There are times when you take a chance on music and you are rewarded with an interesting and compelling find, and for me this is one of those times. Samuel Hällkvist is a Swedish guitarist living in Copenhagen whose style has hints of jazz, country, metal and noise, he has appeared on twenty-five albums and Variety of Live is his fifth as band leader.
The album is a blend of live takes and studio overdubs, based on Variety of Loud Ensemble live recordings between February 21st and 26th 2014. This is in some way reminiscent of Frank Zappa’s tweaking of live recordings to ensure the best representations of the live experience, which is not a bad thing as both have given us recordings that are top quality in both sound and presentation.
Samuel’s music is more experimental fusing jazz, rock and any other style that fits his musical vision; it is probable that he has received a progressive rock tag due to some of the musicians that appeared in the Variety of Loud Ensemble, such as Pat Mastelotto of King Crimson, on traps and buttons, and Guy Pratt who played bass with later incarnations of Pink Floyd. I like to think that his progressive rock connections are due to his music pushing boundaries and is not restricted to style as this often changes within the same song, occasionally overlaid on top of each other.
The album at first appears to be mostly instrumental, but on repeated listens you can hear wordless, haunting and at times eerie vocals which add to the musical palette of these songs, the vocals provided by three different singers, Qarin, Mocako and Yukiko.
The album open with Greyer Melange which begins with effects that in turn leads to an Eastern or Arabic guitar styling. This moves quickly, or so it appears even though over five and a half minutes have passed, onto Chord: Horror Vacui. This track has a much jazzier feel, those eerie vocals followed by brooding sax until at three minutes the drums drive the song forward with a rock feel before returning to its jazzy roots. Music for the Maraca Triplet has a Peter Gabriel feel at the start, the drums almost ’80s King Crimson in style and structure, overlaid with some very cool jazz trumpet. This seems to be a feature of the album, different and sometimes odd styles blended together to make something intriguing which begs you to pay attention, and by doing this you get to discover more on each listen.
Spooky Country again appears to follow the Gabriel like experimental sound, haunting voice and isolated drums with lots of effects. The preceding track, In Transfer, is equally interesting with an almost Primus rhythm overlaid with a great jazzy feel.
This is not a long album clocking in at forty-four minutes, but that is the secret of its success – there is no filler here. What you get is an album of interesting, well written and played songs that gives more on each repeated play, the interest held by the dizzying array of crossover styles. Hints of rock, prog, jazz, electronic and funk driven beats blend in an exploration of sound and boundaries. Not having previously been aware of Samuel’s work, this release will encourage me to investigate more as it is an album that I have thoroughly enjoyed. If this is typical of his live output I think it would be well worth seeing him perform in concert. A great find for me.
01. Greyer Melange (5:44)
02. Chord: Horror Vacui (4:52)
03. Mirrio Garden (2:25)
04. Klopotec (4:47)
05. Heru Ra-Ha Road (7:49)
06. Music For The Maraca Triplet (6:44)
07. In Transfer (2:23)
08. Spooky Country (2:55)
09. Cluck Old Hen (5:21)
Total time – 44:00
Samuel Hällkvist – Guitar, Devices, MIDI Programming
~ with The Variety of Loud Ensemble:-
Guy Pratt – Bass
Qarin Wikstrom – Voice, Keys
Pat Mastelotto – Percussion, Drums
Stefan Pasborg – Drums
Richard Barberi – Keyboards, Synths
Yazz Ahmed – Trumpet
Denys Baptiste – Saxophone
Mocako Asano – Voice
Yukiko Taniguchi – Voice
Record Label: Boogie Post Recordings/Plugged
Year Of Release: 2015