Friday, January 22, 2021

GUNNEL DERNING – INTE BARA MJUKT OCH FINT (Liphone, 1979) / GUNNEL DERNING & MIKAEL LAMMGÅRD – ÖPPEN (Liphone, 1982)

 
Inte bara mjukt och fint.... (Liphone, 1979)
Swedish vocals
International relevance: **

Gunnel Derning reminds me of some other singer but I can't remember which. There's a touch of
Stina Nordström here, but it's really not her I'm thinking of. Then again, it may be just anybody who owns too many Joan Baez records and listened to them all. Just add extra histrionics. Derning wallows in preciosity which quickly makes ”Inte bara mjukt och fint” hard to digest without any following health issues. Not that a better singer – with a less awkward phrasing – would have saved the album as most of the material is typical rosy-cheeked singer/songwriter fare with a Christian vibe. Not that I know if Derning was a Christian; given how it sounds, it's perhaps more likely she later started new age weekend courses with names like ”Get to know your inner mother owl” and ”How to offer your menstruation blood to the full moon for strength and vision”, only £250, sweat lodge included. ”Du talar ord” is a half-decent track, or at least would have been with a better singer and fewer session musicians pretending to be groovy, man.

By the way, isn't the album cover kind of creepy?

Full album playlist

  Öppen (Liphone, 1982)
Swedish vocals
International relevance: ** 

For Derning's second album, she teamed up with previous member of Hare Krishna band Rasa Mikael Lammgård who realizes Derning's every new age dream to the fullest. If you don't trust me, just look at the album cover. ”Öppen” (meaning ”open” – need I say more?) is more progressive in its song structures, but amazingly enough, that only makes it worse. A couple of acoustic songs sound like leftovers from ”Inte bara mjukt och fint”, but plenty of tracks are soaked in 'spiritual' synthesizers and inner-mother-owl reverb. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the track ”Kundalini” adds a rheumatic drum machine to the tablas, mock funk slap bass and fusion fuzz guitars. And if you thought it couldn't get any worse than that, check out the cheap synth horns on ”Mandala”...

I bet dealers will hype Gunnel Derning once they 'discover' her albums as "acid folk similar to Stenblomma" with a price tag equally deranged (unless they already have) but don't fall for any such delusive nonsense.

Full album playlist


Thursday, January 21, 2021

TORKEL RASMUSSON – KALLA TÅRAR (MNW, 1977) / EN SVART HATT (Mistlur, 1981)

Kalla tårar (MNW, 1977)
Swedish vocals

International relevance: **

”Kalla tårar” was Torkel Rasmusson's first solo album following the first demise of Blå Tåget, following three years after their original last album ”Slowfox”. Rasmusson's voice was one of my initial snags approaching Blå Tåget, but once I got used to it – and it took a good while to do so – the poetic shimmer of Rasmusson's songs revealed itself to me. ”Kalla tårar” has a lot of that, and it also displays a more stable execution than what characterizes the Blå Tåget albums. The only former Tåget member here is Mats G. Bengtsson; most of the back-up musicians are skilled players from the Archimedes Badkar circuit. Using Per Tjernberg as a drummer and percussionist certainly provides a solid ground to the song often lacking in Blå Tåget. The title track and ”Detektiven” rock out as much as Rasmusson ever rocked out, while ”Fläskfia” features a wild fuzz solo that would have sounded quite out of place on a Blå Tåget album. ”Det tycks vara en dag” reveals a prominent mid-70's Dylan influence while ”Inget socker” has a tasteful epic, reverb-soaked touch. Eight minute album closer ”Dagbok från en stad” has a more 'closed' and claustrophobic sound that somehow predicts the mood of Stockholm Norra's sole album. Only a couple of tracks bogs down the album a bit (most notably the genuinely nerve-grating ”Snask och snusk”), but all in all, ”Kalla tårar” is a fine and underrated effort.

Full album playlist


En svart hatt (Mistlur, 1981)
Swedish vocals
International relevance: **

It took Rasmusson four years to come up with his follow-up solo album, and when ”En svart hatt” finally appeared, the 80s had arrived, and with them new production values. ”En svart hatt” has several good but not ”Kalla kårar” great songs in the typical Rasmusson vein, but the sound is a bit on the sterile side, weakening the overall impact. Even the addition of Roland Keijser's usually warm and inviting saxophone sound on ”Natten” suffers from the ingratiating production. The songs might be weaker than on ”Kalla kårar”, but they would have been empowered by a more sympathetic sound. I don't think ”En svart hatt” would ever have been a masterpiece, but it could have been more than it is now: half lost in an unredeemed state.

Full album playlist

Saturday, January 9, 2021

BOOJWAH KIDS – MED BEAT (Grisbäck, 1980) / TILL SKYDD FÖR MINNET (Grisbäck, 1981)


I have something of a default appreciation for albums straddling the line of progg and punk. The ambiguity doesn't necessessarily equals great music, but the dual mindset of the combination sometimes makes it more interesting than just straight-up progg or plain punk. I have featured several bands in that ilk here before, most recently HelaHuset Skakar and prior to that Fiendens Musik, Ruff & Fukt & Suck and Kräldjursanstalten to mention some of the better ones, and there will surely be more in the future.


Från Boojwah Kids med beat (Grisbäck, 1980)
Swedish lyrics, instrumental
International relevance: ***

If Kräldjursanstalten are the prime example of Swedish Captain Beefheart-influenced angularity, then Boojwah (= bourgeois) Kids were the second tiers. Nowhere near as good and certainly not as heavy and tight as their competitors, they score high on the intention scale. ”Med beat”, released on Ulf Beijerstrand's Grisbäck label, is a 12” with six short tracks, the shortest clocking in on just 40 seconds. The arrangements are credible for what is basically non-professionals, but what holds it back is the vocals. Drummer Bertil Lundblad too often adapts a deliberately silly style. At the time, it might have seemed anarchic and tauntingly disrespectful to conventions, but forty years on, they sound stupid more than anything. The lyrics are often too contrived too, trying to hard to be ”different” and ”Beefheartish”. Foreign listeners won't notice however, but they don't ring very convincing or clever in the ears of a Swede. The best track is by far ”Med Oasen mot asen” a tribute to the punk joint Oasen in Stockholm suburb Rågsved from which also spawned Sweden's best known punk act Ebba Grön.

Hatten av + Med Oasen mot asen

 

Till skydd för minnet (Grisbäck, 1981)
Swedish lyrics, instrumental
International relevance: ***

Boojwah Kids followed their mini-LP debut with a full-length album in 1981, also on Grisbäck. In the meantime, they'd got a tighter grip of the convoluted arrangements, but they unfortunately also recruited an additional singer named Marianne Stedstedt. With a true nerve-grater of a voice, thin and peculiarly timbre-less, she makes the album just about unlistenable. Her tuneless chanting sounds like an asylum intern which might have been the point anyway. Good for Lundblad though, whose tracks are far more digestable with Stedstedt's unmusical vocal spurts obscuring most the other tracks here. Needless to say, the instrumentals – too few in numbers and including a remake of "Boojwah Bas-tu" originally in a shorter version on their debut – are the most appealing efforts in this could-have-been-a-lot-better selection.

Trång tågkorridor
Boojwah Bas-tu

Spansk sluttning
Telepati

An early live version of ”Med en duns slutar alla att hoppas” from the full-length album had already appeared on the 1979 various artists live disc ”Oasen – En dag måste nånting hända när allt slår in”, recorded at the very same Oasen stage they celebrated on ”Med beat”.

Boojwah Kids returned in 1983 with one further 7” EP entitled ”Fake Golden Palmtrees” on the Slick label. Fittingly enough, as their music had gotten a bit more straight-ahead and polished by then, and also sung in English. Thankfully they had lost synapse sniper Stedstedt – but also a fair bit of their relative relevance. A live tape from the Tonkraft radio session also exists but remains officially unreleased.

WHITE ORANGE – WHITE ORANGE (Caprice, 1980)

 

Instrumental

International relevance: ***

Partly formulaic, partly overwrought jazz rock by a one-off outfit on Caprice Records with a former Gimmicks member plus a slew of session players. Typical sterile turn-of-the-decade production and competent and mostly soul-bereft playing with the mandatory jazz funk and samba moves. Parts of it sounds like background music to a 'B' grade TV movie. Only for seasoned genre freaks who can't get enough of castrated fusion albums, but chances are even they might write this off as as pale and colourless as the fruit on the album cover. Not even the collector cognoscenti cares about this - it can still be found for next to nothing (which is still too much).

Side one
Side two

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

HELA HUSET SKAKAR – COMPLETE RELEASES 1978-1982


 Hela Huset Skakar (”the whole house is shaking”) is one of the bands bridging progg and punk, with sentiments from progg and an energy similar to that of punk. (Sometime member guitarist Guld-Lars were also in one of the foremost Swedish punk bands KSMB.) They originated from Huddinge outside Stockholm, and shared the devil-may-care attitude with two confrontative Uppsala bands, progg pioneers Gudibrallan, and Rävjunk in their punkiest mode. Given Hela Huset Skakar's rhythm & blues stylings, I hazard a guess that the early Stones and Huset contemporaries such as The Count Bishops and Eddie & The Hot Rods also were among their main influences.


Ingenting blir bättre av sej själv/Mammas städskåp
(Sista Bussen, 7”, 1978)
International relevance: **

Hela Huset Skakar's vinyl debut came in 1978 with 7” ”Ingenting blir bättre av sig själv” coupled with ”Mammas städskåp” on the Sista Bussen label. The 'A' side a prime example of their revved-up R&B featuring rock'n'roll infused sax playing and abundant sloppiness that works in their favour. ”Mammas städskåp” is equally great, similar to what I imagine what it would sound like if Philemon Arthur & The Dung were in fact an electric band trying out Them's garage chestnut ”Gloria” and getting it all wrong. A statement debut! 

Ingenting blir bättre av sej själv
Mammas städskåp


 
Ner med gud/Spring undan borgare
(Sista Bussen, 7”, 1979)
International relevance: **

The 1979 follow-up 45 is even more frantic than its predecessor. On ”Ner med gud”, their abrasive R&B is pushed further into mayhem with singer Lennart Markebo going beautifully over the edge in his disdain for God and religion. ”Spring undan borgare” is a similarly spiteful, sax-fuelled assault on right-wing politics, with an amphetamine-soaked wah wah guitar bursting out loud at the very end of the track. This is a seven inch fire bomb in the face of suppressing authorities, be it mental and social.

Ner med gud
Spring undan borgare




Moralisk upplösning

(Sista Bussen, 1980)
International relevance: **

Hela Huset Skakar's sole LP ”Moralisk upplösning” was recorded around Christmas 1979, with additional sessions in June 1980. Parts of it were recorded live, and it shares the sleazy cheap studio/basement feel with the preceding singles. All new material with the exception of a re-recording of ”Ingenting blir bättre av sej själv”. Most it is in the same vein as the first two 45s, but they stretch out a bit on a couple of more proggish and/or pseudo-psychy tracks. Side B is the winner, as side A has a couple of lagging tracks in a 'funny pastiches' kind of style. But like I said, most of it is high-octane to-the-point kerosene-spitting hard-to-resist rhythm & blues that no matter what was the band's foremost trademark and ultimate strength.

Full album

 

Hos Ultra
(Sista Bussen, MC, 1982)
International relevance: *

The final release to fit within the time frame of this blog is a cassette-only release recorded live at Ultrahuset, a legendary punk hangout where most punk bands (and quite a few others too) performed from 1980 to 1988 when the place closed. It was run by the legendary Tompa Eken who not only offered a stage for struggling underground bands, but also baked cinnamon buns for the bands and audience alike to enjoy. Those buns are as legendary as Ultrahuset and Tompa himself and a mandatory snack for anyone who visited Ultrahuset!

Hela Huset Skakar's performance on 14 March, 1982 isn't that great. While it retains their infamous energy, their repertoire was slowly developing in a not too successful way. As with several Swedish bands around this time, ska influences began to creep in through influential British 2-Tone bands like The Specials, The Selecter and early Madness. Some bands could deal with it without losing their impact, but in the case of Hela Huset Skakar, those influences didn't feel authentic enough to sit well with their original crunchy R&B sounds. Among the best tracks on this rough-sounding document are the final two. One is a cover of Lag & Ordning's ”Nynnat & sjungit”, while the other one is a sped-up by-the-throat assault on ”Summertime Blues”, much closer to Blue Cheer than Eddie Cochran.

Full tape

Hela Huset Skakar contributed several exclusive tracks to a couple of various artists releases: three are found on the "302:an från Fullersta" LP in 1980, one on tape only release "Mediokra hjärnor" in 1982, and a further three 1982 live selections can be found on the "Ultra lever eller lajv" cassette. They released another live tape (recorded on several later Ultrahuset dates), one further 7” and the ”Lite till” 12” in 1984, all on Sista Bussen. There are also a handful of post 1982 recordings on other various artists comps. In 1995, a compilation CD simply entitled ”1978-1995” was released, and the band reappeared with a comeback album in 1997, ”Ännu mer”. They were also featured on Sista Bussen comp tape "Andlig spiz" in 1984. Interestingly enough, two Huset members – guitarist Christian Wigardt and drummer Håkan Persson – hosted the Swedish Radio show Ny våg (”new wave”, airing punk, new wave and art punk) in the late 70s and early 80s.



Sunday, December 27, 2020

THOMAS MUNCK – PARACHUTE MAN (Sonet, 1978)

English vocals
International relevance: - 
 
This is a massive turd, served on a mouldy plate. It doesn't actually belong here, wasn't it for ”Give Me Your Hand” and to some degree ”Got My Soul All Open” for their studio musician fringe progg shadings. ”Give Me Your Hand” isn't good but still the obvious standout track in this dubious collection, with its time signature changes and proggish guitar sound. ”Parachute Man” is mainly a pop album with some funk moves typical of its time. The pseudo funk is unfortunately so stiff and sexless that they make fucking Level 42 look like James Brown at his hard working sweatiest. Björn J:son Lindh appears on some tracks, as does Lasse Wellander on one. Have mercy on their souls. (For some bizarre reason, so does Chris Rea - of all people! - but he deserves being in this mess for his later activities as an air waves polluter.)


In 1978, the same year that saw the release of this provocatively disgusting clunker, Thomas Munck – a singer as terrible as he is a songwriter – appeared in the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest with ”Nå't som gör dig glad”, meaning ”something that makes you happy”. The voting jury was less than happy though, with each jury member rewarding the song with the lowest possible points. But that's more than I give ”Parachute Man”.

(Please note that I never once renamed the album "Parashite Man" in this review.)

Full album playlist

Friday, September 25, 2020

STEFAN DAAGARSSON – STRÖMKARL I ELRANSONERINGSTIDER (Forsaljud, 1976)

 
Swedish vocals
International grading: *

Stefan Daagarsson is quite an illustrious character. His career began in 1966 with pop band The Snippers which was followed by the advent of Charlie & The Others in 1967. The following year, major publishing company Bonniers published his first novel ”...är att berätta allt”, followed by another Bonniers book in 1969. In 1970, Daagarsson set up his own publishing company named Inferi through which all his subsequent books were released up until 1984. Inferi was also the name of the cultural magazine he ran up until 1979. Daagarsson was also the very first to publish poetry by Ulf Lundell who later became one of Sweden's most succesful writers and rock artists. For a couple of years, Swedish Television hired Daagarsson as a playwright. He's also a painter with several exhibitions under his belt. In 1984, he re-invented himself as Rotebergs-Raggarn, a fictious humurous character who had some success with both 45s and albums up until the early 90s. Simply put, Daagarson is a Jack of all trades.

”Strömkarl i elransoneringstider” is the only album under his birthname, and was released by Hudiksvall area label Forsaljud in 1976, a fairly active label responsible for both progg and non-progg discs including fusion band Berits Halsband sole LP and both albums by folk outfit Agö Fyr. ”Strömkarl i elransoneringstider” blends 'humurous' pastiches, typical Swedish troubadour styles and folk inspired numbers with lyrics with a sort-of-poetic flair. He obviously inhabits some talent but the album's disappointing with only very few decent moments, such as opening track ”Pigan” which alludes to Swedish folk songs in style as well as lyrical content. Daagarsson isn't much of a singer either, with a rugged, unmelodic phrasing and a lacklustre, slightly squeaky voice. In its best moments, ”Strömkarl i elransoneringstider” comes off as a 'C' grade version of Kjell Höglund who had a much better grasp of pastiches and lyrical vitality, and at worst, as an untalented parody of troubadour par excellence Cornelis Vreeswijk.

Spelmansminne