Ask many self-styled music aficionados, and they’ll tell you that rock in the early to mid ‘70s descended into a mire of boundless self-indulgence and instrumental virtuosity.
Not so in Sweden. For there, the egalitarian spirit that many thought revolutionary to punks in the UK was nothing new for the heads to be found enjoying the cult Swedish psychedelia of bands like Träd, Gräs och Stenar or Älgarnas Trädgård. It’s exactly this lineage forty plus years later where one can find Flowers Must Die, the six-piece Swedish outfit whose ‘Kompost’ - their full-length debut on Rocket Recordings, home of Goat and Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation - is a landmark moment for an outfit pursuing an improvisationbased approach removed from the codified realm of contemporary psych, and exploring uncanny and unhinged territory fuelled by diverse record collections yet unique to their own collective headspace.
The band may have taken their name originally from an Ash Ra Tempel song, whilst both the strains of Amon Düül II and the repetition of Can lurk within these overgrown sonic pathways. Yet ‘Kompost’ shows them honing their improvisatory excursions into coherent songcraft amidst spectral techno and cosmic disco shapes, as the angular post-punk pop of The Sugarcubes sits alongside the narcotic clangour of prime Royal Trux, and one-take spontaneity locks horns with nocturnal revelation.
Here the outward-looking spirit of 1971 and the anything-goes mentality of the Scandinavian freaks of yore is transposed elegantly to a modern era in need of new horizons, and in a manner refreshingly bereft of retro chic.
What’s more, who’s to say what dimensions this alchemical force have yet to explore.
Tracklisting: 1. Källa till ovisshet 2. Hit 3. After Gong 4. Why? 5. Hej Då 6. Don´t you leave me now 7. Hey, Shut up 8. Där blommor dör 9. Svens song
After five decades of recording and touring, veteran British songwriter and guitar sage Michael Chapman has finally made what he calls his "American record," and the aptly titled 50 now stands as his late career masterwork, a moving legacy statement by a legend.
Backed by a collaborative group of friends and acolytes - Steve Gunn (who also produced), Nathan Bowles (Pelt, Black Twig Pickers), James Elkington (Jeff Tweedy, Richard Thompson), Jason Meagher (No-Neck Blues Band), Jimy SeiTang (Rhyton), and fellow UK songwriting luminary Bridget St John - Chapman tears into both bold renderings of new songs and radical reinterpretations of material from his revered catalog, the crack band adeptly scaling the same rarefied sonic heights of classic Harvest albums like Fully Qualified Survivor, guided by a true survivor's instinct, wit, and wisdom.
The result is a sublime chiaroscuro self-portrait, more shadow than light, as an invigorated Chapman wrestles with weighty themes of t ravel, memory, mortality, and redemption, his world-weary whispers assuming the incandescent power of prophecy.
The deluxe LP package includes tip-on jacket, printed inner sleeve, lyrics, and download card with two bonus tracks; the CD features a gatefold jacket, lyrics, and two non-LP bonus tracks.
The album includes both radical reinterpretations of obscure material from Michael’s catalog as well as three new compositions: “Sometimes You Just Drive,” “Money Trouble,” and “Rosh Pina.” A longstanding but freshly urgent preoccupation with (as Michael sings in a beloved early tune) “time past and time passing” is evident straightaway, from the album title and the first line of the first song through the final lyric of the record. Never before in his storied career has Chapman gazed so steadily into the abyss of time lost and regained; never before has he engaged so intimately with his legacy and the changing meanings of his own music over time.
That he manages to do so without succumbing to nostalgia or sentimentality bears testament to the steely fortitude of his ruminative, tough-minded songs, which survey both inscape and landscape with the same stoical detachment. With 50, Chapman faces mortality with both guitar and chainsaw in hand, and endures.
It’s the unguarded sound of Orpheus descending, the snake riding the guitar down the river Styx and returning upstream to tell his story.
Tracklisting: Side A: 1. "A Spanish Incident (Ramón & Durango) 2. "Sometimes You Just Drive 3. "The Mallard 4. "Memphis in Winter
Side B: 1. "The Prospector 2. "Falling from Grace 3. "Money Trouble 4. "That Time of Night