Monday, February 8, 2016

Anna Själv Tredje - 1977 - Tussilago Fanfara

Anna Själv Tredje
Tussilago Fanfara

01. Mossen (7:20)
02. Inkomster Utanffr Tiden (11:28)
03. Den Barbariska (14:13)
04. Tusen er & Sju (8:32) (Audition QU)

Ingemar Ljungström/Keyboards, synthesizers
Mikael Bojen/Keyboards, Synthesizers, electric guitar

Recorded 15 jan. and 11 april 77
The 1980s reissue is similar to the original. Cover is more standard card with a slight sheen. Labels are printed on white paper (originals are a rough off-white poor quality paper). There are two represses which can usually be identified by "Kult Vax" stickers on the cover: 1. round sticker with wording "Svinbilliga KULT VAX" (date unknown), 2. smaller square sticker (late 1980s).

Continuing with my Swedish ramblings - this time I thought I'd review one of my most beloved mellow Krautrock infested electronic jewels. It sounds pretty close to what Cluster was on about in the mid 70s, but then again I've never really heard another album quite like this. Jacques Cousteau would have loved this one, and I'm not entirely sure, but I seem to remember seeing a Portuguese man of war jacking off to this very album not long ago on the Discovery Channel.

I've heard a lot of Berlin School experiments the past 10 years, and what strikes me the most is the familiarity these releases share - often in terms of sameness. Not that I'm complaining, because I rather like the approach, but sometimes you find yourself confronted with what seems like an old friend - only to be surprised and pushed to redefine what you'd thought about this type of music in the first place. This album did that to me. Yes it's an obvious prog electronic case that on some level reminds me of both Schulze, Cluster and Tangerine Dream, but there is something here that I absolutely adore - something that grabs me by the throat each and every time.

Tussilago Fanfara is an album that moves forward with the speed of a tired and immobile season. It takes its time - it is slow like a montage of overweight snails slithering their way across a football field. Through copious amounts of pulsating synths that sound like beating hearts - everything about this album feels alive and vibrant. It's like watching life on a cellular level. Imagine these worming cells zipping about in alternating patterns - think of these as different parts of the music - all of them moving about in a colourful gel - slowly secreting sounds that speak about the very essence of nature itself - and then maybe you're on the right track. Sounds like something which was tailor made for yours truly come to think of it...

There is no getting around it - I simply love this album! I often talk about the fluid nature of electronic music, and this one is no different. It sounds like it was recorded under the sea - or in fat greasy olive oil. It's drifting, oozing, watery, slithering, sliding, wobbly and gelatinous like a musical liquid pouring out of your speakers. All of it held together by this magical and wondrous glue.

One of my favourite things about it, is the fabulous way it inter webs the guitar into these electronic dreamings. And this is one of those traits that separates Tussilago Fanfara from other outings inside this genre - no matter how insignificant this may sound to you. It really adds something unintelligible and beautiful to these tracks. A sloshing guitar making the pieces flow more naturally and feminine - like those deep water creatures that look like internal body parts existing only in a pulse - boom boom boom. Like I said, it's this gelatinous fluid texture that bleeds into everything here. I mean even the guitar comes off as some kind of jellyfish instrument - complementing the full picture in a way that makes me drift away like the month of may during an inspiring and glacier blue coma.

I adore everything about this album - even the overexcited guitar sequence that joins in during the end of the first track - transforming it slightly and bending it out of shape, - or perhaps the never ending meandering synth vocalisations calling out eternally in these round hazy emanations on Inkomster Utanför Tiden, that end up in some beautiful guitar yearnings, that sound like a beaten down David Gilmour crying out in his dreams.

Dreams. Yeah, I've had my share of them whilst listening to this album. They pop up almost immediately when the music starts. Like drifting into that special indefinable place where you're not entirely sure, whether you're awake or setting sails on the mighty oceans of sleep. This one will take you on a boat ride to the ends of the earth, and personally I often feel like I'm journeying deep inside of myself - penetrating the inner works of my psyche listening to these mellow bewildering tracks. It's very easy and comfortable to get lost herein, and I try as hard as I can not to find my way whenever I put this album on - and pray that I'll find a way into the magic that is this record. Oh yeah - we're setting sails again matey!

This overlooked duo is sometimes dismissed as a Tangerine Dream or a Ash Ra Tempel rip off, and maybe that's the reason why it isn't as heralded as it should be. True they have a sound reminiscent of some of kraut rock's more cosmische acts, but to write them off simply as epigones is unfair. There's something decidedly Swedish to them, a strong sense of a mystical fir forest blended in with the outer space soundscapes. Or if you like, they are constantly travelling the border between a wonderful dream and a haunting nightmare.

Their three dimensional sound is highly evocative, and halfway through ”Inte utanför tiden” a distant fuzz guitar kicks in, hinting at emotions provoked by the majestic Älgarnas Trädgård. ”Tussilago Fanfara” is a 40 minute floating journey through the inner and outer space.

Anna Själv Tredje, who took their name from Leonardo da Vinci's painting ”The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne”, managed to release this one album only, but they did several sessions for Swedish radio show Tonkraft. One track from such a session was included in the compilation series ”Tonkraft”, on the ”1977-78” volume to be precise. ”Snöfall och daggyra” is only available on this various artists compilation, and their full Tonkraft recordings serve as additional albums since they consisted of entirely exclusive material. It's well worth tracking down those rare recordings if you like ”Tussilago Fanfara”.

Band members Mikael Bojén och Ingemar Ljungström founded Anna Själv Tredje already in 1971. It's unclear though when they eventually split up. This is how parts of the story goes: When Ljungström met Dan Söderquist from the aforementioned Älgarnas Trädgård, they formed trio Cosmic Overdose in 1978, together with Ragnarök's Kjell Karlgren. Cosmic Overdose released two albums (plus a few singles and a cassette-only album) of excellent electronic post punk. Ljungström took the stage name Karl Gasleben (sometimes Terminalkapten Gasleben) and Karlgren performed as Regnmakarn. In 1981 Cosmic Overdose became Twice A Man after Karlgren/Regnmakarn left the group. It seems possible though that Anna Själv Tredje and Cosmic Overdose had overlapping careers for a while, as one Per-Axel Stenström claims he played with Anna Själv Tredje for a while the early 80's, i.e. after Cosmic Overdose already was in full swing. So it's possibly that Anna Själv Tredje gradually folded as Cosmic Overdose were catching speed.

At one time in the early 90's, Bojén played morning and evening shows in Slottskogen (the Central Park of Gothenburg, the stomping ground of both Anna Själv Tredje and Cosmic Overdose). According to one attendant, the performances sounded a lot like Klaus Schulze.

The stunning cover art to ”Tussilago Fanfara” was designed by the prolific Tom Benson, a noted photographer whose exceptional and suggestive photographic montages has been exhibited several times in art galleries in Sweden. Benson also took the picture of Nynningen for their ”För full hals” album, and he was a close friend of Freddie Wadling, one of Sweden's most remarkable vocalists ever. Benson unfortunately died in 2008. The cover of ”Tussilago Fanfara” fits Anna Själv Tredje's music perfectly.

”Tussilago Fanfara” is one of those albums that still demands a CD reissue. The lack thereof shows just how poorly the progg legacy is treated by the original labels and reissue labels alike. So much fabulous music is still forced to inhabit the sphere of obscurity, and it's a huge shame that this album is still part of it.

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