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coverpic flag Sweden - Full Moon 146 - 08/16/08

Lars Hollmer
Viandra
Cuneiform Records

We presented the wonderful musical world of keyboard and accordion player Mr. Hollmer in a live review almost ten years ago. Since then, Lars has kept playing live and recording as a solo artist, in duo formats and with his bands Samla Mammas Manna (now disbanded again, alas!) and Accordion Tribe. Viandra is his 9th solo album, to my account.

As mentioned in the live review, the music of Lars is a unique amalgam of folk music from Sweden and lots of other countries, rock, pop, jazz, experimental, improvised, cabaret, film, circus music to name but a few. At his not quite up to date Krax home page it is described as 'music as eccentric, avant-garde, extreme, intelligent, intimate, crazy, adventurous, bizarre, progressive, elusive, childish, capricious and as difficult to define as ever'. It still is, and more! Listening to Viandra, I might add at least accordion madness and quite some sombre moments, too. Now, usually I'd fled the premises if the average accordion player entered my sphere. Not so with Lars; it is hardly possible to have enough of his accordion playing. And the instrument, often used in Swedish folk music, seems to dominate the new album more now than his earlier works.

Another discernible development with Viandra is a few tracks that seem closer to new/contemporary "serious" music than your usual Hollmer number. Almost small chamber compositions for accordion, keyboards, violin, cello, bassoon, oboe ... It might have something to do with his long run companion Belgian Michel Berckmans of Univers Zero fame, the unique chamber rock group, if ever there was one. He turns up on several occasions here, along with Cuban violin player Santiago Jimenez, Swedish cello player Andreas Tengberg and a few other native guests. The seriousness doesn't last for long, though. Lars' wilder accordion excesses and quiet melancholic pieces still dominate the album. My favourite tracks range from the short and bitter-sweet melancholic summer's-almost-gone, sort of, "Moldaviska", via the sweet melancholic lazy "Påztema" and "Merged With Friends", to the happy-go-lucky "Strutt (Strut)" and "Alice", the fireworks of the partly drum-driven "Snabb (Fast)", the somewhat ominous and warped fairground waltz "Konstig (Strange)", the slow, gloomy and serious "Första 05 (First 05)" and so on. And back again... The only element I miss compared to other solo albums by Lars is his voice. Apart from some hardly audible singing without words, there are only vocal sounds of happy children on one track here.

Viandra might be two Swedish words put together meaning we-the-others, as opposed to the vast majority, probably. Lars' music will hardly reach any vast public in this unjust world. I suspect he will remain a marvellous treasure for a few of us (we the others) along with quite a few other long run, hard working, stubborn musicians. The album is Lars' first to be released by the great US independent label Cuneiform, which might mean better distribution and a slightly wider audience for him compared to his other recent albums. God knows he deserves it! I don't think Viandra is neither Lars' best nor most representative album. Still it's one of my top three favourite albums of 2008 so far and might be as convenient an introduction to his unique music as most of his other solo output. After all, 95 percent of his melody lines here couldn't have been written by anybody else and all the arrangements are 100 percent pure unique Lars Hollmer. As always.

Copyright © 2008 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Lars Hollmer articles/reviews: Blå, Oslo, September 30th 1999, Med Mjölnad Hand (Skisser)/With Floury Hand (Sketches).

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