ARBETE OCH FRITID: “Se upp! för livet” *****

Recorded 1976


The long-running Swedish ensemble was founded in 1968 by saxophone player Roland Keijser and trumpeter Torsten Eckerman.  During the early years, the leaders searched the perfect modus operandi between their emotional attachment to Nordic melodiousness and their talent for folk-jazz thematic developments.  The departures of key personnel after the first two records pushed the band even further into straddling these strongly divergent musical pathways.  The results were, most of time, satisfactory, especially in live format.  During concerts, the band often indulged in longer forms, ingeniously stringing familiar themes together and interspersing them with tentative improvisational departures.  At the same time, the utilization of traditional folk motifs expanded into other cultures – the Balkans, the Baltics and Asia Minor. 


The radical transformation came after the founders’ departure in 1975.  A+F were then joined by two veterans anointed with Sweden’s most celebrated “psychedelic” pedigree – Torbjörn Abelli and Thomas Mera Gartz.  Both had previously been involved in a continuously evolving jamming vehicle known under a variety of monikers: Pärson Sound, International Harvester, Harvester and, last but not least, Träd Gräs och Stenar.  Their arrival critically affected Arbete och Fritid’s sound and pushed the band towards a bolder form of rock jam. 


Although the two records created by this line-up are among Sweden’s most accomplished experimental rock statements from the era, they do show signs of stylistic strain.  The psych-jam format proved largely incompatible with the lingering affection for Scandinavian folk. 


Roland Keijser’s and Kjell Westling’s subsequent ‘return’ resulted in the recording of a deeply sentimental, charming acoustic document that remained in stark contrast to the wild A+F of the late 1970s. 


Multi-instrumentalist Ove Karlsson was the only member of A+F who played with the band throughout its entire existence.  Only his direct testimony could reveal the compromises behind the band’s double life.




From deep silence, Ove Karlsson’s furtive cello adsorbs airy, sustained notes on the C-string.  Thomas Gartz’s indifferent mallets stumble on the large tom-tom.  One by one, spacey guitars lurk from their dens, howling like a pack of orphaned wolves.  True to this pictorial metaphor, Tord Bengtsson’s and Ove Karlsson’s strings recede in tremolos, but advance in glissandos.  Meanwhile, the mallets progression remains frail and ineffectual, affecting the overall atmosphere of this lazy jam.  Whenever the energy does swell up, it dies down almost instantly, taking the joule content to negligible levels.  Finally, the multiple guitar barking becomes more intrusive, densifying the texture with echo, fuzz and wah-wah.  Although the drummer maintains the simplistic meter, the tempo picks up, and the shadow of Träd Gräs och Stenar’s is upon us.  Supported by bass and guitar tremolos, Bengtsson construes an irradiant, magnetic ascension.  The pace stays languorously laid-back, à la Grateful Dead, and dangerously epigonic by 1976.  The utopistic pathos of guitar-led anthem is, however, dense enough to escape the pretentiousness of the 1970s’ rock.  When the volume increases a flute saves the band from too conventional a climax (Who is this?  The mysterious Jan Zetterquist credited on the cover?  We know that neither Keijser nor Westling appear in this session).  Transparent flute runs subjugate mallet-drum rolls and a guitar drone.  The ensemble slowly climbs down the dynamic slope, leaving the cumulonimbus of feedback behind them.  The final fade-out is as slow as the fade-in was.  It is down to Ove Karlsson on the cello again…


Fantasins lov

a.Väldernärså stor



This time, an Indian-sounding flute intones a morning tune to reckless banjo strumming and hollow sounds on clay pots.  When someone (Ove Karlsson?  Ulf Lauthers?) begins a puja-styled incantation, the memory of Don Cherry returns to Stockholm’s NMW Studios.  Having dodged familiar tuning, shimmering strings join the thumb piano to sublimate the oddly transgressive harmonics.  As the kalimba prances around, the leader whistles and then commences an emotional recitation in Swedish.  In fact, the droning voices evoke more likely a carefree bonfire sing-along than a concentrated Tibetan throat singing or Mongolian khoomei.  A percussive vocabulary apportions additional splashes of color.


Dansa i ring

Bells and Tord Bengtsson’s fiddle jolt around in an upbeat Nordic dance.  Years later, the gammaldans stomping does force armchair listener’s feet off the ground.


Jag vet inte så noga

Chunky organ and a rather pedestrian hi-hat do not augur well for something that sounds like a 1970s’ TV commercial.  It soon turns out to be a very terrestrial pop song for two, untrained tenors.  If it’s a parody, then it does not quite work, despite their incessant repetition: “Not so exactly”.   Today, Karlsson’s ballroom-styled organ trivia would qualify for a retro jewel and land on the special shelf along Aavikko.  And if karaoke had existed back in 1976, then “Jag vet inte så noga” would have ruled in deep north’s KTV parlors.  In effect, it is achieves neither.


Jag bär min smärta

As much as we would wish the pristine guitar and piano hymn intro to guide us into a Popol Vuh pilgrimage, the vocal soon ruins it, turning the song into a Dylan-type grumble.  Gartz’s violin joins the crooner’s ode to “pain”.  It lingers rather conventionally, with a dose of harmonica making it even more rural.


Knoga och knega (Framtid)

For the first time on this record, a heavy vibrato makes an appearance.  Jews harp?  Hard-boiled guitar?  A tone generator’s husky hum?  Here again, Gartz’s skins are subjected to soft, felted treatment.  A chanted phrase is repeated ad nauseam to some low-pitched rumble and non-resonant bells.   The result is rather spooky as the low-end, speculative ultrasound seems to be generated by something more ominous than Torbjörn Abelli’s bass.  The chant is unhurried, though audibly tired by the oppressive jungle filled with animal fracas. 



Cheap organ looms in the back of some country barn party.  A master of ceremonies half-sings to the inconsequential chords from Karlsson’s weary keyboard.  Someway between a Scandinavian Fred Lane and an antediluvian version of Bad Statistics, he preaches something about the depravity of sex and drugs.  The logorrheic, garrulous performance sounds like an undesirable, drunken lecture.  But it does seem to constitute one of Ulf Lauthers’s key elements in the overall concept of the record – a meta-commentary on societal changes in the confusing decade of 1970s.


Jag är inte som andra (kaos eller ordning)

Cosmic guitars swirl in helical fashion with Abelli’s pulsating bass, captured occasionally by clutches from petulant cowbells.  Karlsson obsesses about one specific key on his organ, but when one of the guitars begins to howl again in the distance, an eerie half-whisper startles us right in front of us.  Only the organ survives the shock.


Jag vägrar va’ me’

Another of those bonfire songs with just acoustic guitar strumming and a tambourine.  It is folksy.  It is elementary.  It is secular.  It is primitive.  The band members clearly cannot sing, but they do insist.  Despite some attempts to orchestrate the piece (a deeply underadjusted violin) the song was clearly penned with guitar in the hand.   Instead of a refrain, the song is stuffed with infantile echolalia. 


Lev hårt – dö ung!

A working class, grungey festival number delivered with a hoarse, angry, anti-musical voice and all of the guitars in a proto-punk rhythmic role.  The effect is not unlike Mighty Baby or Pink Fairies further West.


Avdelnig – indelning (giv akt!)

In one of the more intriguing moments on the record, a multi-xylophone and ‘clockwork cuckoo’ galore pollutes vulnerable horror movie buildups.  Jan Zetterquist must have had a hand in this intense, bulimic, invariant assault on the top register.  It is up to the listener to establish any metric sense in this.  Half-way through, some sloganeering kicks in and the piece distills into a haughty lecture against social control.  It is refined into an engaged Radiospiel and closes with quasi-military commands. 


Nu måste jag välja!

Mellow 1960s pop guitar arpeggios spangle the spectrum almost like the Ventures.  Only shadowy glissandos remind us that this was taped 15 years later, in a completely different era.  Several singers deliver the text in their untrained unison: “I choose”…   But rather than evoking a protest, it all sounds rather polite and non-confrontational. 


Spel i soluppgången

Second significant jam on the record.  This time, Gartz employs his cymbals extensively, while guitars’ wah-wah quacks from a distance.  It seems that some of the guitars are treated with the bow (or it could be Karlsson’s electrically processed cello).  With just enough echo applied to the bowed and sawed guitar/cello, the rhythm section does a great job by keeping it focused and on-target.  Bengtsson’s bass is perfectly aligned with Gartz and disciplined enough to allow for the two guitarists to enjoy their freedom.  The cello repetition gets an almost systemic regularity – not unlike Arthur Russell’s recordings some 6 years later.  Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the jam surges in volume.  The cymbals crash, and the violin goes fiddly, almost bluegrassy.  From this inflection point, the whole band accelerates to the point where one would not expect any psych jam to go – at devilish, bluegrass speed.  Either Gartz or Bengtsson steals the show on Charlie Daniels.  A highly original and successful marriage of unlikely inputs. 



On this slow-paced, violin-based ballad, the fiddle allocates some voluble rudiments.  This is perfectly justified by the title (Love Song).  But in the higher register the repetitions make its brief cycles almost Karnatic. 



An affable Jerry Garcia-like guitar lead spins and traipses, letting the other guitarist operate the isometric, almost metronomic rhythm.  The lead guitar hikes up and solos freely without showing off.  During this exquisite passage, Arbete och Fritid sound like a compressed slurry from Heldon, Spacecraft, Verto or Peter Green’s first solo – an organized set of guitar solos perfectly enveloped within rhythmic multidividers.  There are no superfluous fireworks, no swagger, just an exhibit of classy guitar vorticism.  The pace remains tight and disciplined throughout.  If this is truly music of Gotland, then why did we not hear more?


Älskade barn (tiller alla)

Double violin drone and regular zither arpeggios tee it off for a verbal litany.  One violin soars into the photosphere.  The other stays earthbound, buried in vascular drone.


Brudmarsch från Vågå i Norge

This form of a plaintive, but auspicious mazurka would later fill most of LP “Sen dansar vi ut”.  It could be the reason why the heroic theme sounds familiar its anecdotal delinquency.  Violins, drums and guitars dredge a languid, rustic motif as if overheard at a large, provincial get-together.  It would fit the forged innocence of pre-1968 Czech movie.  And that is not the only cinematic reminiscence…



When a soliloquy in Swedish gets wrapped in bird chirping, I can’t help thinking about the contemplative visions of Isak Borg in Bergman’s 1957 classic “Wild Strawberries“…  Plagued by the prominence of unrelated, black-and-white images, I barely notice the drifting infusion of psych jam.  Against the reverberating wails, birds warble, violins oxidize and drums flagellate with cold regularity.  The band reconfigures these sources into loosely hanging tassels of accidental counterpoints.  At the repugnantly caustic edge of our perceptual apparatus, a wild bird whistles in full-blown contrast with the “rock” side of the band, latent inside a deep, narrowing tunnel.  There is no guitar fronting, just the obsessive violin systemism and haunted wailing from deep in the valley.  When the smelting guitars finally emerge, the jam is over and we are freed into an immobility of an aviary saturated with twitter, warble and tweet.  Great listen for long northern winters. 


Stora David Bagare

This is an old traditional rondo, arranged by the band for acoustic guitar, violin and multiple voices.  After the heady jamming apex, this acts as a seductive, joyful refrain.  Scurrilous yodeling, offbeat chorus, polyphonic multi-voices, and plain ludic shouting follow incoherently.


Nu är det dax

The record closes with this drunken waltz led by the violins of Tord Bengtsson and Thomas Mera Gartz. 






Positions 7 and 9 are most highly recommended, but 4 and 5 include many excellent moments as well. 


1. ARBETE OCH FRITID: “Arbete och fritid” (1970)

2. ARBETE OCH FRITID: “Andra LP” (1971)

3. ARBETE OCH FRITID & Rolf LUNDQVIST: “Slottsbergets hambo & andra valser“ (1972)


5. ARBETE OCH FRITID: “Arbete och fritid” (1973)

6. ARBETE OCH FRITID: “Ur spår” (1974)

7. ARBETE OCH FRITID: “Se upp! för livet” 2LP (1976)

8. ARBETE OCH FRITID: “Sen dansar vi ut” 2LP (1977)

9. ARBETE OCH FRITID: “Hallandan” (1978-79)


The band also made a record with Margareta Söderberg, which I have never heard:


Margareta SÖDERBERG & ARBETE OCH FRITID: “Käringstand” (1976)


Shortly after A+F’s closing chapter, Ove Karlsson’s next band recorded a legendary LP – a highly successful relay between the musical sensibilities of the two – very different – decades:


NYA LJUDBOLAGET: “Nya Ljudbolaget“ (1980)



Recorded 1974-76



Archimedes Badkar were a sizable conglomerate of highly talented Swedish musicians who enjoyed straddling the uncertain ground between European folk traditions, unjazzy improvisation and exotic panethnicity.  Although on vinyl few of their compositions extended 10 minutes, the free-flowing form of these pieces indicates that their musical adventures must have been more lengthy affairs.  


The band’s debut was recorded in a movable line-up of Per Tjernberg (keyboards), Peter Rönnberg (guitar), Matts Hellqvist (guitar and bass), Christer Bjernelind (bass), Kjell Andersson (drums), Tommy Adolfsson (trumpet), Jörgen Adolfsson (saxophone) and Pysen Eriksson (percussion).  Multi-instrumentalist Ingvar Karkoff later replaced Rönnberg, but only appeared on the second LP.  By the time Archimedes Badkar recorded its third LP, Bengt Berger and Peter Ragnarsson took responsibility for the increasingly complex polyrhythmic exoticism. 


Clearly, Archimedes Badkar fully digested the seeds planted in Sweden by Don Cherry in the early 1970s.  Despite the various influences – Balkan, Indian, or West African – the band’s unquestionable musical literacy always allowed them to maintain a sense of balance.  It remains a fresh and engaging experience over three decades later.




Förtryckets sista timme

The double LP begins with a riddle.  Ottoman-sounding lute will weave its gentle threads throughout this first piece, but we are not sure who the player is.  The original LP mentions Anita Livstrand as the officiating tambura player, but some later tracks convince us that she probably handles the droning Indian tambura, not the long-necked Iranian tambura or Yugoslav namesake derived from Turkish saz…  Whoever the virtuoso of this oud-sounding lute is does a heck of a job.  The drone ration is provided by Jörgen Alofsson on static viola.  Pysen Eriksson adds his hand drums with divagations transplanted from raga scales.  As discrete accompaniment is being procreated from an intercourse of tambourine and electric bass, the “oud” lays out uplifting, floating, quasi-improvised beadwork.  Then the viola drone and rhythmic tiles whittle down, allowing the “oud” to handle the spotlight with C-tunings.  The track picks up pace and sidewinds with Christer Bjernelind’s locked-in bass becoming more prominent.  This sublime example of damascened ethno-jazz-folk was written by Christér Bothen, one of Don Cherry’s disciples.


Efter regnet

Peter Ragnarsson on digressive tabla and Christer Bjernelind on glimmering, breezy mandola anchor the rest of the band.  Somewhat laconic and parsimonious, the viola lurks behind, overshadowed by faint, subharmonic vocalizations.  Tangential (Indian) tambura plays a very marginal role here – only occasionally pitching in a short phrase.  Throughout the piece, the sensorial and subtle timbral organization evokes the Italian band Aktuala which featured a very young Trilok Gurtu around the same time.  When violin and mandola finally intone a springtime tune, things get progressively denser, with superimposition of patterns moving in various directions. 



This sequel, recorded several months later, is a much faster acoustic guitar theme that evolves into a pleasant theme for multiple lutes and bass. 



A sprightly folk song is played on clarinet solo (Kjell Andersson) and mandolin.  After the competent intro, an unwieldy recorder and triangle add some enhancing accents. 



Sleigh bells invite us to a Nordic ride.  Polarized drone emerges from electric guitars, painting static aquarelle circles.  The bells and coppery jangle occasionally bulge from inside the drone, some generated by faster handiwork and some by dissolute pick scrapes.  At the end, only sleigh bells bid farewell.


”Charmante Yérévan” en lät från Armenien

This traditional Armenian song was arranged by Per Tjernberg and Kjell Westling of Arbete och Fritid.  Westling, who had recently recorded with Bengt Berger in Spjärnsvallet, appears here on flutes, disambiguating the melodic lines.  The remaining instruments – electric piano, mandola, acoustic piano, drum and bass – conform to the Sweden’s vintage ‘world music’ style of that era and comparisons with Arbete och Fritid cannot be easily avoided.  When Per Tjernberg’s clavinet rolls into the cusps of twists and hooks, Samla Mammas Manna’s tongue-in-cheek playfulness comes to mind as well.  There are even more references when the duo of Tommy & Jörgen Adolfsson on trumpet and saxophone takes over.  This album was recorded barely four months after Tommy Adolfsson participated in the recording of Berits Halsband’s eponymous LP.  From all this personal distraction emerges an intoxicating classic of European folk.  The candid cascade is finally cut off by the bass and electric piano.


Afreaka II

This track prepares us for the abstract sound that Jörgen Adolfsson would soon develop on Iskra’s monumental avant-garde jazz recordings, with bells, chimes, free form acoustic guitar and excursions into piano morphology.  Drumsticks hurt themselves against a metal frame, while less bruised participants embark on a timbral research of mandola and mandolin (Jörgen Adolfsson).  After a short silence, sparse scraps of isolated notes contend with hollow bamboo clacking and half-mute gongs.  Unexpectedly, acoustic guitar quilts a West African-sounding picking line, quickly falling into a groove and gaining support from an army of shakers, rattles and vibraslap.  The resulting, obsessive drumming on woodblocks (Bengt Berger) reminds me of a raucous, percussive trip on a Senegalese ferry not long ago…  Here, Archimedes Badkar engages with passion in a tribal jam, fading out all too soon.


Radio Tibet

The first question is – “is it a tuba, or is it a Tibetan trumpet”?  Recalling my own visits to Tibetan monasteries, this sounds rather quiet and unobtrusive by comparison.  Crash cymbals resonate, with long sustain before we can identify the horn sound to be (most probably) Bb bass trumpet.  It is endowed with a round, full sound – way more responsive than the long Tibetan trumpets and more easily likened to a trombone.  When Ingvar Karkoff’s electric guitar tinkers gently with reverb, he is ends up being entirely swallowed by the resulting echo.  Meanwhile, crotals shimmer fluently, ebbing and flowing in and out of focus.  The layers accumulate, impasto style – Pysen Eriksson pitches in on palo de agua and some metallic tubes send out graceful overtones.  By now Karkoff’s guitar turns into a Günter Schickert-like echo guitar, albeit sans its rock rhythm.


Tvä världar

Surprisingly, this is formed around additive rhythms on acoustic piano, reminiscent of Steve Reich’s easily recognizable style, and complete with invading horn waves.  Only mandolin’s barely tangible clipping adds a differing shade.  We have sitar and chimes with splashes of liquefied color; and a soprano saxophone sketching a melancholic line.  In a bow to systemic syncretism, the violin chips in in a more Paul Zukofsky-like manner (more active, squeezing many more notes per measure).  These claddings are carried on loops of various lengths and begin to diverge just when a straight-ahead rock drum intervenes.  Once, twice.  Then nothing.  Thrice.  Is this going to be another rock version of classical American minimalism?  L’infonie’s “Vol.33” (1970) comes to mind – the very first of many rock adaptations of Terry Riley’s most famous composition.  But Archimedes Badkar is not launching into rewriting the rules of the genre.  The band will incorporate a salient trumpet, a feeble piano and the Indian tambura forever condemned to its background role. 


Jugoslavisk dansk

This is a merry “Yugoslav” dance scored for saxophone, tambourine and solo clarinet.  With some additional ingredients from reticent acoustic piano and bass, the band spins endlessly – there so much buoyancy with just a couple measures!  We would have to wait for Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio to get a real mouthful of these Balkan hooks. 


Indisk folkmelodi och ett tema av Ingvar

Indian tambura drone translates for us the Swedish title (Indian folk melody).  Very un-Indian recorders replace subcontinental shawms and clavinet substitutes for…  well only Ingvar Karkoff would know for what.  The rhythmic framework is maintained by Moroccan bandir and tambourine.  In a fluid, conversational development, Per Tjernberg syncopates on his acoustic piano within the limits of the upbeat theme.  Archimedes Badkar perfected a thematic evolution in which melodious prayers are born from exotic percussive foam, something that this piece does very well.


Tvä hundra stolta är

The closing track is a very distinct affair, opening with non-realist cello bowing.  All the other contributions will remain contingent on this – electronic organ overtones, violin squeals and mourning.  It is a highly intense piece of improvisation zooming on a rather unusual instrumental combination.  The violin and cello will seek some classical cues, but to no avail; the exploration will remain free form.  Kjell Anderson scrapes and grates his drums but dares not to beat them.  The plaintive violin brings back the ghost of Dave Cross. 





Archimedes Badkar climaxed around the time of “II”, but their first LP is equally recommended. 


ARCHIMEDES BADKAR: “Badrock för barn i alla åldrar” (1974)



ARCHIMEDES BADKAR: “Bado kidogo” (1979)


For those who enjoy the ethno-jazz side of Archimedes Badkar, several early efforts by Bengt Berger are also worth tracking down:


RENA RAMA: “Rena Rama” (1973)

SPJÄRNSVALLET: “Spjärnsvallet” (1975)

Bengt BERGER: “Bitter Funeral Beer” (1981)

BITTER FUNERAL BEER BAND: “Live in Nürnberg“ (1984)


Jörgen Adolfsson’s Iskra developed a very different, free form style that at first approach may seem sterile.  These records do, however, reward listeners’ commitment.  You do not have to be the lover of European free jazz to enjoy them.


ISKRA: “Jazz i Sverige 1975“ 2LP (1975)

ISKRA: “Allemansrätt“ (1976-77)

ISKRA: “Besvärjelser“ (1979)


As mentioned before, Tommy Adolfsson starred on Berits Halsband’s eponymous LP.  The band’s music falls more into avant-fusion category.  It is highly rewarding and has aged very well.


BERITS HALSBAND: “Berits Halsband” (1975)


Archimedes Badkar’s extended line-up overlaps partly with the ever eclectic Arbete och Fritid and with Don Cherry’s Swedish formations.  Both will qualify for separate treatment.

Lars HOLLMER: “Viandra” *****


Recorded 2001-2007


The world would be much gloomier a place without Lars Hollmer.  The Swedish composer, accordionist and keyboard player was the key force behind the legendary Samla Mammas Manna and has over the last quarter of the century developed a unique melodist vocabulary, drawing inspiration from both European folk music and baroque.


Holed up in his “Chickenhouse” home studio in Uppsala, Hollmer has regularly brought to Nordic light series of highly successful accordion miniatures.  Whether in stately fugues and cantatas, jolting polkas and farandoles, rapid scherzos and capriccios or pensive lullabies and bagatelles, Hollmer’s final synthesis remained highly original and instantly appealing.  Despite his frequent references to the traditional dances of the European north, the relative paucity of direct quotations has kept him apart from the Scandinavian folk renaissance of the last 15 years. 


Some of Zamla’s fans reproach Hollmer for not replicating the band’s sound more faithfully.  But Zamla was always more than just Lars Hollmer.  His solo records lack the band’s contorted time signatures, contrary motions, Coste Apetrea’s guitar twitches or extended, mirthful extemporations.  Still, Hollmer’s recordings more than compensate for that with cliché-free emotional content and open minded attitude to a variety of musical traditions. 





This is not the first time that Hollmer opens his record witch such an unassuming, feathery tune.  His accordion knits slow, reedy gables.  Harmonic mellotronics materializes, setting the stage for middle register, consonant melodic line.  But the gracefulness of the piece distracts from the otherwise unstable periodicity of the epicycles carrying not one, but several charming sub-themes. 


Mirror Objects

This time mellotronics invites us to a poignant waltz.  Hollmer’s accordion merely serves harmonics.  The piece stays afloat, eerily tinged with 1940s’ tenebrism. 



The track begins with a low-key glockenspiel, then moving on to a full quartet sound.  Michel Berckmans enters on stately, silicate English horn, joined by Santiago Jimenez on violin and Andreas Tengberg on cello.  The isostatic character of the piece first smacks of distant memories of a music school, save for the seasoned pizzicato.  The band burgeons in an atmosphere of serenity, later carmelizing into decorative baroque quatrefoils. 



In a radical change of pace, “Snabb” introduces high volume, bass-laden digital drum setting for a melodica and accordion line.  In turn, the subsequent transition will draw on Miriodor-like, keyboard-led neo-classicism.  The rest of the piece is be filled by the contrasting alteration between the drum episode (courtesy none other than Morgan Agren of Mats & Morgan fame) and the classicizing keyboard answer.  Towards the end, the robust pummeling will be enriched by tinny, hollow kalimba touches. 



This track was apparently inspired by a Moldavian girl who appeared in a movie to which Hollmer wrote a score.  A short divertimento for accordion, melodica and acoustic piano proves Hollmer’s willingness to constantly refresh his format with new sources of folk inspiration. 



A wistful, songlike cavatina of highest caliber.  It is delivered camminando with the basic bass line from the keyboard bass, and the melody spinning through melodica.  Ulf Wallander on tenor saxophone adds some agility to lower registers, enhancing the bass line.  This is one of the most romantic moments on this record.



The full quartet returns with strings and accordion interplay – a format that can scarcely escape comparisons to Astor Piazzolla’s legendary dramaturgy.  Glockenspiel and keyboards are in clear lead, hosting a concordant, ashy veil of bassoon, cello and violin.  A double of violin and accordion paint a theme that hangs over like cirrocumulus.  This could easily qualify for Hollmer’s another film score. 


Merged with Friends

Piano and melodica open in a gentle, tender, optimistic tone.  This is Hollmer’s well-trodden format – first the exposition without the bass line and then the primary theme repeats it with the support – this time performed by Berckmans’ organic bassoon.  The piano will provide some variation before fizzling out.



A trio with bassoon and violin.  The track’s rhythmic mobility converges on melodica’s excesses – well supported here by the bassoon.  Then, a surprise transition leads to an eerily familiar, ecstatic melodic adventure.  On the way down, the more prominent violin provides a welcome textural enrichment.  The non-linear seams that tie together the hummable refrain will probably exclude “Konstig” from the radio, but otherwise its bold and swinging panache would beat commercial melodists hands down.



A stately, contrapuntal fughetta with Berckmans on bumblebee bassoon.  Its glyptic polyphony is appropriately artful and elegant.



A polka written for accordion and melodica.  It throws us back to Hollmer’s hard-driven folk dances from his early LPs.  Even if the intention is a little facetious, the resulting jumpy repetition is ludic and frivolous.


Lilla Bye

This delicate berceuse cradles us with mandolin and random cuckoo vocals from Hollmer’s three granddaughters.  The multi-focal arrangement of vocalizations and the choice of flocculent instrumentation bring to mind some of Albert Marcoeur’s more lyrical moments. 


Första 05

Violin and cello slog along chained in some doomed pilgrimage.  This is another baroque piece, quiet and solemn.  The initial ricercar sets the key for the bleak string development – somewhat reminiscent of Univers Zero’s metaphysical dirges. 



We wake up from the nightmare into a happy sunrise serenade.  Hollmer’s granddaughter officiates here in a “singing” part, thanks to the author’s innocuous nepotism.  Luckily, Zamla’s Coste Apetrea provides some assistance on mandolin.  It is full of sparkling, youthful optimism. 



Michel Berckmans’ autumnal oboe sobs slowly.  When glockenspiel and violin rejoin, Berckmans switches to harmonic bassoon.  Santiago Jimenez steps to the fore, and engages in a downcast, rueful duet with Hollmer’s accordion.  This brings back inescapable memories of long evenings en el barrio de Boca


Foldron Menad

Hollmer’s introspective string samples set up Jimenez to perform a love call which sounds like a Hungarian gypsy whine.  Somber, cheerless shadows are cast against an unobtrusive sampled chorus and a poignant cello line.  This quiet composition is marvelously evocative but at the same time pleasantly restrained.



This much earlier track has been added to round off the entire set on a more optimistic note.  A simple dance played by Lars on accordion and keyboards possesses parameters of a polka – the quintessential accordion dance.  Yet some of the keyboard developments are unmistakably Hollmerian and when he begins to spin around, it could just as well be Colombian cumbia.  The artist is such an emporium of themes that this array of influences turns each dance into a highly idiosyncratic proposition.  There is only one Lars Hollmer.




Until the very recent appearance of the supreme “Viandra”, it was position 4 that was most often drawn from the shelf.  However, 2, 3 and 5 are equally recommended.  Positions 1 and 8 are live performances of two different bands – extremely lively and brimming with cheerfulness to clear up any gloomy day.  Both 1 and 9 make extensive use of traditional themes.  From position 7 onwards, Hollmer spent a lot of time digging into his considerable inventory and inevitably some peripheral sketches crept into the public domain.  Positions 14 and 15 are artistic résumés transposed onto a micro-Japanese and macro-Canadian context, respectively. 


1. RAMLÖSA KVÂLLAR: Ramlösa Kvâllar (1977-78)

2. Lars HOLLMER: “XII Sybirska Cyklar“ (1975, 1980-81)

3. Lars HOLLMER: “Vill du hora mer“ (1981-82)

4. Lars HOLLMER: “Fråu natt idag“ (1983)

5. Lars HOLLMER: “Tonöga“ (1984-85)

6. Lars HOLLMER & the LOOPING HOME ORCHESTRA: “Vendeltid“ (1987)

7. Lars HOLLMER: “Vandelmässa“ (1972, 1983-93)

8. LOOPING HOME ORCHESTRA: “Live 1992-1993” (1992-93)

9. FEM SÖKER EM SKATT: “Fem söker em skatt“ (1987-1994)

10. Lars HOLLMER: “Andetag“ (1993-97)

11. Lars HOLLMER: “Autokomp A(nd) More“ (1982-1991, 1998)

12. Lars HOLLMER: “Utsikter“ (2000)

13. Lars HOLLMER’s GLOBAL HOME PROJECT: “Sola“ (2001)

14. Lars HOLLMER & Yukiko MOKOUJIMA DUO: “Live And More” (2003)

15. FANFARE POURPOUR & Lars HOLMMER: “Karusell Musik” (2006)

16. Lars HOLLMER: “Viandra“ (2001-2007)


Other recordings labeled by Hollmer or his LHO can be found on various compilations from the 1980s and 1990s: “Ré Records Quarterly Vol.1 No.1”, “Festival MIMI 89”, “Hardi brut”, “Angelica’92”, “Angelica’93”, “Haikus urbains”.  He also appeared on numerous recordings of other musicians – Fred Frith, Wolfgang Salomon, Volapük, Miriodor, Guigou Chenevier among them.  Naturally, there are also various other recordings of Samla Mammas Manna, Zamla Mammaz Manna and Von Zamla.  Sonic Asymmetry will return to these one day with great pleasure.


Hollmer is also a member of the international combo Accordion Tribe.  His classic compositions belong to the band’s repertoire, showcasing slightly different arrangements.  The last of the three CDs is more Hollmer-heavy.


ACCORDION TRIBE: “Accordion Tribe” (1996)

ACCORDION TRIBE: “Sea of Reeds” (2001-02)

ACCORDION TRIBE: “Lunghorn Twist” (2005)

Published in: on July 6, 2008 at 4:37 pm  Comments (3)  
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