Friday, September 29, 2017

ARBETE & FRITID – Ur spår (MNW, 1975)

International relevance: ***

”Ur spår” is a different beast to the Arbete & Fritid albums preceding it, not only as far as the music itself goes, but also in terms of line-up. Drummer Bengt Berger and multi-instrumentalist Kjell Westling had left before the release of their third album ”Arbete & Fritid” in 1973, with the equally brilliant Bosse Skoglund taking Berger's place, and Tord Bengtsson filling the void caused by Westling leaving. For ”Ur spår”, Arbete & Fritid were augmented by Thomas Mera Gartz on fiddle, recently graduated from Träd, Gräs & Stenar.

Released in 1975, the album was recorded live in concert at Ludvika Music Forum in March 1974, and reveals an aspect of Arbete & Fritid rarely documented on record. Consisting of one continuous piece split between the two sides of the album, it emphasizes the jazz element of the band's music, allowing their improvisational chops to come through clearly. There's no other album in Arbete & Fritid's ouvre quite like this one. Like I've said elsewhere, they never made a bad album, but it's a pity that this particular, slightly more uninhibited side of the band is so under-represented in their output.

Often overlooked in favour of their first three albums, ”Ur spår” remains one of Arbete & Fritid's most underrated efforts, successfully bridging the gap (if there ever really was a gap) between them and Träd, Gräs & Stenar. Not only that, towards the end of side 'B', they beat Träd, Gräs & Stenar in their own drone groove game.

The cover art, courtesy of brilliant visual artist Channa Bankier, reflects the music perfectly, layered with the evocative mystique of the dark forest and the ambiguous pledge of the setting sun lighting up the imposing clouds. In short, all the inherent strengths of Arbete & Fritid here demonstrated to great effect, albeit in slightly different way than usual.

Thanks to Roland Keijser for kindly letting me use Johan Källgren's pictures from the actual "Ur spår" gig. 

Ur spår (side one)
Ur spår (side two)

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