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Ragnar Grippe - Sand CD (album) cover


Ragnar Grippe


Progressive Electronic

3.64 | 9 ratings

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4 stars Out here in the perimeter, we are stoned - immaculate.

We often speak about originality and the lack of it in regards to progressive music - many of us because we feel it is an essential part of the endeavour. It was and is part of the name - to progress, to take things further and beyond - and all that mumbo jumbo. Oh yes, we've had this argument/discussion a thousand times before, and nowhere does it amount to anything other than people cementing their statuses - re-confirming their initial thoughts, and then going on with their lives and listening adventures. Originality is not everything in music - luckily so. I've been original countless of times of my friend's tuba, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I play well. It doesn't mean anything really. This is why originality is a fickle mistress. Some artists go out of their way to create something so out there and unique that it becomes awkward and forced - prog for prog's sake. Stretching the confines of the music to the very limit, for then to realize that there wasn't much substance to begin with. The electronic genre is perhaps the direct opposite of this scenario, at least when we're talking about late 70s recordings. Just like many symphonic acts took their cue from Marillion in the 80s - so did the majority of electronic artists with Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze in the preceding decade - and in some degrees almost to the point of nausea. New things getting old fast.

In relation to all this talk of musical personalities and borrowed ones - then let me introduce to you Swedish musician Ragnar Grippe. This man definitely avoided to sound like any of the aforementioned, and in terms of original flavours and spicing, this guy is in a class of his own. Although he was musically trained and furthermore a student of composer Luc Ferrari in Paris - the openly minimal and staccato approach of this album makes me think of some preschool child prodigy with a backing band of a few retarded percussionists. This is just such an incredibly unique sound this album has - one that I myself have become increasingly fond of.

Recorded in Paris during 1977, the climax of punk and disco, Sand completely goes against the grain(pun intended) and delivers a musical experience that, unlike the German pioneers, sounds purposely clumsy and stuttering like a mantraing rift in your vinyl record. Sure there are some effervescent floating atmospherics oozing slowly in the background created by what sounds like breathing synthesizers, but the main ingredient here are the weird haphazardly played rhythm devices falling all over each other up front and in your face. They sound like maracas and eggs to me - played with an openly careless and naive expression. They sound remarkably like those playtime instruments you played in the kinder-garden back when you were 4 - free to beat the living daylights out of them without fear of an exploding wooden marimba or splinters in your eyes.

Divided into two parts, Sand is in reality one long piece that jerks and contorts its way through slowly unfolding ambient soundscapes. Once in a while you get hit by melodic segments by way of some jumpy keys. These, again, sound totally unlike any other electronic artist of the time. Instead of suave, soothing jello-like synthesizers - here we're treated to jerking semi-melodies that present themselves like tiny beetles tip toing their way across the chessboard coloured keys of a synthesizer. It sounds jazzy in a minuscule kind of way, if that makes any sort of sense...

Other mentionable things about the way this album came into fruition is perhaps the way it was conceived in the studio. Grippe obviously knew his history, as he too experiments with live tape delays - much in the way that Terry Riley did back in the late 60s. This should come as little surprise, when you see that the Shandar label who released this album also had Riley under its wing at some point in time.

Most importantly, at least to this listener, is the way this album feels. Calling itself Sand, - and then conjuring up rhythmic disturbing sequences of electronic meanderings, is one of this album's greatest feats. Out there in the brown and orange deserts, where beauty and peril holds hands and finishes each other's sentences, the landscape is always changing - always on the move - getting pushed and forced by the mighty powers of the Mistrals and El Ninjos of the world. If you've ever spent the night in such a magnificent and totally unwelcoming place, then you've probably heard how the towering sand dunes from time to time talk, screech and howl. Without getting too technical, it's something that happens due to the endless layers upon layers of sand and the friction the wind causes on these. The sand shifts and twitches - and suddenly you get these strange buzzing and jerking emanations. It can sound like a lot of things - everything from the growl of a huge fighter plane engine to a million electronic crickets serenading together. What Ragnar Grippe effectively has done with this album though, is a small sign of genius. He has successfully mirrored the sound and feel of mighty sand dunes and sculptured them into an electronic musical venture unlike anything I've come across before. Listening to Sand is like lying face up in the Gobi desert drawing sand angels on the ground without the sun in your eyes - only accompanied by the grand and crumbling nature of music made up of a gazillion individual grains working together.

Guldbamsen | 4/5 |


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