Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Mackaper - Mot Ljusare Tider

Album review by kev@thesoundofconfusion.co.uk


We briefly mentioned the story of how Swedish band Mackaper came into being a few months ago. Upon further investigation it appears that the musical web once again stretches wider and further than we thought. The initial seeds were sown when indie legends The Concretes cancelled a rehearsal, a band that organist Per Nyström is still a member of, so him and then guitarist Markus Hulthén began jamming. Originally conceived as an organ duo, Mackaper is now a five-piece band with various members playing multi-instruments. Since their early recordings they've ditched the drum machine in favour of the real thing, something which they say brings a warmer sound, and we're inclined to agree.

Translation websites will let you know what the song titles mean in English, but since the songs are instrumental it's kind of nice not knowing. 'Mot Ljusare Tider' is a terrible idea on paper. Based around dual organ-driven proggy instrumentals that draw from Swedish folk music and incorporate free-jazz elements, it's like Rick Wakeman's wet dream. The reality is much better. Sure this is proggy, some of it reminds you of very early Giorgio Moroder before he perfected his trademark sound, other less than well remembered 70s bands also spring to mind. There are points when the instruments partake in what could be described as "noodlings", contrary to popular belief this is a very good thing. 'Tundra' is possibly the best song on the album, like finding that rare gem on an old LP by a band you've never heard of in a charity shop.

Other tracks are more ambient like 'Dimma' which eventually succumbs to an extended guitar outro but still sounds good, the simple and relaxing 'Gryning' goes on to make brass instruments screech and jazzy drumming take over, single 'Staden Vakner' will satisfy your inner prog-chillout needs and 'Skymning' and 'Hostvisa' follow a similar line, the latter with flutes aplenty. Things liven up on the kitsch 'Flykten' which is guilty pleasure personified. You do get the overriding sense that the main goal here is to create atmosphere of the kind that nobody real does any more. Despite there being a reason why this type of thing went out of fashion, it's oddly pleasing to have it back. 'Under Stjarnhimlen' and the title-track are great listens. By the end of final track 'Festen pa Gardet' you begin to wonder whether a revival of proper prog is due after all.





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