This breathtaking music that goes by the title Songs of Despair, a collaboration of Swedish artists Sara Forslund (Birch and Meadow), Lárus Sigurðsson (composer, arranger, musician, musical instrument maker and artist) and musician David Åhlén, began as a pilgrimage to Jerusalem by Åhlén and artist Samuel Sander. Sander had the desire to create an artbook based on the biblical Book of Lamentations. The story is of the destruction of a city and a holy temple, and the despair of the inhabitants left in its ruins. It is also a story of people in exile in a foreign land. The project became a series of art pieces and later, this mournful, melancholy collection of songs, delicately and powerfully brought to life by world-class artists.
“Death is my hope.
But my thoughts of it
strike me with fear.
I thought I believed.
In life, love.
In some kind of god.”
– The Meaning, from Poems of Despair
The exploration began with a five-day visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall during Tisha B’av. This inspired audio and visual sketches that culminated in an art exhibit in Sweden. From that auspicious beginning came a collaboration with priest, psychotherapist and poet Bengt Thurfjell, who then penned the collection, Poems of Despair. In 2015, Åhlén began setting these poems to music, and was soon joined by Forslund and Sigurðsson.
This stunning album was recorded in different studios in Iceland and Stockholm, and mixed by Lárus and Birgir Jón Birgisson (Sigur Rós’s studio engineer) in Sundlaugin studio, Reykjavik. It is the first release by fledgling Gotlandic label Kaip.