Olof Dreijer and Mt. Sims present a collaborative release entitled Souvenir, due out on Rabid Records on June 9. The five-track record centres around the rich harmonics of the steel drum.
The start of the Souvenir project dates back to when Dreijer (alongside his sister Karin as The Knife) and Sims were collaborating with Planningtorock on the Tomorrow, In A Year album. They were contacted by the organization SFOTE from Trinidad/New York, who asked them to work on a project using an original steel drum made by the father of the modern steel drum, Trinidad-based legend Ellie Mannette.
Conscious of the drum's colonial history and the way the instrument has often been stereotypically depicted by Western artists like themselves, Dreijer and Sims thought it was important to comment on that. It took them 10 years to develop a personal language for the steel drum, and they slowly and surely formed the five tracks that make up Souvenir.
"We tried to find our own thing," explains Dreijer. "That’s usually our way around using an instrument that has been heavily exoticised and appropriated." So with no experience or training, the duo played the instrument using non-traditional methods like ball bearings, and water to bring out softer, lesser-heard timbres and textures.
They also wanted to highlight Scandinavia's role in the colonial project of the Caribbean. While researching the steel drum's history, they discovered it had long been a sound of protest as well as celebration. Aiming to intervene on the image of national purity that has been associated with Swedish folk music, the duo reinterpreted the medieval Swedish folk song “Liten Karin” and gave it a new musical setting with new melodies and phrasing.
Dreijer and Sims’ intentions and expressions with Souvenir reached beyond the music they recorded, as they invited the writers Anna-Maria Sörberg, Nathan Hamelberg and Tomas Hemstad to co-author an interpretive text which can be read at olofdreijer.se. To this, the Tunisian artist Aïcha Snoussi has contributed original visual artwork inspired by the themes of the music and text.
A1. Liten Karin
A2. Hybrid Fruit
B1. A Vessel Of Clay
B2. Breaths Of Clay
B3. Across This Mud