Mattsson sailed north up the River Lea and out of London last summer to start recording Feral, mooring up far from the noise of the city, with only her dog for company. Her recording sessions were dependent on the solar panels, and in the evenings when the batteries lost their charge, she would go down to the lake to swim.
The percussive, almost shamanistic rhythms of her guitar have their roots in her years of playing fretless bass, while the spacious, simple arrangements hark back further still, to the traditional Scandinavian music of her past. They are tales of sailors, of loss and love, they are tales of the sea.
Ulli Mattsson grew up by the river on the border of Swedish Lapland. Since living in London she has worked as a musician, as well as renovating buildings for a variety of art projects and homes. Yet for all her years of living here, she did not forget the north. She missed the long and silent winters, and most of all she missed the water.
Six years ago she bought the shell of a boat and sailed it down from north England, bailing water all the way. Over the next few months Mattsson rebuilt her, and when she moved onto the water she found there a peace she had been searching for ever since she first left Sweden.
Sat by the wood-burner with her dog and her guitar the songs that would become Feral began to flow. The boat she called Svalan, swallow in Swedish, the restless one, the traveller. On the river she met a community of musicians, and they would play into the night, lashing their boats together to make stages for impromptu gigs. Many of them of them appear on the album, on backing vocals, violins, drums.
Feral has no clear influences. It is born of nights by the fire, of stillness, of the radio in the background, of a cheap nylon string guitar. “Float my home on the river,” it begins. “When I have a sail I go to sea.” There is water running through the album, an imagery of calm and space, but also of tenacity and force. It is an album that seems distant from the city that she now calls home, but enabled by the river that flows through it, a river she describes as a lung.
Feral is the story of her journey to the river and the voice it has given her.