Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: Gösta Berlings Saga - Detta har hänt (2009, Transubstans)

Gösta Berlings Saga are a Swedish instrumental prog rock band creating captivating textures and atmospheres without neglecting the catchy and melodic side. They have released two albums, and the third one is in the making.

My "review/impressions" of their 2009 album is after the Jump.
I was tired that day, annoyed at everything that didn’t work. A long period of frustration this has been and few things have managed to comfort me.

Staying late at work, I put on my headphones and started to scroll through my music player to see what can I possibly listen to. I then stopped at Gosta Berlings Saga. I had just gotten their new album a week before and have only listened to it once and did not remember it well enough. So I decided to play it again, thinking to myself that it might help me engage my brain for the tasks ahead.

I was wrong.

Not wrong about engaging my mind, but wrong about being productive.

Wrong, because for some reason, the moment I put the music on, I was hooked.

Wrong because I did not devote another minute of my time that night for work anymore and only concentrated on the music.

I have since listened to it many times, and it is still as captivating and magical as it was the first time, only now with the advantage of knowing the pieces.  So it was not just my special mood that night that has permitted my impressionable mind to be that affected by this album. This is genuine love of this album.

What is it that has such a spell on me in their music?
Is it the richness of sound?
Is it the wonderful musicianship?
Is it the beautiful melodies?
Is it the wonderful way they develop their themes?
Is it their way to make instrumental music that seem to not require words?
Could it be their mingling of elements and styles into a sound of their own? Their crafting of a varied, dynamic and flowing album that sounds subdued and mellow one minute and then fiery and fierce the next?

Before answering these...

Listen to the bass lines such as those that hook you like a fish on a hook in Sorterargatan 3; to the magnificent drum work in each song that hit you at times softly and at others hammer you to your place; to the wonderful keyboards work (and there are plenty of keyboards used here, it’s a real heaven) that like a magic wand, adds marvelous majestic streaks of beauty and bliss; to the guitar work that shift between a raunchy sound to a delicate sweep of fingers. This album, aside from the music on it, is a delight to listen to in this aspect.

But then, without gripping music, it would end just there.

And here I find myself at odds to describe it: there are elements of fusion as well as occasional use of electronic effects; there are pieces which have repetitive instrumental patterns, developed with added layers of instrumentation and additional musical lines, epic in nature. The pieces differ in quite a lot in rhythm and style even, yet there is a binding spirit to them all, a unifying character. It is hard for me to translate the music and its magic to words here, but I can say this is progressive rock that runs through several emotional fields and manages to use its influences as a stepping board and not as a leaning board.

Go listen to them on their website and myspace, at least give it a try.
A truly wonderful album! A gem that I personally cherish and highly recommend.

Here's the latest news from the band's website:
BREAKING NEWS: We have now officially started the recording of our third full length album!

The first session was held last Monday at Roth Händle Studios. The whole process will stretch out for several months with quite long gaps in between, and the album will have a scheduled release around spring 2011.

This first session contained quite a bit of playful experimentation as you can see below. I will not get in to details, but I can assure you that the material we have for this album is by far the strongest we have written so far. So, stay tuned.

Three men, one electric bass and two drumsticks:

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