Cuneiform

One of this writer’s wet dreams, in all likelihood destined never to be realized, is a DVD containing footage of the 1992-93 version of Lars Hollmer’s Looping Home Orchestra, with Olle Sundin, Lars Krantz, Eino Haapala, Jean Derome and Fred Frith. At least that band was immortalized on Door Floor Something Window (Victo), which is among the most rewarding live records I’ve ever heard (get yourself a copy). The originator of Samla Mammas Manna is an artist with incontestable transparency of intent, and Viandra, arriving eight years after the unspectacular Utsikter (Krax), is great; perhaps not on the masterwork level of the above-mentioned live album or 1997’s Andetag (Krax), but pretty close. Hollmer’s aesthetic remains consistent: childish candor enhanced by a harmonic sagacity equally indebted to Bach and Scandinavian folk music, boosted by the intricacy that made SMM stalwarts of Rock In Opposition. The compositions on Viandra unleash a Wonderfalls-like series of surprises via cuddly melodies and intricate counterpoint which make your day without necessarily eliciting cheeriness: Hollmer knows how to astonish through dissonant activity on the periphery of apparently innocuous lullabies. The music is finely rendered by Hollmer, Michel Berckmans, Santiago Jimenez and Andreas Tengberg, as well as occasional participants such as original Samla guitarist Coste Apetrea on mandolin and a trio of little ladies (presumably nieces, given that two of three are named Hollmer) tenderly delivering a sing-along of sorts in “Lilla Bye” and “Alice”. Best of all is the superb triptych of “Påztema”, “Prozesscirk” and “Konstig (Strange)” at the CD’s midpoint: prototypical specimens of the Swede’s craft, these pieces alternate mystifying compositional devices (with Berckmans adding pinches of UniversZero-esque, bassoon-fueled mystery) and sudden openings onto poised consciousness, a poignant backwards look toward an unrepeatable, long-gone merriment.

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