Patrik Berger’s new music represents something of a radical left field turn though the Swedish record producer certainly doesn’t see it that way. “When I make stuff it’s all the same in my head,” says the man whose CV boasts collaborations with bona fide superstars like Diana Ross, Kylie Minogue and Taylor Swift. Taking a moment to reflect on what he’s just said, he concedes: “But I mean, I know that this is different, obviously…”
The 43-year-old Uppsala-born, Stockholm-based multi-instrumentalist’s debut album under the name Hög sjö is a concoction of delightfully strange progressive jazz, recorded with the best session musicians Scandinavia has to offer who also happen to be his pals. He’d planned to record the whole thing himself, but when he hooked up with the likes of pianist Jesper Nordenström and drummer Nils Törnqvist, it made sense to utilise the talent at his disposal. The self-titled debut kicks off with an Erik Satie cover of all things, with a remarkable prog rendition of //Gnossienne no. 6//, replete with spidery drums and shimmery atmospherics.
“I always loved his stuff,” says Berger. “When you listen to pop music for a long time, you start to understand everything after a while, and this I didn’t understand at all. It was like, I don’t know what’s going on, so we kind of took it and turned it into what a band would do with it.”
There’ll certainly be a receptive, if niche, audience for this record, though it feels like a world away from the mega hits he’s had a hand in: Robyn’s //Living On My Own//, Icona Pop’s //I Love It//, Charli XCX’s //Boom Clap//, and many more besides. Even the name, Hög sjö, screams recherché, albeit quietly. “It’s so dumb that I picked a Swedish name for this project,” he says, laughing. “It’s an expression that has a double meaning. Sailors use it when there’s bad weather at sea, like, ‘Oh shit, there are really big waves’ and stuff like that, but it also means high.”
One track, //Raki//, was named after the national drink of Turkey evoking wild times from the 1990s, and was made possible when Berger had the inspired idea to take one of his guitars and customise it with quarter frets, making it possible to play the maqam scales of a ussak or saz—a thrilling take on Turkish psychedelic rock from the 1970s: “So once I started playing around with that guitar, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is twice as many notes and I’ve got this whole palette. Like, wow, you can get so much deeper.”
Berger says he had no desire to become the next Max Martin, but fell into his line of work after coming out of school and deciding to go to work in a studio rather than an office. He was all ready to jack it in pop music just as Robyn’s //Living On My Own//, which he co-wrote, became a stellar international sensation. Since then he’s developed a strong working relationship with Charli XCX, while he saw something in Lana Del Rey back when nobody else could: “It was before //Video Games// came out and people would say to me, ‘Don’t waste your time on that.’ I was like, ‘Are you fucking crazy? Can’t you hear that? This is insanely good.’” Like Hög sjö, she would soon create some really big waves.
Patrik Berger – producer, multi-instrumentalist. Jesper Nordenström – piano / keys
Nils Törnqvist – drums, Andreas Hourdakis – guitar , Isak Hedtjärn – clarinet / saxophone / whistle, Evan Smith – saxophone / flute /keys, Yoann Durant – saxophone
KPM library music with a proggy Swedish twist
Hög sjö (Smuggler Music)
– Jeremey Allan
From "Limelight - Hög sjö" Prog
Issue 139 Reprinted with permission.