Swedish multi-instrumentalist Emil Svanangen and his alter-ego Loney, Dear may have kept off the radar in this part of the world, but Dear John actually marks his fifth album. The previous four were self released, and a Sub-Pop re-issue of 2005's Lonely, Noir became his first major release in 2007. Now Polyvinyl release Dear John, made up predominantly of understated lo-fi tracks that build layers of unassuming vocals and creative instrumentation upon electronic beats and samples. Many of these tracks are slow burners, with Svanangen adding and subtracting elements discreetly, making his sometimes eerie laptop music sound at once alien and organic.
Spiking strings that could soundtrack a Mission Impossible movie, synths that would have been at home on many a 90s dance track, sampled choral backing vocals, melodic yet medical bleeps, whistling and primitive sounding percussion are just some of the tactics employed to create this resourceful and imaginative collection of songs. Even the slower, sparser numbers that lead with Spanish and acoustic guitar build tension and atmosphere with deep droning undercurrents and underlying vocals.
That's not to say that Dear John is entirely bleak. Violent's rattling, rolling rhythms, covered as they are in twinkling, full orchestration, are reminiscent of Sigur Ros' recent more jovial work, while the swaying wind instruments of the title track wrap you in the warmth of an old fashioned waltz. Unsettling in places, uplifting in others, Dear John is a thoroughly engrossing little album.