Gösta Berlings Saga: Glue Works
I was beginning to suspect that progressive rock was getting a bit stagnant. That was until Gösta Berlings Saga blew everyone away at NEARfest. I found their previous album “Detta Har Hänt” impressive but it was the songs from “Glue Works” that had me leaning forward in amazement with my mouth hanging open. After the show the line for buying a CD was as long as the line to meet the band. I waited in both, and yes my CD is signed.
The music has been labeled as Eclectic Prog, but I think it leans more toward RIO or Rock in Opposition. This is because the most obvious influences I hear are bands like Univers Zero and Henry Cow that started the movement in the first place. But of course there are other influences as well. Which is why Eclectic is the catch all for bands that are impossible to pin down. The labels fit but artists do tend to evolve. Over the years many artists form other genres have incorporated elements the original bands created and those designated as RIO have expanded their boundaries, thus making them more eclectic. Even fellow Swedes Änglagård now sound more RIO than Symphonic. This really comes as no surprise since Mattias Olsson produced “Glue Works.”
Regardless of what label to apply, on “Glue Works” Gösta Berlings Saga has recorded some of the best music ever to pass through these aging ears. The blend of chamber music, jazz and rock has rarely been executed with so much beauty and aggressive passion. The band has been together for a long time now but the musicians have not gotten old enough to lose their youthful fire. Luckily that wasn’t just saved for the stage because they captured it in the studio as well.
Every mood and style is perfectly tooled and keeps the listener engaged. As with most bands of this ilk the music is generally on the darker side but it never goes to the side of depressing. Usually composing music this complex and dense hinders the accessibility. “Glue Works” should have no problem bringing in the new initiate. “Waves” has a hooky little groove and the intense jam band build of “Island” is impossible to turn away from. Even the soothing jazz organ on “Gliese 58lg” is kept intriguing with some well placed percussion touches, until it turns into a guitar jam. Things like string instruments, mellotron, chimes, wailing guitar, horns and grooving bass are all integrated seamlessly. Only vocals are omitted but you won’t miss them.
I could go on with more specific description of the individual tracks but that wouldn’t do them justice. As Haju Sunim often says, “Words fall short.” As is most often true, and especially here, (good) music really needs to be heard for complete understanding.
Okay this isn’t exactly easy music. It does require that you pay attention to be fully appreciated. We aren’t talking simple songs here. This is grown up music (like much of what I choose to review). I do not however think you have to be a progressive/complex music aficionado to enjoy “Glue Works.” When music as a whole has been standing pretty much still for a couple of decades now, I feel I must promote something as unique and outstanding as this is. If music is to move forward, artists like Gösta Berlings Saga are already leading the way. You owe it to yourself to check it out. Then you can feel the satisfaction of being here when it was cutting edge.
Click on the picture for a live performance of “Island” (I can actually be seen in the front row during the ovation).
Gabriel Hermansson – bass, Moog Taurus
Einar Baldursson – guitars
David Lundberg – Fender Rhodes, Mellotron, synthesizers
Alexander Skepp – drums, percussion
Fredrik Carlzon – French horn, trumpet
Cecilia Linne – cello
Mattias Olsson – additional hidden and lost sounds
Leo Svensson – musical saw
Ulf Akerstedt – bass tuba, bass trumpet, contrabass trumpet, bass harmonica