It’s unseasonably warm the day I meet up with Frida Sundemo for a walk along the High Line in New York City. Despite the heat, she’s sporting a blue fur coat – the ensemble sets her apart from the sea of selfie-stick-wielding tourists who’ve all decided to make the elevated pilgrimage from Gansevoort to 34th. It’s the kind of fashion statement you’d certainly expect from someone who’s about to release a record of shimmering, cinematic tracks, but not necessarily one that shouts “Dr. Sundemo”.
Of course, she’s not a doctor (yet), but in addition to making music, she’s got three years of medical studies under her belt.
“I’m really fascinated by the brain,” she tells me. But in her native Sweden, she explains, it would be difficult to pursue a career in neurology this late in the game. Instead, she thinks becoming a Doctor of Medicine (MD) would be a more viable option.
For the moment, she’s put the medical degree on hold, and is pursuing music full-throttle, but she fully intends to finish out her studies eventually.
On the surface, the two fields (medicine and music) seem like they couldn’t be more different, but in a world that feels increasingly topsy-turvy, they begin to have more and more in common. Music has always been an extraordinarily therapeutic outlet for both artist and listener, but especially now, when the daily news cycle is nothing short of a waking nightmare, it offers a vital source of comfort. Music is, quite literally, medicine.
And Sundemo’s brand of melody feels welcomingly escapist; the sweeping arrangements on Flashbacks and Futures fittingly stir feelings both of nostalgia and what’s to come – combining synthesizers and symphony, it’s like listening to a space-age orchestra. It’s the kind of music that transports you sixty-two miles up without your feet ever leaving the ground.
The careful balance of classic and futurist instrumentation keeps the record from ever feeling cold or sterile, which is always a risk when delving into electronic territory. I can’t help but wonder if this equilibrium has been achieved, even if subconsciously, by having grown up between two worlds – the one before the internet, and the one after. She and I talk about the unique perspective of Millennials who can relate to both of these eras, the one of waiting and the one of immediacy, and being able to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each one.
“I like the democratic nature of the internet and technology,” she says, “but I’m just as happy not to be constantly looking down at my phone.” Flashbacks and Futures delivers the best of both worlds in this regard, embracing technology but remaining anchored in humanity.
Really, that’s what any good doctor is – someone who embraces scientific advancements, but who still retains a notable bedside manner. And whether or not she trades in the blue fur for a lab coat anytime soon, it’s clear that Sundemo is already doing a bang-up job of making musical medicine for 2017.
Flashbacks and Futures is available for download now.