Monthly Archives: March 2010

Dan Berglund’s Tonbruket – Band on The Wall

Tonbruket is the new project started by seminal experimental jazz group Esbjörn Svensson Trio bass player Dan Berglund, after the tragic demise of E.S.T following the death of Svensson.

Having sadly never been into E.S.T when they were around (something I shall forever regret), I am unable to comment on their live performances, but based on the recordings I have heard I can make some comparisons on at least a very basic level. What intrigued me the most about E.S.T was their ability to seamlessly meld aspects of electronica, rock,  jazz and classical music to create a whole new progressive sound. This is particularly evident on their outstanding 2006 album Tuesday Wonderland. Tonbruket carries on this ambition with wondrous effect.

With Tonbruket, Berglund has taken what he has learnt with E.S.T and has managed to create what is nothing less than a stroke of genius contemporary experimental symphony. Each track is a movement that tells a story and is essential in understanding the piece as a whole. No more is the more evident than the incredible Sailor Waltz, a piece of music so evocative that before even being made aware of the title, I had an image in my mind of a desolate shoreline in the winter, waves crashing along the beach and abandoned shipwrecks on the horizon. Very eerie indeed. Yet, as beautiful as this piece of music is, it is nothing without being in placed in the context of the album as a whole. In the case of Tonbruket, the whole is most definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Which, I feel, is always a sign of a truly great record.

Live, the music translates just as well, if not better. While only a humble quartet, Tonbruket have a lot of equipment. Berglund himself couldn’t even describe what all the instruments were. Seeing the incredibly complex sounds of the album being performed live was a real treat, and the whole set was utterly captivating.

Tonbruket take influences from everything from Beethoven to Radiohead and defy genre so much I’m not even going to attempt to classify them. Indeed I feel it would be disrespectful to even try. This is music, this is contemporary art at its very finest. I urge you, go and see them, you will not come away feeling quite the same.

10/10

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Live: The Mandigans – Jabez Clegg

I’ve written about this band before – The Mandigans are a young (as in, still in school young) and ambitious band, a feel-good powerpop outfit with all the youth and energy you’d expect from a gang of lads having the time of their lives. This was, however, going to be their last ever show. Which is a shame.

The Mandigans write songs not about the ‘big’ issues, and in all honestly they’re probably not in it to be serious. It’s simple, honest, good pop music – songs about getting girls and having a good time, songs about being young and having the world at your feet. And, I ask, what’s wrong with that?

At times they look a little uneasy, not quite sure how to stand, or how to handle a mic properly but with this nervous naivety comes a lot of potential. They certainly have an ear for a catchy pop hook (see ‘The Girl Next Door’) and are actually quite accomplished musicians if you listen properly.

I’m sure each of The Mandigans will go on to be in successful bands in the future, if that’s what they want. And I wish them all the luck in the world with it.

Good, honest, unpretentious guitar pop. I’ll miss it.

7.5/10

Photo by Simon Lee.

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Broken Bells – Broken Bells

There has been a fair ‘ole bit of hype surrounding this record, a collaboration between James Mercer (The Shins) and the enigmatic producer Brian Burton (Danger Mouse). An indie kid’s wet dream then. Well, we’re still waiting on that Sufjan Stevens/Karen O/Suicide Girls movie..so until that happens, this is as good as anything.

At first, I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure – That was until I heard opening track and first (free!) single The High Road. Brain-shattering hip-hop influenced drums crash in with explosive energy, only to reveal some of the most harmonic and beautiful vocal melodies, arguably some of Mercer’s finest vocal work.

I have found Burton’s work a bit hit and miss over the years (never really ‘got’ the whole Grey Album thing. Shakey concept and so-so execution)  but this time he seems to have nailed it. There’s just enough ‘knob-twiddling’ to compliment Mercer’s guitar work so as to compliment it, without being overpowering.

While the standout (and opening) track by a long way is The High Road, the whole album is a solid piece of very listenable music by two obviously extremely talented musicians. Throughout the whole record, Mercer’s warm, melodic vocals intertwine with Burton’s minimal yet hard-hitting beats to create a soundscape that could very well be the soundtrack to the summer. While few of the tracks have the instantly memorable pop hooks of the first single, it is a record that I have found to get right under my skin, with each new listen revealing something new. One to listen though a good pair of headphones and give some real time to though – this isn’t background/washing up music at all.

8/10

Broken Bells is out today courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment. Tour dates are yet to be announced.

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