Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Arbete och Fritid (MNW)

This is self-titled so I think it's the first Arbete and Fritid record, but I can't read the lengthy booklet, which is in Swedish. This is what you get if you mix traditional Scandinavian folk music with a good deal of acid - a group of guys sawing away at the classics, sometimes approximating traditional tangents and other times picking up the ball left off by their fellow countrymen The Parson Sound. Things start off sensibly enough, with a few folky tunes performed with an amped up string section. It has that feudal quality I love in the Third Ear Band, but there's a somewhat more jazzy feel and a bit of whatever Kurt Weill is, too. But enough of referencing other artists - let's talk about Arbete and Fritid. When 'Petrokemi Det Kan Man Inte Bada I' kicks in, its a heavy groove that stays locked into itself, but still lets the sax solos out to play. And from this point on, things start to get weird. The strings, so happy to stick to to classics on the first half, begin to bubble and fester as if possessed. Yeah, I feel a bit of malevolence, but maybe it's just an evil smile spread across five Swedish faces. They don't vocalise on every song but when they do you might get growling, earthy bravado or shriking giggling gasping experimentation. Even the delicate sections feel somewhat uncompromising. You've probably never heard a recorder played with such gusto before, and it's recorded pretty well - so much that when the audience applauds at the end of 'Pols Efter steffe Henningsgård, Brekken' it's a bit of a shock. As a bonus track (I think), you get a 20 minute jam entitled 'Ostpusten - Västpusten' which I'm going to guess means something about east and west. It's weird when a bonus track is 1/3 of the disc running time, but I guess this blog is about the CD format to some extent. This begins with a weighty string piece that breathes in and out, hanging in the ear like a giant distended stomach even during passages that are thick with movement. Percussion creeps in, and soon it's an all-out jam that rolls like an ocean wave. There's something hedonistic about this track; there's a bunch of melodies pulling at each other, but it keeps flowing with a perverse passion. By the end it's shifted a few more times and there's some more applause to close out the disc.

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