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Grovjobb - Vättarnas Fest CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.34 | 27 ratings

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4 stars This is real throwback psych folk, sounding more like something from the early seventies than the late nineties, which I think is great is the retro kind of way it was meant to be presented. I thoroughly enjoy listening to this CD and sort of lost it in my collection for quite a while before recently coming across it again. Too bad its been gathering dust as it is definitely top-drawer stuff.

I have a CD of old seventies psych music from my friend Peter Lindahl (In the Labyrinth) titled simply ‘Psychedelic Sweden’. The guitar on this record reminds me a lot of the Kawai Peter used to play “Syrran” and the unfinished “Mary Mercury”, which appear on that CD but were recorded nearly forty years ago. There’s also tabla and sitar here along with flute, which combine to paint a sort of patchouli hazy picture of light and smoky folk psych of the highest order (take “highest” to mean what you will).

There are no vocals on the album which I personally have mixed feelings about. On the one hand I love words with music, especially folk-leaning music, since the words help paint the story that is inevitably behind all the chords and rhythms. On the other hand singing can also get in the way of well-played instrumentals, and I have a hard time imagining in this case how vocals would have improved the overall sound. This is a trip best enjoyed sans words, I think.

The really amazing thing about these songs is that they are as vibrant and ranging as they are without any keyboards or digital studio effects to speak of. Simply guitar, tabla, flute, sitar and some decent yet understated violin. The quartet does a remarkable lot with just a little, for which they are to be commended.

The opening “Visa från Arendal” has an achingly familiar guitar riff that is not only recognizable but also sounds an awful lot like some sort of electric keyboard. Guitar experts could probably explain this if I knew one of those people, but I just dig the groove. These are highly melodic songs with fat-fingered string-bending and a toe-tapping backbeat that almost makes them danceable at times. Just the kind of groove that can keep your attention until the very last note plays out. “Sauna” in particular is not only smooth but also manages to rock out and manages to sound a lot longer than its 4:45 length.

And speaking of long, the band serves up another common psych offering with an extended tabla/sitar/guitar jam that seems to employ some raga constructions in the nearly twenty- minute long closing piece “Skogsgläntan Vättarnas Fest”. Despite the appearance of being an improvised jam, the construction is remarkably cohesive as the sitar weaves a series of movements backed by gentle tabla beats that sometimes rise to the forefront as alternating guitar passages wander in and out. The rather lengthy raga sequence takes forever to repeat itself, and when the rewind comes its not all that recognizable as the tabla has given way to snare drums and the sitar has been all but completely replaced by electric guitar. The transition is smooth and well done, rising slightly in tempo and energy before slowly fading to a close. A real trip.

I know very little about this Swedish band and to be honest only picked up their CD because of the unusual cover; that turned out to be a lucky move. This is a great album full of somewhat dates sounds delivered with the power of modern studio engineering and musicians having the advantage of learning much from the dusty old records in their fathers’ collections. I’d liken their approach on psych to contemporaries like Smell of Incense or even Voice of the Seven Woods. If you know either of these bands or their ilk you will undoubtedly get into these guys; if you don’t check them out anyway. A top-notch recording that falls just short of being a masterpiece only because I can’t quite add the word “groundbreaking” to the many superlatives already heaped on it. A high four stars though, and well recommended.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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