You probably haven’t heard of Rude, Sweden, a sylvan enclave several hours north of Stockholm, and that suits Daniel Norgren just fine. You probably haven’t heard of Daniel Norgren either. Depending on who you ask, the 35-year-old Swede is some kind of hermit, mystic, bedroom-pop musician, or all of the above. With multiple home-recorded LPs released on his own Superpuma Records over the last decade and countless shows played across Scandinavia and Western Europe, Norgren happily exists as an outsider among outsiders, and he weaves the joy he finds in isolation and in nature into his songs.
His latest, Wooh Dang, is his first international release, and it demonstrates the same unadorned simplicity as all of his work. Norgren’s first musical love was Blind Willie McTell, whose pre-war blues he discovered on imported vinyl, and though he brings a range of instrumentation to Wooh Dang, the album shares a sense of rustic refinement wrought from self-imposed limitation. Norgren incorporates blues, folk, country and psych rock into his quietly profound songs, and Wooh Dang plays like secular worship music, or maybe animist gospel.
Like the bulk of Norgren’s catalog, Wooh Dang contrasts concise, poignant songwriting with abstract, ambience-setting sketches. “Bummin’ ‘round, trying to find the flow,” Norgren sings on lead single “The Flow,” laying out his mission statement with a voice seemingly liquified via a Leslie amp. He’s deployed “The Flow” in his live shows for a few years, and here it feels live, too, the sound of the room—a century-old farmhouse close to Norgren’s house—delineating the song’s sonic space.
“Something is waiting down the line,” Norgren sings in “The Power,” “waiting to find you and show you what you are.” It’s a song of affirmation, like the subsequent “Rolling Rolling Rolling,” both of which stand among Wooh Dang’s strongest. “Let Love Run the Game”—quite possibly an optimist’s rejoinder to Jackson C. Frank’s indelible “Blues Run the Game”—is a chant of electrified uplift, Norgren singing the story of walking in the woods and hearing a bird impart the titular words of wisdom.
When Norgren works in standard verse-chorus-verse structure, his songs move from mesmerizing, genre-less impressionism to sharply defined, soulfully rendered declarations. On Wooh Dang he spans the spectrum. Singers have sung about nature’s power and the curative transcendence of love since songs were invented, but Norgren’s perspective somehow feels brand-new.