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2021 starts as 2020 ends, the good as well as all the bad, with more better-than-everything-else Gothenburg output. Elin Engstrom (of Loopsel) and JJ Ulius' debut 7" as Monokultur back in 2018 was somewhere near the front end of the new wave of young Swedish artists that have gathered around the older heads at Discreet Music, and they make good on that promise with a second LP that's every bit the best thing either of them have been involved in. As with the Loopsel record, and to some extent their contemporaries in Amateur Hour, there's a big focus on the ethereal lost-in-the-dream phase of classic era 4AD - the submerged industrial clang of early Cocteaus obviously, but also elements of the various ghostworlds of Dif Juz, Dead Can Dance, His Name Is Alive, This Mortal Coil... What, for me, positions this above their still-great first album, is nothing more complex than the benefit of time. Those early recordings were as blunt and unrefined as they were a compelling reimagining of their influences, but on Ormens Väg, Monokultur have crystallised into something beyond their sharp reference points. Yes, the songs are better recorded, the compositions more defined. But that's not quite it... More so than the music itself, what Monokultur mostly share with those cited 4AD acts is that ability to construct a world around themselves, to understand the value in the cult and occulted, the latter helped hugely by their insistence on singing mostly in the mysterious harsh tones of their native language (and perhaps this music lands differently with non-Swedish speakers?). Make no mistake, Ormens Väg is world-making of the highest grade. The last few years have often had me wondering if Gothenburg is the centre of the universe. Here's another reason why...Best of the year so soon?