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Gösta Berlings Saga - Glue Works CD (album) cover


Gösta Berlings Saga


Eclectic Prog

3.81 | 141 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars

Gösta Berlings Saga are really maturing into a stylistically diverse, highly original, and most importantly really cool-sounding band. I was overjoyed to find this CD on the shelves of my local music store (cursed as I was by the impression that these guys would remain inaccessibly Swedish forever) and picked it up somewhat impulsively.

And originally, I found it generally enjoyable but slightly disappointing compared to Tid är Ljud, the first album of theirs I heard, but it has massively improved on repeated listens. Part of this is due to the minimalist style of record--my first impression was that the songs tended to be overlong, but closer observation reveals a wealth of small details that really make the album excellent. (Really, more of a 4.3 or 4.4.)

Finally, the album shows a clear progression from their second, Detta Har Hänt. That one, although still heavily produced, still maintains the same instrumentation and a roughly uniform sound throughout, whereas Glue Works uses many different interesting synth sounds and other instruments--including the only successful example I've seen of the musical saw in a rock context. The whole thing is excellently produced by Matthias Olson (of Änglagård fame). I wouldn't necessarily say this album is better than Detta Har Hänt, but it shows clear musical development. As previous reviewers have said, it's more than a bit post-rocky, which is an interesting change in style.

Three paragraphs, and I haven't even gotten to individual songs yet! The opener, 354, is a relentless, minimalist rocker, with the group's signature combination of Fender Rhodes and harsh guitar, playing an incessantly energetic (and utterly bizarre time-signature-wise--I still haven't figured it out) piece that subtly metamorphoses through several different themes, concluding with a pounding two-chord theme over which various instruments exchange solos. This last part does go on a bit long, but the piece is quite exciting overall. Also, I think I understand the enigmatic title--the piece is 5:54, or 354 seconds, long.

After "354" comes "Icosahedron", continuing the theme of "slightly mathematical titles". This is an excellent piece, with an eerie Rhodes intro that suddenly crescendos into a crashing, heavy sequence of bizarre chord voicings on the guitar. The effect is menacing and unpredictable, and it all too soon calms back down to the Rhodes. This piece is highly original but also fascinating to listen to, and is also a bit too short.

The following piece, "Island", is one of the album's two "epics". It starts out with a pleasantly eerie string section (with saw!) which introduces the piece's main theme. This goes on for a minute or two, and then the piece starts in earnest, with a crashing guitar theme and thunderous drumming from Alexander Skepp. For about 10 minutes, the band riffs in subtly changing ways on a pretty exciting 13/8 chord progression, almost never halting or pulling back its steady advance. This piece does have one outstanding flaw, which is that it's distinctly overlong. It could easily lose a minute or so from the ending jam and vastly improve. But my opinion has still gotten more positive from when I first heard it. The trick is that, at the time, it was unlike anything I had ever heard. In this track more than any other on the album, it is important to pay attention to the weird things going on in the background, and what initially appears to be interminable jamming at the end turns out to be a truly epic fadeout. (Which, as already stated, is a wee bit long, but still cool!) What is really impressive is that, apart from the sudden transition away from strings at the beginning, the piece preserves its length without any awkward jumps or cuts. It doesn't sound like it was stitched together from shorter songs, but rather uses slow, unnoticeable transitions through guitar solos, harsh saw-wave synths, repeated motifs, and back to more soloing. Although perhaps not the best song on the album, it is a fascinating listen and a fitting centerpiece--atmospheric and terrifyingly relentless at the same time (which always strikes me as an oxymoronic combination, until I actually hear examples such as this.)

Fortunately, the 13-minute crunch-fest of Island is followed up by a relatively calming intro to "Gliese 581g", a mysterious repeated Rhodes figure over xylophone and subtle, breathy synth noises. It's intriguing, because the main melody is actually comprised by these "background" noises--the "foreground" figure is really the slowly developing backing. After this goes on for a while, the instruments draw back again, in time for a sudden, violent interruption of guitar chords carrying a similar theme, which are then backed by thundering, complex percussion, building up to a sudden stop. Again, this piece is a bit on the long side, but still excellent.

This is followed by two short pieces. The first, "Waves", might actually be the best on the disc, with strange percussion (including handclaps) and growling bass, a catchy opening synth theme, and then weird, echoey guitar chords which fall into the background. The song is sort of based off of several layers that swap out for each other, producing a highly varied piece with a lot going on. And of all of the tracks on the record, this one is the one that would be most improved by lengthening--it's under 3 minutes!

The second short piece, "Geosignal", does not impress me. It starts out with a slow, melancholy theme on strings and accordion (?) which then switches to a brass interlude. It's the least remarkable part of the disc, but it's fortunately also the shortest, and the last note fades out and then sweeps back into...

"Sorterargatan 1", the "prequel" to Detta Har Hänt's "Sorterargatan 3". This begins with a chiming repeated figure on the guitar and menacing bass notes, leading in to more of the stunning rapid twiddles on the guitar that marked its companion piece and then a more ethereal section with an eerie leading tone. The song then suddenly stops, several minutes short of its promised running time...

And starts up again as what appears to be a totally different song--another slow-building tune this time, with rhodes, bass, drums, and cello, but, for the first time on the album, actually happy! Apparently this is still a part of Sorterargatan 1, but I can't really see that--they're not connected in any way. Still, it's nice to end such a dark record on a happy note, and the buildup is well-executed.

So, to conclude this overly verbose review: Glue Works is very, very good. Sometimes it stresses the minimalism and repetition of its songs a little too far, but there are enough details and complexly layered parts that in most places it doesn't make a difference. It's also got a style that I've heard nowhere else before. So if you're interested in post-rock, minimalism, eclectic prog, or just any instrumental rock that's highly original, it would behoove you to check this out. Highlights include "Icosahedron", "Waves", and "Sorterargatan 1".

Zargasheth | 4/5 |


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