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coverpic flag Sweden - Full Moon 198 - 10/29/12

Lars Hollmer
Med Mjölnad Hand (Skisser)/With Floury Hand (Sketches)
Cuneiform Records

The news that Lars Hollmer had passed away due to lung cancer on Christmas day 2008, only 60 years old, was a real blow. I wasn't aware of the fact until some months later and hadn't even heard he was ill before the news came through. Here at Luna Kafé we caught up with his whereabouts in a live review from 1999 and an encounter with his last real studio offering Viandra shortly before his untimely death in 2008. You can find an introduction to the musical world of Lars Hollmer in these reviews. As has often been the case with Lars Hollmer, I wasn't aware of his new album until recently even though it was released in May. But, of course, this is not an album to digest for a few days and then forget. As with the rest of Lars Hollmer's recorded output under his own name, with his beloved band Samla Mammas Manna and other constellations of his, it's the kind of album that ought to last forever.

The story goes that Lars' daughter Rinda read loudly from a recipe: 'Knead the dough gently with floury hands' before a family dinner in 2007. Lars responded immediately with a loud laughter and exclaimed: 'This is what my next album is going to be called!' This new album is not With Floury Hand as Lars had in mind. He wanted to record a studio album somewhat weirder than the melancholia of Viandra. He asked his son Gabriel to listen to stuff from his archive with several hours of unreleased stuff, sketches, demos and a few finished songs and suggest a sample as a starting point for the new album. It was not to be. Lars got ill and the plans were abandoned. Instead, as the end of the title suggest, here is a selection of the more or less unfinished recordings from those archives, compiled by Gabriel, dating from the early 1980s until 2008. The disc lasts almost one hour and includes 26 tracks. Which means the majority only barely reach the two minutes mark. Lars' main instrument seems to be his accordion. I can think of few other accordion artists worth listening to for more than three minutes. Lars is (was) the exception. He also plays keyboards, melodica, ukulele, mandolin, percussion and some vocals. The selection includes some weird stuff, but here are lots of examples of other sides of the artist, too. Melancholic, humorous, hilarious... Since most of the tracks weren't meant for release in the first place, they sound even more playful than your average Lars Hollmer song or instrumental. There is a little cough here and a slight slip there. But it doesn't matter at all. It sounds even closer and nicer that way. As Gabriel Hollmer explains it in the booklet: 'This is music straight from the heart. Just like my father was.'

Most of the tracks have the familiar Lars Hollmer stamp all over them. The most notable exception is the opening instrumental "Beat mm". It almost sounds like some mainstream jazz-rock or fusion track except for a strange hanging note around a minute into the track, as Gabriel points out. The weirdest offering is probably "Tyskromans" (German Romance) where our man sings a fake German Lied as if he was Sweden's renowned troubadour Evert Taube, with tongue firmly in cheek... Another song that stands out is "Kanske" (Maybe) where Lars sings some gibberish. Very stupid and very funny, the booklet states... There are other weirdoes, too, some of which suggest that Lars' musical world isn't that far from the one of The Residents. (Well, both Lars and The Residents have collaborated with the extraordinary English guitarist Fred Frith, so there is a direct link here). We also get at least one dose of fairground music, the Hollmer way, several modest Swedish folk-flavoured numbers and some of those melancholic ballads, sort of, that no-one can match. "Franklåt" (not sure about the translation; it may simply mean Frank's Tune) is one of them, a studio version of a tune only heard on the album Live 1992-1993 with his Looping Home Orchestra earlier. "Vandelmässa" (Behaviour, sort of, Mass), a short quiet gem, is presumably a demo for the album of the same name. But there was no title track of that album... Here's also the original of "Talrika" (Numerous), a more intricate and progressive instrumental he gave to the Canadian band Miriodor, to be found on their album Parade.

But there is more; an accompanying DVD with Lars live at the Gouveia Art Rock Festival in Portugal in April 2005. At the start there's Lars alone with his accordion and a little bit of melodica, performing classics such as "Viandra" (We The Others, maybe?) and "Höstvisa" (Autumn Song, always a treat, any season). Later he is joined by Michel Berckmans (from Belgian storm troopers Univers Zero) on bassoon performing more classics, not least "Utflykt Med Damcykel" (Excursion With A Ladies' Bike). Eventually the two are joined by the entire Miriodor for "Talrika", the song mentioned above. Great! Finally we are served 25 minutes of an accordion gig with Fizzè in Heuwiesse, Weite in Switzerland a couple of months prior to the Portugese festival. Here's another go at "Höstvisa", along with "Franska Valsen" (French Waltz) and five others. This seems to be in a restaurant; the public is served wine during the gig. Great to finally have some live pictures of Lars in action. Though I miss his energetic electric piano playing. The only disappointment is that he doesn't perform bare-footed, a trademark of his in earlier years. Well, at least he doesn't wear shoes on any of these occasions, only socks.

Med Mjölnad Hand (Skisser) serves as a worthy epitaph of Lars Hollmer. Thanks to the Hollmer family and Cuneiform for making it possible! And who knows, if enough people show interest and buy the album, maybe Gabriel Hollmer might dig even deeper into his father's archive? If some of the remaining recordings are half as good as what is presented here, another dive to save the gems from oblivion most certainly ought to be viable.

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You may also want to check out our Lars Hollmer articles/reviews: Blå, Oslo, September 30th 1999, Viandra.

© 2012 Luna Kafé