Of the few British albums that have emerged from Stockholm’s Basecamp Studios over the years, one of the most unexpected might well be Safehaus’s 2018 debut Solna.
Possibly a perfect combination of chance and place. Tucked away in a small residential block in Årsta, Basecamp is a studio dedicated to producing records in typical Swedish style; in much the same way as they have been doing it since the Dennis Pop/Chieron era. This time rather than developing and writing for hand-picked solo artists, Safehaus arrives from the UK with an album of raw and impressively crafted songs that are both a mixture of retro and experimental.
There’s more than a hint of John Lennon and references to the classic songwriting era of the 60s and 70s, and you could imagine these songs tumbling out of the radio pretty much at any point in the last 30 years; the opening tracks Coming Home and Everybody Loves You have a quality of instant familiarity, sounding more like old classics that you might have been listening to for years, but had forgotten about until suddenly reminded.
Songwriter and singer Ben Kench has had a long apprenticeship and Solna isn’t so much a debut as a follow up to many albums recorded over a decade of activity in different bands: at least four songs have survived from these predecessors, which has something to do with how different the collection of songs sound. There is a mistaken, if understandable, tendency to view Basecamp and its producers as a kind of pop factory fixated on making records that have become the familiar hallmark of the Swedish sound. Solna could be the exception to this rule.
There is an unmistakable sound to the album that you might describe as both a Basecamp and a Safehaus sound - a dark, dense layering of electric guitars in the song All Over Again, which opens up into a climatic, off-beat instrumental - while another track, When I’m Falling, comes close to a musical homage to Lennon, who Kench describes as having the most influence on his writing.