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Bear Garden: Bear Garden

Geno Thackara By

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There's just something about the saxophone that goes with sounding big and ambitious. Bear Garden (or Martin Wirén when he's at home) certainly shows some of those signs with unashamedly grand melodicism and a feel for the expansive and cinematic. Though Bear Garden's running time leans toward the short side of LP length, this octet—rhythm section, piano, guitar and four juiced-up horns—makes it feel enormous with wailing lines ringing through the heavens at full volume.

With the weighty thundering overture of "Helium" (that title must probably be some kind of joke), they seem like they're trying to score an epic film on the scale of 2001 crossed with an odd prog-rock fever dream. The giant wall of sound remains in place when the crashing gives way to a noisy jazz/funk jam, pounding and squealing its way to an electrifying finish. Most of the recording soars over slow sweeping patterns or brisk-coasting grooves in this fashion, while a few surprisingly wispy interludes give a touch of breathing space.

Bear Garden sits at a dynamic intersection where the simple grandiosity of post-rock mashes against the churn of electric jazz fusion. Guitars ring through vast canyons of echo; big drum rhythms make the ground shake; Wirén's slow-flying sax pierces the sky and the eardrums. Somehow the band seesaws between those extremes easily enough not to give whiplash, or perhaps they just leave the casual listener too stunned to notice much. If not everyone will truly enjoy the majesty and drama of this recording, it still makes an impression too forceful to ignore.

Track Listing

Helium; No End; Spirits; Horns Oh Horns; The Bird; Riverstone; Riverside Run; Grandma's Owl; Space; Old Radio; Kaitum.

Personnel

Bear Garden: saxophone, flute, production, mixing; Henning Ullén: trumpet; Filip Tunevi: trombone; Hampus Adami: trombone; Joakim Simonsson: piano; Susanna Risberg: guitar; Arvid Jullander: double bass; Gustav Nahlin: drums.

Album information

Title: Bear Garden | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Self Produced

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