Category Archives: Scandinavian scene

Ard’is Nobody’s Business

Yesterday I was listening to a CD “Love Addict” I picked up in Sweden sometime in the beginning of the 90’s. An album I have revisited quite often when beer bottles or wine are emptied on long summer day and nights like right now.

Never really did check out the artist “Ardis”, doing a pop/rock/reggae kinda thing with a strong accent, I assumed it was an African popstar.

This turns out to be wrong, Ardis originated from Dominica Island in the Caribbeans born in 1971, relocating to Sweden age 13, made two successful albums in Sweeden early 90’s and then disappeared from music.

The album also contains a version of one of the earliest blues standards, originally known as “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness if I Do” first recorded in 1922 by Anna Meyers with the Original Memphis Five. It was soon to be recorded by a number of other artist.

Bessie Smith (1894–1937) known as the “The Empress of the Blues”, was the blues star of the 1920’s and the highest-paid black entertainer of her time, her voice so beautiful and strong that it sounds good today, even from those old recordings. Her version was “cut” in 1923.

In 1949 jump blues singer James Witherspoon revisited the tune and changed its name to “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”, he transformed the song into a more modern blues version, the foundation for most later versions like this one by Otis Spann

Now back to Ardis, Except “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” she wrote all the tracks on “Love Addict” and those creative skills are also very evident on her version of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”, she turns the blues standart upside down to make it completely her own:

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The Blake Album

“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is an illustrated book by the influential English poet William Blake created 1790 to 1793

“Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is an 1998 album by Ulver, sometimes reffered to as just “The Blake Album” where the illustration’s by Blake is replaced by music, the text/lyrics is exactly the same.

For those interested in the entire text and William Blake’s impressive etched plates, click here

In 1998 Norwegian music collective ULVER led by vocalist Kristoffer Rygg, was known mainly as a black metal band with some acoustic elements from classical and/or folk music, after the release of their three first albums. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell saw a huge change in their artistic direction.

There is a black metal vibe left from the previous album, but this is a magic mixture of elements from other styles like Industrial, Electronic and Ambient etc that you won’t really find anywhere else, that combined with those mysterius and spiritual lyrics provide for a  very avantgarde rock to say the least, a complex music that demands a lot and rewards equally too those patient souls able to dig deep enough.

While this album at first glance seems very dark and almost scary, there is something very beautiful in the interaction or contrast of those acoustic moments and vocals clashed with passages of brutal distorted sections of hard industrial rock and dark vocals – perfectly illustrating “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”.

To me personally it is that kind of album, that I don’t visit too often, but when i do I always spent the entire hour needed to hear it all at ones.

Im not an expert in Literature and this is just by own interpretation: In reflection of the above mentioned harmony of contradictions, it is my believe that William Blake’s idea was exactly to highlight that Heaven and Hell or rather The Natural Element and The Civilized Element, was not contradicting and “The Marriage” of those are  needed.

 

Milky Way Six & Streng

I you havent already read the first post suggest that you start here

After Lambertland bassist and founding member Måns Groundstroem left Tasavallan Presidentti and was replaced by Heikki Virtanen, before the band made their final album “Milky Way Moses”. At first glance not much difference from what we had on the previous recording, but there are some important changes.

Music writing no longer only in the hands of Tolonen, this time Pöyry and Koivistoinen participates. There is a new lightness and you may say Milky Way Moses is much more straight forward than any of the previous albums.

I’m sure many listeners will find it pleasant especially if you already love typical 70’s progressive (Jazz) Rock, personally though I’m a fan of the oddity and unique moods of the previous albums that to some extent was lost here, never the less a great and special album from the early Scandinavian rock scene.

This was the end at Tasavallan Presidentti, or more precisely the end for a long long time, as the band reunited in 2005 to release their 6th album in 2006.

Frank Robson was now back on vocals and also creating the lyrics. Jukka Tolonen writing the music, besides two tracks completely by Robson. Another founding member Juhani Aaltonen also back as Pekka Pöyry who was suffering from manic depression tragically committed suicide in 1980.

The new album was another step in the direction of a more mainstream sound, fine Blues/Jazz Rock but anything distinctly “Tasavallan” is almost gone.

You may wonder why this is the 6th album, as I have previously only mentioned four, the reason is that there is an 1970 album by Pekka Streng & Tasavallan Presidentti called Magneettimiehen Kuolema.

The reason I did not mention in the Tasavallan Presidentti chronology is that the album was very much a Pekka Streng album.

Very interesting album in its own right though. An album I see as experimental or psychedelic prog folk, stylistically far from all the other albums.

Streng work was not recognized much in his own lifetime, but received some attention later on. Streng died of cancer in 1975 just 26 years old

President of the Republic

Finnish “Tasavallan Presidentti” released their self-titled debut in 1969, the band was formed by the 17 years old guitarist Jukka Tolonen, drummer Vesa Aaltonen, English vocalist and keyboard player Frank Robson, Juhani Aaltonen (saxophones, flute) and Måns Groundstroem (bass, organ).

The debut is an interesting mix of many elements from blues rock jazz folk and even some minor classical inspired sections, it is all very interesting but that said it is also bit unfocused, can’t say the album turns out as a united piece of music, but definitely not bad either.

After replacing Juhani Aaltonen with Pekka Pöyry (saxophones and flute), Tasavallan Presidentti recorded their 2nd album in 1970. This album was originally only released in Sweden and very rare, but in 2002 it came out on CD and in 2014 it was released as “Limited Edition” on vinyl by Finnish Svart Records.

The album is in my opinion a steep up from the debut, the band are finding a more streamlined sound and style, still very varied but overall the album works better as “one piece of music”. The style is now very close you what I would for most parts call Progressive Rock with a clear jazz twist.

After the 2nd album Frank Robson was replaced by already established Finnish vocalist Eero Raittinen. Another important change is that Jukka Tolonen now took over the music writing that were a more shared process on the previous albums, something that might be the reason why we now has a huge development in the direction of the music and for the first time a style that is unique to Tasavallan Presidentti.

This is clearly Jazz/Rock but not in the American style where Jazz musicians take in elements from rock, this is the opposite way around, rock musicians taking in elements from Jazz, it makes a huge difference – I LOVE IT.

Lambertland was rather successful, number 7 on the Finnish album charts. It was released in UK and provided the band with some high profile concerts in UK and other countries.

As you may have already guessed Tasavallan Presidentti translate into President of the Republic.

to be continued…….

Flat, Naked and Selfish

Though D-A-D had their commercial peak in 1989 with “No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims”, my personal favorite period is 95-97 with “Helpyourselfish and “Simpatico”, there is a unique punch and aggressiveness in that period, that I just prefer to other albums they have done, even though they have made many other great tracks over the years.

Helpyourselfish – Helpyourselfish

The band was born in Copenhagen, Denmark a in the early 80’s as Disneyland After Dark. Their original sound was something later referred to as Cowpunk, an odd mixture of simple “punkish” hard rock and country music. The name was changed to D-A-D due to a possible conflict with Disney after they got international attention with “No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims” and the single “Sleeping My Day Away”.

Helpyourselfish – Flat

Even though their music can hardly be called mainstream, D-A-D have become a household name in Denmark, after 11 albums and more than 30 years on the road, where they have played Roskilde Festival more than 10 times. They have now reached a status where they are on national television almost every time they make a new album.

Helpyourselfish – Naked

After Helpyourselfish, the next album Simpatico was overall as an album a little less rough in the sound, and to some extent more melodic, but the style was still harder than the earlier material.

Simpatico – Simpatico

Their latest album “DIC·NII·LAN·DAFT·ERD·ARK” was released November 2011

 

Some Solid Copenhagen Sound

Today a look at a Danish band “The Sandmen”, the band was formed in Copenhagen 1985, with album debut in 1987. Including some breakups and makeups and some line-up changes the band is still active. Even though their record company at the time A&M send them on a promo tour in 1989 to Canada and the USA, they never made it big outside Denmark.

The English guitarist  Sam Mitchell born in Liverpool joined The Sandmen in 1988, and was an important part of the sound in their prime years until 1995. Mitchell had previously played on Rod Stewarts Gasoline Alley (1970) and Every Picture Tells a Story (1971). After the breakup he was weakened by tuberculosis and died in 2006 only 56 years old.

The Sandmen’s last album came out in 2014 for the first time the band changed their language to the native tongue, but the sound was pretty much the same, a good solid classic rock with a drop of psychedelia.

Tribal Ritual Psychedelic Rock

Swedish band Goat, jumped out of nowhere and into the sprawling scene of neo-psychedelic in 2012, with their debut “world music”, followed by “Commune” in 2014.

The band covers their origins, warring masks in live shows, acting as a loosely connected music community of nameless members, and by a story of them springing from a collective of townspeople in Korpilombolo, located north of the Arctic Circle, a small town of native Sami people, and a few Scandinavian settlers. Creating a tradition of ritual music, in praise of pagan Gods and ancestral worshipping.

The cover story works well with the music, there is a strong sense of tribal pagan ritual coming from their recordings, on a base of stoner/psychedelic rock, with a rarely seen mix with influences from a wider range of styles sounds and rhythm patterns. Goat’s albums are a new interesting breed of psychedelic rock, no matter if you like the mystery or not.

The Joy of Samla Mammas Manna

Samla Mammas Manna was formed in Uppsala, north of Stockholm , Sweden in 1969. They got a Record deal with Silence Records, and released their self-titled debut in the spring of 1971. Samla’s music was very playfull yet avant-gardistic, a kind of freeform Jazz/Rock with elements of Swedish folk tradition.
Samla have undergone name changes over the years, mainly due to changes in lineup. They also released albums as Zamla Mammaz Manna and von Zamla.

The form was further refined on their second album “Måltid” from 1973, where more elements of Frank Zappa’ish avant-garde, Jazz/Rock and Prog was added, “Måltid” stands as a highlight in their production.
Samla’s music has a wonderful sillyness, craziness and humour, very unique to the Scandinavian scene at the time, where everyone was very radical and focused on a political agenda.

Samla Mammas Manna, was part of the original “Rock in Opposition” movement, and took part in the first RIO festival in London. They participated in Several RIO events and Samla Mammas Manna also organized a festival in Stockholm. Samla Mammas Manna organized a Henry Cow tour in Sweden, and Etron Fou organized a tour for Samlas in France.

RockInOpposition_flyer

Lars Hollmer, the founding father and main creative force behind Samla, died 25 December 2008. But on the 2014 Japanese Rio festival held in November, his name, his music, and his spirit will be honoured, by Sola/Lars Hollmer’s global home project, a Band formed by Hollmer and Japanese Avant musician in 2001.

Lars Hollmer – The Global Home Project – 2002

Remedy Lane

Pain of Salvation, is a band from Eskilstuna, Sweden. Even though it would be fair to say Pain of Salvation is a Progressive Metal band, with their ever changing approach to music, they land pretty far for the genre stereotype. From the more metal oriented albums, to the extreme complex “BE” about the concept of GOD/Universe ect. , including a 9 piece classical orchestra, to the latest albums duo, Road Salt I and Road Salt II, where they explore a more blues rooted rock, and a bit of gospel, combined with some Prog Rock elements, but not a lot of metal.

All of Pain of Salvation albums are concept albums, although more or less obvious. This also goes for the albums in question here, Remedy Lane from 2005, center around bandleader Daniel Gildenlow more or less autobiographical lyrics. Daniel Gildenlow vocal is very passionate and strong, sometimes reminding a little bit of Mike Patton.

Remedy Lane is a clear highpoint in Pain of Salvation production, an atypical Prog Metal album, with the weight, on emotions and strong songwriting, rather than on showing of technical abilities.
Pain of Salvation is definitely worth digging into, whether as a representative of today’s very developed Swedish Prog Rock scene, or as an alternative to more traditional (Prog) Metal.

The Dragon, The Hird, The Bittersweet Love Song

Yukimi Eleanora Nagano, was born and raised in Sweden, to a Japanese farther and a Swedish-American mother. Since 1996 she have been vocalist in Little Dragons, a band she formed with high school friends, playing downbeat Trip hop, and electronic Pop.
From: Little Dragon – Little Dragon (2007)

On Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach, Yukimi co-wrote and Little Dragon was featured as guest performers on two tracks. Little Dragon was the opening act for Europe and Australia on Gorillaz 2010 tour, and guest performing live on those two tracks.
From : Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (2010)

Yukimi wrote the lyrics and delivered vocals on Swedish house artist Hirds instrumental Keep Your Hird, re-released with vocals as “Keep Your Kimi”, as well as on other tracks from Hird’s “Moving On” album.
From: Hird ‎– Moving On (2004)

Yukimi was also performing vocals on two Koop albums. Koop is a Swedish Jazz, Acid Jazz, Trip-hop duo. There clean and unique sound is recognised as highly innovative in electronic Jazz, delivering a retro Jazz music, in a modern package.
From: Koop – Koop Islands (2006)

Koop’s albums features several guest vocalists, another interesting performance on Kopp’s 2006 album, Koop Island, was Norwegian singer/songwriter and guitarist Ane Brun.
From: Koop – Koop Islands (2006)

Ane Brun have been based in Stockholm, Sweden since 2001, recording seven solo albums. Her style is often Folk inspired, very stripped, focus is on the song and the vocals, often very emotional, reflecting on themes of love, with a mature bittersweet insight.
From: Ane Brun – Rarities (2013)

The song was written for the Film “A Thousand Times Goodnight” that won the Special Grand Prix of the jury at the Montreal Film Festival.