tabula rasa, Emanuel would only let the instrument itself act as his guide towards the outcome of these songs. The title of the album in turn refers to the quite avant garde method of composing he developed to lead the way forward. Instead of employing a traditional song structure, the diagonal approach would entail that if started at one point he would then go directly to the farthest point in the process. Something akin to drawing only shadows and then finishing with the contours.
Whether or not this experimental aspect of the album is a key factor to understanding and appreciating it is entirely up to the listener however. While it may be diagonal music, it is also just simply beautiful music.
1 Lights Painted For A Road Trip 05.48
2 Beautiful Western River 02.46
3 Orange Trail 05.07
4 I Love You Today Too 04.10
5 Orbis Sensualium 02.25
6 Lanterns 07.03
7 Breakfast In Yutenji 04.44
8 Fanfare For Shadows 02.54