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fromheadtoheart flag Sweden - Full Moon 212 - 12/17/13

From head to heart
Samla Mammas Manna's Måltid

Following our retroscope series of latter years, here we go again! Here's Speakers' corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth the Lunar time-machine juke-box spins and rewinds to 1973 for a progressive meal, exploring The Swedish cuisine of that time - or anytime. It's Meal Time, folks. Smorgasbord. Progg legs. Lingonberry. Crispbread. Meatballs. Crayfish. Harvard Beets. Cans and cans of fermented sour Baltic herring. Mulled wine. Cinnamon buns. Princess cake. An extra Lars meal, anyone?

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Samla Mammas Manna
Måltid
Silence Records

We met two nice Swedes at the RIO-festival back in September. When I asked them to suggest any great contemporary Swedish bands they both exclaimed simultaneously: Samla Mammas Manna! I'm not sure if they misunderstood me and thought I asked for the greatest Swedish band of all times, or although long gone Samla Mammas Manna (let's use SMM hereafter to make it shorter) is still valid as a vital force in Swedish music today. I think I'll go for both. SMM dissolved for the last time around 2003 and after the untimely death of Lars Hollmer in 2008 the band will never appear again.

SMM got started in the old university and archbishopric town of Uppsala, north of Stockholm, in 1969. They soon became part of the new Swedish musical underground along with quite a few others, mainly more politically conscious bands on the left side. But SMM seemed less overt political conscious than most of the rest. The band name, for instance, says it all, or nothing, meaning Gather Mummy's Manna. It sounds great to pronounce in Swedish, though, with all those a's and m's! Along with lots of the other bands and artists of this new vital movement, SMM signed to the local progressive label Silence, meaning progressive both in the political and musical way. The debut album from 1971 mainly featured instrumental Swedish folk- and rock-inspired compositions and improvisations with elements of a few other genres thrown in for good measure. The following year unique guitarist Coste Apetrea joined the band. The quartet of him, founder members Lars Hollmer (keyboards), Lasse Krantz (bass) and Hasse Bruniusson (drums) is the classic SMM line-up. They all used their voices as well, to more or less great effect. With Coste on board the music took a more electric and jazzy direction in addition, to some extent inspired by the jazz-rock and humorous whims of Frank Zappa and his Mothers.

But SMM managed effortlessly to stand firm on their own feet. In spite of more rock and jazz flavours and humorous dodges, there are influences of Swedish folk music throughout, which implies that almost all the SMM output sound characteristic and unique. There is an exception in the second half of the opening track "Dundrets Fröjder" (might be translated to something like The Delight Of The Bang) with a layer of Mellotron (it seems), playful drums, funky bass and jazzy electric piano and guitar on top that sound a lot like the American and British jazz-rock of the day. Otherwise the SMM-boys wander their own paths. "Den Återupplivade Låten" (The Resurrected Tune) might be one example of SMM's assets. It starts with some experimental percussive noises and some fiddlings on the strings inside the piano, maybe even on the strings of an egg slicer, before Lars start to hammer away some half way old fashioned rock'n'roll, half way folk tune on his piano at great pace and the others follow suit. Soon the pace slows down and the tune grows mellower and slightly melancholic in between while a flute sounding Mellotron and then Coste's guitar take over the lead. After a short quite quiet and experimental break the full band is back with another couple of folk-rock tunes at different paces. This time it sounds closer to the standard sturdy folk-rock of the early 1970s than the initial theme, but not exactly. It has that indefinable SMM touch that no one quite could or can match. Things are calmed down with a long and vulnerable piano outro. Close to the end that melancholic vibe is destroyed by a glass bottle being smashed to the floor. I don't think it was intentionally, but it says something about the SMM member's attitude to keep the crash on the album. They are certainly clever musicians and play some intricate row of notes while not losing sight of 'the good melody'. But they don't take themselves too serious and the music is played in a disarmingly and playful way using humour as a means to seduce the listener. That over the top high-pitched vocals of "Oförutsedd Förlossing" (Unexpected Birth) and "Folkvisa I Morse ..." (Folk Song This Morning ...) for instance, would've fallen flat to earth on an album by some of SMM's more self conscious and pompous contemporaries. Here it seems as an integral part, after all, above some really clever and nice playing. This is serious fun or funny seriousness!

The rest of the album includes more of these ingredients, mixed in other ways and quantities, including a fair share of vocal gibberish. When you first get used to it, you enter a wonderful musical world. Måltid means Meal and there certainly are some delightful dishes on the menu though the album may not be the upmost highlight of the SMM canon. The following album Klossa Knapitatet has even better tunes and has got rid of some of the most over the top vocal excesses.

SMM managed to record one more album after Klossa before line-up changes set in and the name was changed, first slightly to Zamla Mammaz Manna when Coste Apetrea had left, then Von Zamla with eventually only Lars Hollmer left from the original line-up. För Äldre Nybegynnare/Schlagerns Mystik (For Older Beginners/The Mystic Of The Hits) from 1978 is another highlight, by ZMM, two separate albums really, released as a double LP, one live of instrumental improvisations and some vocal outbursts, the other with closer to ordinary songs and more instrumentals, without losing the humorous dimension, not at all. When Von Zamla dissolved by the mid 1980s, Lars Hollmer had already started a solo career and continued solo and with loose band concepts as well through the 1980s, 90s and 00s. The classical SMM gang was back together in 1990, first as a one off at Hasse Bruniusson's 40th birthday. It worked so well they decided to continue. I witnessed them live a couple of times in the latter half of 1990s and the gigs stand as some of my dearest live memories. The first time I guess there can't have been more than 60 people present. Somehow SMM never reached mass appeal. However, there were at least two Japanese in the audience who had crossed half the globe just for the occasion. SMM certainly had global appeal! The band also released one more great mainly studio album Kaka (Cake) in 1999 before they sadly started to quarrel. By the live album Dear Mamma (2002) Bruniusson had left and Lasse Kranz didn't participate on the entire album. Soon after the show was definitely over.

Måltid, along with the rest of the original albums from the 1970s and early 1980s have been relaunched on CD both in Sweden and Japan. In Japan they were even gathered in a luxurious box. Måltid includes bonus tracks, some of them more hilarious than the ones on the original album. Catch it if you can!

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