Monday, July 15, 2013

KULTIVATOR – Barndomens stigar (Bauta, 1981)

International relevance: ***
Instrumental

Often lumped in with the Zeuhl bands, I still think Kultivator has a lot more to do with the British art rock style somewhere in-between King Crimson, Henry Cow and even Soft Machine, than with Magma or later generation Zeuhl act Kōenji Hyakkei. For Swedish references, ”Klossa knapitatet” era Samla Mammas Manna is probably the most appropriate parallel. Kultivator's sole album ”Barndomens stigar” stands up well to any international comparisons, with tight and intelligent compositions, excellently executed with the nothing short of amazing Johan Svärd on drums and bass player Stefan Carlsson. Kultivator had a connection with the legendary Ur Kaos as keyboard player Johan Hedrén were in both bands for a while. Together they formed the core of the highly active art rock scene in Linköping, a city otherwise best known for its university and the vanguard hospital. With Lars ”Lach'n” Jonsson, highly talented musician and owner of the Bauta Records label, the scene had an obvious centre. Bauta Records is still active, providing the world with top notch Swedish progressive rock with a striking arty edge.

Recorded in 1980 but not released until the following year, ”Barndomens stigar” kicks off with the energetic ”Höga hästar”, one of the album's definite highlights, with Svärd going wild on the drums. Energy is like a code word for the album; even the title track which relies on a somewhat subdued folksy or baroque sounding themes has an inherent force that is anything but relaxing.

As mentioned above, Kultivator's compositional skills are proven again and again throughout the album. Some prog (and for that matter, progg) bands just don't seem to understand the cause-and-effect function of musical segments, haphazardly jumbling up a bunch of themes and time signatures, but Kultivator has a firm grasp of causal musical relations. However, ”Barndomens stigar” is a much freer spirit than the regular, strictly performed Zeuhl album, why some Zeuhl fans have expressed their disappointment with the album – another reason why it shouldn't be forced into an area where it doesn't fit too well. The thing is that ”Barndomens stigar” is an original piece of work and should be approached as such.

The album has been released on CD twice. The first time around, two tracks were added to the original running order. ”Häxdans” connects well with the title track taking good use of baroque influences. ”Tunnelbanan” is a medley recorded live in their native Linköping two years prior to the release of the original album. Although not as focused as the remainder of the album, the track nevertheless shows they were on to something already in the 70's.

Some years ago, Mellotronen released a further enhanced version of the album, including not only a live version of album track ”Novarest”, but a bonus EP entitled ”Waiting Paths”, comprising four songs recorded by the re-united band in 2006. Still a great band, they kept the intensity of 1980 a bit at bay, going for a slightly more reflective approach, as in the beautiful ”Bringing Water”. Although less zealous, in a sense more ”mature”, these four songs don't detract from the original album's excellence. The Mellotronen version of ”Barndomens stigar” is the one to get.

Johan Hedrén has been involved in several Bauta releases, and has also released a tranquil ambient styled solo album entitled ”Kretslopp” which also featured a set of paintings by Linköping born and bred artist Ola Freijd. Ingemo Rylander appears on J. Lachen's solo release ”Music for the Dying Forest”.

Höga hästar

Barndomens stigar

Häxdans

 In the Darkness' Plait (from the "Waiting Paths" EP)

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