What does Sara Parkman sound like?
A Modern take on traditional folk from around the globe.
The review of Sara Parkman – Eros, Agape, Philia
Sometimes a unique and distinctive voice is all that an artist needs to make the hairs on my neck stand up. Sara Parkman has one of those voices. The Swedish folk songstress is able to shapeshift from angelic faery prettiness to verging on Bulgarian folk singing with its bombastic bellowing gravitas. What makes Sara Parkman even more potent is that she doesn’t rely solely on her voice to pull a song through. She is as experimental and exciting with her music as she is with her voice.
‘Eros, Agape, Philia’ is Sara’s second full album and it merges together different folk traditions into one seamless experience. There’s Nordic folk, Georgian chants, Germanic folklore and an Eastern European flare across the music with the odd escape to Asian lands too with a handpan. You can have something utterly tribal and bombastic with ‘Ut mere!’ followed by the worldly village folk of ‘Björnen’ that could be used across Europe for a town anthem. Then we veer east for ‘Neonljusen’ with sumptuous handpan, harmoniums and rich chants. Only eight minutes earlier we were in a forest going nuts with our drums. In two minutes’ time, we’ll be holding rain-soaked rituals with ‘Till Salka’. It sounds effortless for Sara Parkman to bounce between the countries and centuries and its a gift to the listener.
Sara’s voice carries you through but the music is cleverly mixed too. For instance ‘Till Salka’ is as much synth based as it is traditional. It’s second half turns into a genuine world dance anthem with heavy beats, glitchy vocals and a celestial synth. It’s a crossover you don’t often hear outside of Irina, Irah or a dance remix of Lisa Gerrard. Electronica is omnipresent across the album but you may not notice it at first listen.
When not purging the forests, Parkman is busy making interesting folk-pop too and the second half of the album explores that side. ‘Mammakroppar’ is a beautifully sweet ballad that reminds me of Rebekka Karijord at times with its simplicity and cleanness. ‘Mörkgröna älven (feat. Markus Krunegård)’ is a dark dusty folk ballad where Markus’ voice deeply resonates alongside Sara’s like a Nick cave and PJ Harvey duet. ‘Rosen’ then moves into Qntal territory with strings and synths underpinning a dance beat for Sara to command over. Whereas that track is a joyous chant ‘Ack Bliv’ is a neon synth and vocal piece that reminds me of Iran. Sara consistently nails a Middle-Eastern vocal flair where her voice flickers like a flame in the wind. It is beautiful, solemn and powerful simultaneously and whisks you away in an instant. The title track for example is a mixture of traditional chimes, harmonium organs, strings and wiry synths. It sounds both ancient and modern whilst Sara’s voice stays soft and fragile as she sings about her gravestone. I don’t know where I am as a listener but it’s certainly not on this plain. As the closing track ‘Finnas, inte finnas’ closes out as an organ-drenched chant I’m frankly not sure I want to return to normality.
It is so rare that an album just instantly clicks with me on every level on the first listen. ‘Eros, Agape, Philia’ did just that. From the evocative instrumentation and beautifully haunting melodies through to Sara’s captivating voice – every second of it is stunning. It’s like a modern traditionalism of folk music and I absolutely love it. This will easily be in my top albums of 2022 list. Easily top 5. Take that as a recommendation of the strongest kind. Dive in.
Recommended track: Rosen
Support Higher Plain Music
Higher Plain Music is part of the Higher Plain Network – a one-man indie media project. If you like what I do, please consider supporting me via Patreon for as little as $1/£1 a month. In return, you’ll receive additional perks for supporting me, such as behind-the-scenes content and free downloads. You can also donate using PayPal. Sharing the website helps too or using the affiliate buy now links on reviews. I receive a few pence per Amazon sale. All your support will enable me to produce better content, more often. I’d love to make this a full-time media network and your support can make that happen. Thank you.