Once again, hot on the heels of the wonderful Cathedral with Tom Doncourt, the doors of Mattias Olsson’s Roth Händle Studios swing wide to release new sounds into a grateful world. He really is on a roll at the moment and Molesome might be the project most suited to his widely eclectic experimentation.
This fifth Molesome album is so very different to what has gone before. It’s a concept album, but as with everything Mattias does, all is not what it seems… it’s about “everything you are trying not to pay attention to. The junk in between. The stuff that gets caught in your spam filter.” The detritus of everyday life, rather than widescreen big-picture themes, from “scratched up CDs in the back of your car… soggy takeaway menus on your windshield… the buzzing of your cell phone, an expired gift certificate and that questionable passport photo you didn’t use. The line between the lines.” Are You There? covers a similarly wide variety of textures and tones. Do not expect a homogenous whole that remains in the same zone throughout, this is bigger than that, it goes where the small bits of life go, blending a multitude of strands together to produce a fascinating journey through the unexpected.
The music, often originating from Mellotron ostinatos, is intended to be listened to as a single 50-minute suite, its eighteen component parts ranging from less than a minute to more than four, a collage of sound that avoids the abstract, with melodies and rhythms that get under your skin, blended with electrostatic sounds. As can be seen from the instrument list below, Mattias and co-conspirator Hampus Nordgren-Hemlin have dug to the very back of the instrument cupboard for this one – the kitchen sink almost certainly features at some point.
The whole as an entity is indeed where the magic lies, another to sit back in the dark and absorb. Let it just happen to you rather than trying to seek definitive meaning or directed purpose, but that is not to say that it is scattershot – it isn’t. The attention is focused on making the multitude of sounds work together.
A delicate glockenspiel and piano melody emerges from the electro-beat intro with a sweeping backdrop of archaic synths. From this compelling start, sing-song Japanese narration, which appears here and there through Are You There?, an inscrutable way-marker on a vague journey. A series of longer parts takes in driving drums and fuzz bass, in a punky new wave style, and an interlude of piano with deliciously woozy vocals from Trinidad Carillo, integrating wonderful cello from David Keller to give a strange and beautiful atmosphere. With the focus on melody, this is in no way a difficult listen, there is much to savour with no obtuse beard-strokery. It’s light and often fun, with true depth for the inquisitive mind to explore.
Rhythmic percussion suggests Bowie’s Fashion, a groovesome melody of guitar and cello emerging, culminating in a rolling and engaging vocal from Wendy McNeill. Shorter pieces take in riffs of multi-tracked vocals accompanied by tinny keyboard melodies into ’60s guitar and congas in a sunny calypso. Tiger Olsson offers a happy, sighing vocal before a warm yet sad interlude of oboe and acoustic guitar. Mellotron flutes float around the stereo separation with lightly ringing percussion and harmony vocals that hint at Björk.
Electric guitars offer dirty tones with a delicious harmonic edge, opening into a restrained and beautifully arranged full-band section that moves to a spinning rhythmic dance of synths and electronics. There’s a lovely swing to the drums as previous tunes re-emerge, guitars taking the lead. A strange interlude of cycling keyboard patterns and intoned vocals becomes a homely melody, slowly building with hypnotic grace, a broken rhythm melding the disparate parts to striking industrial effect. Tiger’s unusual vocal cadence becomes more like a ‘normal’ song, pierced by shrieks of guitar amid Mattias’ striking widescreen experimentalism.
Finally, sawing string rhythms support repeating synth phrases over slow drums, a cello moves into sweeping and gloweringly epic soundscapes. There’s a futuristic feel, a phlanging wobbliness seeping into an outro of distant radio (akin to Molesome’s Dial album), delicate percussion and Mellotron, dreamlike and relaxing, drifting you to a warm and cosy sleep.
It’s a wonderful amalgam of strings, voices, electronics, synths and percussion, atmospheric but with tons of foot-tapping melody, a particularly engaging form of experimentalism, beautifully mixed and presented. With Molesome, Mattias has created a fascinating and mobile world that can go wherever his imagination wants it to, you’re always going to be surprised by the sheer variety of sounds deployed, and the unexpected places they take you as the familiar is moulded into unfamiliar forms.
And I love it.
Are you there?, comprising:
01. You & Me (Intro) (2:13)
02. Spacestation Funeral (1:33)
03. Alphabat (4:05)
04. Naturales (4:13)
05. Being Kate (4:35)
06. Blues soaked hope (3:44)
07. Spirits (0:55)
08. Long Island (2:33)
09. The second voice (0:40)
10. Vernon (2:09)
11. Urge (3:30)
12. Tim (Original Soundtrack) (3:45)
13. Voice (2:24)
14. The Supreme (1:38)
15. Iceman (3:19)
16. Boxes (4:04)
17. Sport Bag (1:25)
18. Sorrow (Outro) (3:06)
Total time – 50:02
Mattias Olsson – Mellotron, VCS3, Flame Synth, Mother Modular System, Casio Vl-1, Bandmaster Powerhouse, Talk Box, Dhruva Box, Speak & Spell, Electro-Harmonix Mini-Synth, Space Drum & Super Replay, Boss DR-220e, Roland CR-78 & TR-707, Persephone, Optigan, Philicorda Organ, Drums, Percussion, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Drum Machines, Clap Trap, Turntables, Electric Bass, Electric & Baritone Guitars, Bass Marimba, Hohner Guitaret, Tubular Bells, Timpani, Radio
Hampus Nordgren-Hemlin – Grand Piano, Mellotron, Electric Bass, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Korg Minilogue, Arp Odyssey, Electro-Harmonix Mini Synth, Casio SK-1, Koto Synthesizer, Vocoder VP-330+, Fender Rhodes, Roland JV 1080, Schiedmayer Celeste, Malmsjö M500 Organ, Vibraphone, Hohner Bass 2 & Guitaret, Microkorg, Baldwin Orga-sonic, Fender VI, Moog Minitaur, Rickenbacker 6-string, Electric Sitar, Hammond L-100, Clavioline, Vako Orchestron, Yamaha CP-30, Toy Piano, Musser Ampli-Celeste
Valter Kinbom – Shakers, Timbra, Tamborim, Cuica, Blocks, Darbouka, Frame Drum, Cowbells, Congas, Guiro, Triangle, Additional Percussion (tracks 1,5,8 & 12)
Trinidad Carillo – Vocals (tracks 4 & 10)
David Keller – Cello (tracks 4,5,8,14,16 & 17)
Anthony J. Resta – Guitar Solo (track 5)
Wendy McNeill – Vocals (track 6)
Tiger Olsson – Vocals (tracks 8 & 15)
Martin von Bahr – Oboe (tracks 9 & 13)
Mai Tanaka – Narration
Record Label: Roth-Händle Studios
Country of Origin: Sweden
Date of Release: 9th January 2021