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(50:00, Cuneiform Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Viandra 2:49 2. Mirror Objects 1:19 3. Seek 2:08 4. Fast 4:20 5. Moldaviska 1:09 6. Paztema 3:50 7. Prozesscirk 4:34 8. Merged with Friends 1:47 9. Strange 4:43 10. Baladeis 2:47 11. Strut 1:55 12. Little Bye 2:51 13. First 05 3:35 14. Alice 4:07 15. Ovendago 2:26 16. Folkdron Menal 5:24 SOLO PILOT: Lars Hollmer – accordions; keyboards; mandolins; percussion; voices With: Michel Berkmans – bassoon, oboe, English horn Santiago Jimenez – violins Andreas Tendberg – cello &: Ulf Wallander – saxophone (6) Coste Aptrea – mandolin (14) Morgan Agren – drums (4) Love Hollmer – voice (12) Viggo Hollmer – voice (12) Klara Pellas – voice (12, 14)
Prolusion. Swedish multi-instrumentalist and composer Lars HOLLMER was previously known to me only as a member of the Swedish RIO band Samla Mammas Manna. In other words, this outing, “Viandra”, marks my introduction to his solo work.
Analysis. While the album itself comes across as being sonically saturated throughout evenly, the lineup varies from track to track, from Lars Hollmer doing everything on his own – on five of the sixteen pieces presented – to a quartet, with the other three prime participants – Michel Berkmans (of Univers Zero), Santiago Jimenez and Andreas Tendberg – on about a half of the tracks. To be somewhat more precise, it’s Lars’s accordion that is in most cases in the focus of this recording’s overall sound. On the pieces performed by the maestro alone the accordion is usually ‘joined’ by various analog, digital and acoustic keyboards, mandola and mandolin, plus (occasionally) by what can generally be labeled as assorted percussion. The other above-implied set of pieces finds Lars’s instruments being accompanied by Michel’s bassoon, oboe or English horn as well as Santiago’s violins and Andreas’s cello. On the whole, the music on “Viandra” belongs to several genre domains, though the compositions that seem to be mono-stylistic, at least basically, are the most widespread, meaning quantitatively so. On six of the tracks, namely the title piece, Mirror Objects, Moldaviska, Strut, Merged with Friends and Seek, Lars seems to pay homage to his native folk music, as all sound a lot like traditional Scandinavian tunes. With the exception of Merged with Friends, all these are emotionally uplifting, a couple of them being overtly cheerful, most pronouncedly those bringing to mind festive dances. Despite having some rock as well as swing quality to it, Paztema is basically a folksy piece also. Of the two tracks featuring vocalizations, Little Bye and Alice, the first is semi-acoustic, seemingly fragile, in texture, whilst the latter has a relatively full-bodied, band-like, sound. What unites them is that both are strongly reminiscent of songs for children (yet not of nursery rhymes): the former – throughout, the latter – all over its first half, after which its leitmotif begins gradually becoming surrounded by darker passages, so the piece finishes somewhere in the style of Magma of which, in turn, the percussion-driven track Fast (which is fast-paced indeed) resembles throughout, and more strongly. There is one more bunch of stylistically kindred compositions on the disc. It embraces Prozesscirk, Baladeis, First 05, Ovendago and Folkdron Menal, all the pieces featuring the aforementioned quartet (as the remaining track, Strange, does as well, while needing a separate description). In contrast to the majority of the traditional-sounding compositions, all these are filled with a deep sense of drama. The folk component is indistinct here, and what comes to the surface immediately brings to mind an amalgamation of classical and neoclassical influences (don’t confuse Neoclassical with Avant-garde academic music – also known as Dodecaphony). While not as challenging as what the said combination usually suggests, each of the compositions is a real thing of beauty, some of them bringing shivers down my spine each time I listen to them – please take this remark into consideration. As a point of comparison, I would dare to offer to you to imagine classic Art Zoyd performing something halfway between Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and “Messe en re-Mineur” by Wapassou with elements of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird”. Finally, Strange brings together all the styles ever available on the recording plus Rock-In-Opposition, having RIO at its axis! This time, think Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, L’Ensemble Raye, the Hamster Theatre and Samla Mammas Manna, the bands being listed in a descending line according to their hypothetical weight in the ‘picture’.
Conclusion. Here, first of all I must note that Lars Hollmer’s music has a strong identity to it, so please be indulgent towards me if, after having acquainted yourself with it, you’ll find any, if not many, of the artists and/or creations that are cited above as reference points to be inaccurate. As to “Viandra” as a release as such, overall it would be a mixed bag to the progressive mind, but its eight longest/best tracks are so compelling that they make the disc worth buying, IMHO.
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