Since the death of pianist Esbjorn Svensson
in summer 2008, a few months before the release of e.s.t.'s Leucocyte
(ACT Music, 2008)an album which seemed to promise a second revolutionary stage in the Swedish group's musicfans have been obliged to look elsewhere for rock-infused reorientations of the piano trio tradition. There have been plenty of places to look, but nowhere quite like e.s.t. itself. Inevitably, attention has focused on the surviving members of the trio, bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus Öström. Separately or together, where would the two musicians now head?
So far as Berglund's Tonbruket is concerned, the answer is: not in a jazz direction. Or at least, not in a direction that many people would yet recognize as jazz. Berglund's own playing is unchangeddeliciously heavy, making extensive use of electronic effects, and with a preference for bowed over plucked lines. But the collective direction has more to do with progressive rock than it does with jazz. There's less e.s.t. in Dan Berglund's Tonbruket than there is Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
Key to the music is guitarist Johan Lindström, who Berglund first played with in the early 1990s in saxophonist Per Texas Johansson's band. Lindstrom's signature lap- and pedal-steel guitars, augmented by a range of other acoustic and electric fretboards, all looped and layered over Berglund's bass lines, define the group's sound. Lindström also took a lead role in mixing the album.
Keyboard player Martin Hederos, a founder member of the punk-psychedelic band The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, comes from a more solidly rock background. He generally takes a supportive role to Lindström's, but steps forward on his own, prettily melodic "Song For E." Drummer Andreas Werliin has roots in rock, folk and jazz, and was recently heard as part of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson's trio Fire! on the fierce free-jazz album You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago (Rune Grammofon, 2009). With Tonbruket he takes more beat-centric route.
The three most explicitly prog rock tracks are Hederos' opening "Sister Sad," Berglund's "Sailor Waltz" and Lindström's "Monstrous Colossus." At close on 10 minutes, "Sailor Waltz" is the longest track on the album, and its masterpiece. Hederos is first to solo; his piano treated to sound more like a Malian ngoni (lute) than a keyboard. Lindström follows on pedal-steel, which itself frequently sounds more like a theremin. Berglund's sinewy bowed bass prefaces a return to the wistful theme. Berglund's "Cold Blooded Music," culminating in a maelstrom of colliding loops, is the track most resonant of Leucocyte. Lindström's jaunty hoedown, "Gi Hop," is relatively brief and inconsequential, but delightfully so.
Personnel: Johan Lindström: acoustic and electric guitars, lap- and pedal-steel guitars, piano (10); Martin Hederos: piano, pump organ, violin, keyboards, accordion; Dan Berglund: double bass; Andreas Werliin: drums.