Friday, October 6, 2017

KJELL HÖGLUND – Häxprocess (Alternativ, 1973)

International relevance: *
Swedish vocals

Ranked #25 on the blog's Top 25 list

Kjell Höglund is one of the most problematic progg blog inclusions. He's a wonderful artist with a knack for low-key yet intricate and sometimes plaintive lyrics. His searching attitude towards politics, philosophy, relations and spirituality makes him a unique voice in Swedish music, not just progg. Höglund always leaves an entrance open to the listeners, inviting them to step inside his songs and way of thinking. Doubt and choice aren't weaknesses in the mind and world of Höglund, why his music is so much more thought-provoking and, paradoxically enough, more reassuring than many of his cocksure and dogmatic contemporaries proclaiming megaphone politics. With that crucial dimension lost, what qualities are left to grasp for someone unfamiliar with the Swedish language?

Probably only yet another Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan inspired singer/songwriter (Höglund namechecks Dylan in a couple of songs, including the beautiful flute laced ”Skräckhus i Sussex” on ”Häxprocess”) with a rather thin voice not always hitting the notes right on target. Most of the tracks on ”Häxprocess” are acoustic and delicate, but the jam infused ”Falu koppargruva” and the title track see Höglund fronting a full band. The track ”Häxprocess” (”witch trial”) is Höglund's tour de force, originally a much shorter song that soon grew into a 15 minute indictment against self-loathing, bigotry, double moral standards and political duplicity. Although far more overtly phrased, it's the only true contender for a Swedish equivalent to Dylan's ”Desolation Row”, if only for its majestic length and scope.

”Häxprocess” was Höglund's third and in my opinion, his best album, homemade just like his previous ones and sold to passers-by on the street, years before private pressings became a DIY standard of punk. (Höglund wasn't the first to release his albums without much support from others though; free jazz pioneer Bengt ”Frippe” Nordström did so already in the early 60's, and there are probably more examples of similarly auteur styled musicians.) In many ways, Höglund embodied the true spirit of progg while never quite becoming part of the movement, always operating out on the side as the genuine freethinker he was. That said, he scored a couple of surprise hits in the 80's, later undertaking package tours with younger singer/songwriters to whom he was a source inspiration. But he never lost his sense of originality.

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