I have been transfixed by Sumie’s voice since first hearing it in 2013, and whether on record or live, it resonates with me at a cellular level. The voice that was mountain-water clear and preternaturally beautiful on her first self-titled release has changed subtly over the years and since Lost in Light and 2019’s Mirou EP life has crept in and added a welcome depth and humanity.
Despite having sung in English for all but a few previous songs ‘Upp Ur Mörkret’ is written and sung in Sumie’s native Swedish language. To English ears it adds to another beguiling layer to a song which already sways with an intoxicating atmosphere and processional motion. It means ‘up from the dark’ and is about helping someone out of dark times, but reading the English translation (below) the language has the slightly oblique, more poetic, perspective that Sumie often employs. Early songs rarely involved other musicians but as her style has developed more have been brought in to add colour and texture. Luckily Sumie’s native Gothenburg has a friendly and supportive community of players to draw from and she is joined on this track by Kristoffer Ragnstam on drums (he also produced the track), Klabbe Hörngren on piano and Joel Lundberg on bass. Drums hang slightly behind the beat with languid ease and occasional timpani like accents, the piano offers soft stabs and rolling notes which pop like fireflies and the bass mixes roots notes with perfect double-stopped inflections and together their instruments swirl around the centre, orbiting that amazing voice.
Sumie’s music has a restraint which brings a shimmering tension, like the meniscus on water that offers neither turbulence nor total stillness. Sometimes listening to songs like this, ‘Lucky’ or ‘Divine Wind’ is like holding your breath, as if breathing will break the spell. I caught up with Sandra ‘Sumie’ Nagano just before the release and she was kind enough to enough to answer Joyzine’s questions:
‘Upp Ur Mörkret’ is a rare example of you singing in your native Swedish. Was this a conscious decision or did it just feel right not to sing in English this time?
Yes, it was a conscious choice but also very natural since this is my main language. I have written some other songs in Swedish in the past as well, and not sure why but it has been more of a challenge, but my guess is that the Swedish language is more direct and very close to home.
The single release is not through your label Bella Union and the track feels more like a personal project. Can you tell Joyzine why you have decided to release this on your own label ‘Furora’ and are there other releases planned? Also, what does the name Furora mean?
This track stands by itself as a single and it’s also with Bella Union’s support that I am releasing this on my own. I do have some projects where I have collaborated with different musicians so I thought I’d start a little place where I can release them in a proper way.
I would not go as big as to call it a label yet but it’s a start of music projects that involve different collaboration projects, so it’s more of a side-line for creative processes that I believe should be released. I am currently working on album 3 this autumn and that will be released on BU sometime in the future, this album will be my main focus after this release. Furora means Flora in Japanese.
‘Upp Ur Mörkret’ is produced by Kristoffer Ragnstam, who has done a great job, but he’s not produced any of your previous releases.
Kristoffer Ragnstam is an old friend of mine and I presented the song to him and his friends in his studio and minutes later we recorded it. So, it’s really a live recording of that meeting and that makes it more special to us.
Are there any other Swedish artists you think the Joyzine readers would enjoy and who are you currently listening to?
The cover is painted by Sumie’s Father, Yusuke Nagano.
Review by Paul F Cook
‘Upp Ur Mörkret’ (English translation)
during every step there is a road you do not see
there is a time behind every while
listening to your catch like a prisoner you came a long way
and now you wave past the city that is collapsed and too crowded
you can go further than too far you have shown me every day
you get me out of the dark because here it naturally falls
you for me away from the sight where I froze in an old time
my eyes remember
lie now do not stand up to the fanfare
that you play to your house
on our wings breaks apart the full glass I carry, I’m someone you learn and see
I should shake your voice you think I listen
but I think I hum away from all this
you get me out of the dark because here it
you lead me away from the sight where I froze in an old time
my eyes remember