When Milieu, the sophomore album by Stockholm based trio Tape, first came out at the tail end of 2003, it sounded like nothing else.
Seemingly improvised but still so tenderly composed, it took cues from both the most gentle free jazz and Brian Eno’s ideas of ambient music but at the same time leaning against both Swedish folk music and broken pop balladry. In the end Tape created something entirely unique.
For quite some time it felt like they brothers Andreas and Johan Berthling and Tomas Hallonsten were on their own, whether anyone bothered to listen or not they’d still be walking deeper and deeper down their own musical path, into a very private forest of their collective heart and mind.
Slowly, almost as pacelessly as the music itself, they started making friends. And in the process they sold out all copies of the record. That is why Milieu is finally being reissued and restored in this expanded format.
While doing so Milieu together with its forerunner Opera became something of a stepping stone - some of us would argue it was the blue print for, if not a new pop the at least a new way of approaching it and a new way of what it could achieve.
Tape had very little to do with traditional experimental music, they never fitted into jazz and although many tried to their beautiful songs could not by any means be labelled electronica.
Instead it was the genuine gentleness itself of Tape’s music that spoke to their soul mates across the world. Milieu opened a door to a musical heart their contemporaries had been trying to reach for a long time. Tape now presented them with the key.
At least that’s what it felt like for me.
Wherever I went the following year I seemed to make friends through Milieu. In Berlin, in Glasgow, in Tokyo. In a book store in Chicago, at a tiny concert with Tenniscoats, Maher Shalal Hash Baz and the pianist Bill Wells among the dragon flies in the southeast of Japan and in an empty Scottish vegetarian café the love we felt for Tapes music brought us together. We’re all still very close.
I guess what makes Tape’s music so special is that it plays just like short stories. The trail of thoughts I want to a great short story to start in my head and heart. Where the sentences, the dialogue, are just a blank canvas for the reader to project her own loves and regrets on. And in music there’s no need for translation.
The sound of Milieu remind me of the books of Tove Jansson, the Finnish writer of the beautiful stories from the Moominvalley (especially the masterful Moominpappa at Sea and Moominvalley in November). I’m never sure if they’re really about childhood summers and winters long gone, the ones that I somewhere deep inside just know never really were as good as they seem when I try to remember them.
Or if they’re about me now, all grown up and pushing 40.
Tape stir up such forgotten feelings, they restore fading pictures we don’t really want to share with anyone else. Or in some cases have forgotten they were ever there in the first place.
The aching slowness of these melodies awaken reluctant nostalgia; a forced sentimentality. And they do so without the aid of words, only with the purest music; the electricity in the air that surrounds the captured moment.
Andres Lokko, London W11, January 2008
Milieu Plus is a reissue of Milieu (Häpna H.14), with four new tracks taken from the original 2003 sessions. Now in digipak with new cover art.
Tracks: 1. Oak Player, 2. Sponge Chorus, 3. Star Skid, 4. Crippled Tree, 5. Augustan Chateau, 6. Edisto, 7. Spruce Horns, 8. Golden Twig, 9. Rocked Root, 10. Long Bell, 11. Root Tattoo, 12. Switchboard Fog