Mattias Olsson’s hunger for new aural vistas has made for an exciting trip over many years now, and his Molesome project is no exception.
2018’s fascinating Dial had me cocking a quizzical and enthralled ear, and with this release’s tantalising Bandcamp tags running through the likes of ‘Chamberlin’, ‘Mellotron’, ‘Optigan’ and ‘Orchestron’, interest is piqued in expectation of what Olsson, the supreme experimenter, might achieve with such a selection.
As the perpetual weeks of lockdown blur together, I realise that it’s mid-June, and I’ve been meaning to press digit to keyboard about this for months now. On the plus side, Be My Baby Tonight has been one of the key soundtracks to my internal mood PA during these difficult times, and it has certainly made it all a lot more bearable.
This album is not going to be what you expect, whatever it is that you’re expecting, but be sure to note that it is in no way a demanding listen. It’s challenging, but in a relaxed and tuneful rather than difficult way, defying those expectations, which should be safely stowed at the door. The tunes are unusual, but tunes they most certainly are, and although the title might suggest an album of love songs, be warned that if you use this particular recording for a spot of subtle wooing, I would suggest that you’re unlikely to be getting any!
Available, in physical form, on vinyl only (which I can guarantee will sound amazing), the two suites herein are cunningly entitled LP Side A and LP Side B, but within those you will find some fifteen distinct sections which stand joyously on their own merits. I’m largely guessing at where one ‘track’ ends and the next begins here, so bear with me!
To kick off, “I Was One of Hannibal’s Elephants” is a burst of lounge kitsch which could be incidental music from a Bond film, circa-Goldfinger, all brass stabs and Latin percussion with ethereal sampled wailing. It’s a striking and engaging thing, the power of Jacob Holm-Lupo’s mixing becoming all too apparent when listening on headphones. The acoustic guitars of Nothing are the complete antithesis, while a schizophrenic Cut evolves from pure electronica with a tempting low-key bass groove.
Onward, and a staticy Destination Unknown vs. Hollywood Ending hints at some serious acid being dropped down at the Radiophonic Workshop, big beats dodging the heavy weather with Cruise Rain a beautifully unorthodox vocal piece over an almost classical backing. Erica is even more unorthodox, brass and more Latin rhythms sashaying us along a sultry shoreline at midnight. The regular drum kit and bass of Casper are as straightforward as this album gets, but it’s exemplary in its execution and the gorgeous melody would probably be a good place to start when drawing in the casual listener.
As Mattias says, “The songs on this album come from many different places and for a long time I have viewed them as strays or orphans, they don’t necessarily get along, fight clean, smell nice, or even fit together but now at least I know that they are dry, warm and in a safe place.” Amen to that, and the true genius of this album is that Mattias has made them sound like they’ve always cohabited in beautiful harmony.
A slice of orange and a rub-down and we’re off into the flip side. Belafonte is all electronics, odd off-kilter rhythms, sound effects and voices, and by now it makes almost perfect head-scratching, head-shaking sense. Las Rascales is a song for mice living in a psychiatric hospital, while Black Ink is darkly rhythmic with a definite intent to thrill amongst its Japanese illusions. Wooden percussion and synths a-go-go for the unexpectedly titled Bethnal Green, but then we’re into even more unexpected Camel territory for a beautiful Postcards from Cairo, the warmth evaporating into a haunting cello and trumpet No Friends before the beats return with twangy guitar and electric sitar for Frankfurt. Finally, Osaka Text is a night on the Bullet Train of the future with a wandering trumpeter along for the ride.
It’s at this point that I realise that I’ve run out of track titles and there’s clearly one left. We’ll call it ‘Iggy’ (but it has to be Osaka Text as I’ve obviously double-counted along the way). Oh well, it really doesn’t matter as the ethereal, floating quality of looping trumpets, synths and wordless voices is the perfect ending to a spell-binding journey that has taken all of its multitudinous variations to make one complete whole that happens to be known as Be My Baby Tonight.
The moods change and oscillate between calm and edgy and groovin’, but it’s all fascinating. Brilliant, unexpected and supremely creative, rewarding repeated listens with a bouquet and bottle of champagne. It might start off washing over you, but it soon finds a way into your soul, and that’s where the party really starts.
Upon finishing this review I realised that there’s been ANOTHER Molsome album released in the meantime! It would be rude not to speak of it…
… and you really couldn’t get two more different albums, there is so little overlap that they should be by two different artists, but they aren’t, and this one is fully from Mattias Olsson’s heart, as he says, “The Spring of 2019 was horrible…”
By way of explanation in the Bandcamp notes for Tom & Tiger, his daughter Tiger was in a very dark place, and his friend Tom Doncourt passed away at around the same time, the experience hitting Mattias hard: “I was in pieces. Shattered. Didn’t really know what to do with myself. Went to the studio every day to try to maintain some kind of normality, nothing happened. Didn’t feel like doing anything and didn’t. After long weeks and days of grief and loud mood swings, one afternoon I sat down by the piano on my way out to go home. No plan. I just sat there with my jacket on and looked at it. Feeling completely hollow and empty I put my hands on the keys and pressed down. Very tentatively. Waited for a while. Played a handful more notes. And to my surprise something inside replied.” He set to work; no editing, only full takes, nothing written or thought out beforehand, “It should be exactly what it was in all its stumbles, repetitions and lack of direction. Over the course of a week I recorded four pieces.” A year later, having added “some minor overdubs to frame the piano”, here it is.
This is a deeply personal and heartbreakingly sad record, but ultimately rewarding and even uplifting, such is the passion that Mattias has woven into it. It comes from a deep and undefinable place and seems like it came into being almost because it had to. With piano as the focal point, electronics and ancient keyboards join with bits of cello, musical saw and vibraphone to create a dynamic soundworld of beauty and sorrow. It’s quite a listen.
The four movements are distinct, from the icy despair of the first, through the sedate majesty of the processional second, the sparse and disjointed third with ethereal distant cello, right through to the chiming and uplifting fourth proving that there is light at the end of every tunnel.
One for late nights with the lights off – breathtaking.
And how does Mattias feel about it now? “I can’t really say I enjoy listening to it, but finishing and releasing it makes it possible to look at it from a distance. In some weird way it also means I don’t have to be inside it anymore.”
Be My Baby Tonight
01. LP Side A (23:00)
– “I Was One of Hannibal’s Elephants”
– Destination Unknown vs. Hollywood Ending
– Cruise Rain
02. LP Side B (25:52)
– Las Rascales (For J. Roberto)
– Black Ink
– Bethnal Green
– Postcards of Cairo
– No Friends
– Osaka Text
Total Time – 48:52
Tom & Tiger
01. #1 (8:52)
02. #2 (12:05)
03. #3 (12:07)
04. #4 (9:39)
Total Time – 42:43
Be My Baby Tonight:
Mattias Olsson – Turntables, Mellotrons, Chamberlins, Electric & Baritone Guitars, Percussion, Synthesisers, Drum Machines, Vako Orchestrations, Speak & Spell, Electric Sitar, Persephone, Vocoder, Bass Gizmotron, Moog Taurus Pedals
Jair–Rohm Parker Wells – Electric Bass
Jonathan Segel – Electric Guitar, Mellotron, Electric Sitar, Violins, Eko 12-string, Bass, Guitar Gizmotron
Trinidad Carrillo – Vocals & Lyrics
Leo Svensson Sander – Cello & Seagulls
Kenny Hakansson – Electric Guitar
Hampus Nordgren-Hemlin – Bass, Fender Rhodes
Per Styregard – Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Akaba – Vocals & Lyrics
Tiger & Tom:
Mattias Olsson – Piano, Mellotron, Gizmotron, Turntables, Persephone
Leo Svensson-Sander – Cello, Musical Saw
Mattias Ståhl – Vibraphone
Record Label: Roth-händle
Country of Origin: Sweden
Date of Release: 7th October 2019 (Be My Baby Tonight) & 1st April 2020 (Tom & Tiger)