Track: Loney Dear – ‘Oppenheimer’; the atomic age examined delicately in falsetto and solo piano

Emil Svanängen, aka Loney Dear, photographed by Per Kristiansen

LONEY DEAR is the wholly unusual solo vision of Emil Svanängen, part of the stable of talent over at Peter Gabriel’s Real World imprint, with a curiously timeless and very intelligent take on the solo singer-pianist auteur thing; at once wholly himself but seeming to draw on elements of the drama of early John Grant and equally early Rufus Wainwright, even, for my money, Tom Lehrer, somehow; and yet even further back, as if this record somehow, for all its fidelity and little electronic flourishes, was composed in about 1948. It seems to ring with the redolence of a time decades past.

Which is perhaps entirely fitting, as latest single “Oppenheimer”, takes as its seed the American theoretical physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, the so-called ‘father of the atomic bomb’, to explore how those with good intentions can be drawn into situations with consequences far beyond their control. 

Have a listen with us; it’s a song of softly jazzy vamps, Emil gently sibilant falsetto narrating a tale of huge powers and knowledge bent to destructive ends; of a cadence that speaks of (mushroom) clouds troubling a placid horizon.

Emil says: “A lot of those people working with the atomic bomb were astrophysicists, they were passionate about researching space and mathematics and here they had this amazing opportunity, almost too good to miss.

“Maybe they were also trapped in a situation that was hard to avoid in a way. And immediately they understood, when they saw the results, that this is horrible. Like we’ve been tricked into doing this.

“There’s the famous quote by Oppenheimer: ‘I have become the destroyer of worlds.’ There’s just something really powerful about it and that era.

“It’s crazy, the fact that during that nuclear age, the atomic bomb was the future and it was popular culture. And the fact that the bikini was the latest fashion product and they named it after where they detonated an atomic bomb just tells you so much – it was a different age.

Emil recorded that album, A Lantern And A Bell, on Stockholm’s Södermalm peninsula, and thus nautical references abound elsewhere on the work.

Real World boss Peter Gabriel says of the new record; “I am very proud that we are working with such a gifted songwriter. When you’re isolating, what better than to be wrapped up in these beautiful imaginative constructions – the work of a master.”

Loney Dear’s A Lantern And A Bell will be released by Real World digitally, on CD and on vinyl on March 26th; you can order your copy over at Bandcamp now.

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