Saturday, January 9, 2016

Algarnas Tradgard - 2001 - Delayed

Algarnas Tradgard

01. Takeoff
02. Interstellar cruise
03. Reflection
04. Almond raga
05. Beetlewater
06. The arrival of autumn
07. My childhood trees

- Andreas Brandt / violin, vocals, percussion, flute
- Mikael Johanson / bass, handdrum, zither, tablas, percussion
- Dennis Lindh / drums, tablas, percussion, zinks, jews harp
- Dan Soderqvist / guitars, percussion
- Jan Ternald / mellotron, piano, moog modualr, organ, electric piano
- Sebastion Oberg / cello, flute, sitar, tablas

After the magnificent album "Framtiden är ett svävande skepp förankrat I forntiden" (The future is a hovering ship anchored in the past) from 1972, ÄLGARNAS TRADGARD (Garden of the Elks) went into the studio again to record their second album. The first album was actually a loosely improvised studio experiment that turned out very well. They were trying to do as much as they could come up with in the studio, with Moog synth, medieval instruments, sound effects, bells and god knows what. "Framtiden är ett svävande skepp förankrat i forntiden" was actually nominated for the Swedish Grammy music price.
The band however split up before the second album was mixed, and it was put on the shelf, until now. It's incredible that we now, 27 years later finally can hear the album. When they were putting the album together, they decided to mix it the way they would've done it back then. I can only say that it's a shame that this album have been kept secret for so long. Even though this "new" album has many similarities to the first, it also has differences. "Delayed" has a clearer structure than the first album and it's also heavier at times. Even though it's hard to find any bands to compare ÄLGARNAS TRADGARD with, there are some reminiscences CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, HAWKIND and KING CRIMSON.

Of course I also have to mention the nice foldout CD-booklet with a beautiful cover artwork by Jan Ternald. Jan also did the well-known cover artwork for Bo HANSSON's "Ur trollkarlens hatt". The band ÄLGARNAS TRADGARD doesn't exist today, but some of the musicians are still active today in rather famous Swedish bands such as FLÄSKKVARTETTEN and TWICE A MAN.

Collectors of arcane ethno-prog esoterica will remember the first (and, for a long time, only) album by Älgarnas Trädgård as a haunting mood piece: Space Rock without the Rock, and closely tied to older, more terrestrial pagan art traditions. The sudden appearance of a second album in 2001, almost three decades after the master tapes were mothballed and the original group disbanded, must have come as a complete surprise, not least for the new album's 180-degree reverse in style toward a more accessible psych-rock style.
It's hard to even credit the same musicians for both efforts, the difference is so startling. The later album is more immediately appealing (because it actually rocks, and hard), but the music lacks the unique, supernatural eeriness of the band's uncanny debut. Too many other likeminded off-planet explorers, most of them located south of the Baltic Sea in Krautrock Germany, had already staked out similar cosmic rock territory. But the Scandinavians brought their own flavors to the table, laced with a generous dash of the same Indian seasonings common in northern Europe at the time: sitars, tablas and such.

The atmospheric electric violin suggests a familiarity with the spacier ragas of early Amon Düül II, circa "Yeti". And the quotation from Gustav Holst ("Mars, the Bringer of War", of course) links the band to the more earthbound symphonic rock trends of the 1970s. Only on the last few tracks is the band's original magic restored, in particular during the ghostly finale of "My Childhood Trees", a shifting seven-minute aurora of ancient Nordic mystery, with a spectral voice from somewhere above the Arctic Circle drifting into the album's long, repetitive fade-out.

The production is a little rough around the edges, sounding not unlike an impromptu live-in-the-studio recording. But the unpolished vitality of the playing compensates for any lack of refinement, to a point where the album appears almost implausibly fresh today (and thus would have been ahead of its time in 1974). Even after 27-years in limbo, there's enough residual enchantment here to bump my otherwise conservative evaluation up a notch, and send a belated shiver of psychedelic excitement down a sympathetic spine.

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