Samla Mammas Manna - "Kaka"
(Gazul/Musea Records 2000, GA 8638.AR)
From Aural Innovations #16 (June 2001)
Samla Mammas Manna (Collecting Mommy's Manna) were Sweden's contribution to the Rock In Opposition collective of avant-rock bands in the late 1970's, though I have to say that they are the ones whose music I've heard the least of. I've long loved the album No Makeup by offshoot band Von Zamla, but Samla themselves have eluded me. However, after a few listens to Kaka I realize what I've been missing all these years. A combination of studio material and live recordings from concerts in Sweden and Norway during 1993-98, the music bears many of the characteristic of bands like Etron Fou Leloublon and Aksak Maboul on the one hand, and Frank Zappa and even the Bonzo Dog Band on the other. It may sound like a wild mixture, and indeed it is, but the Samlas are a quartet of kick ass musicians who play a quirky and complex blend of avant garde and orchestrated rock, with liberal doses of traditional music. The band consists of Coste Apetrea on guitar, bouzouki, veena, and vocals, Hans Bruniusson on drums, percussion, marimba, and vocals, Lars Krantz on bass and vocals, and veteran member Lars Hollmer on keyboards, accordion, melodica, and vocals.
Among the standout tracks it "Lyckliga Titanic", with its blazing, complex rock structures that communicate a sense power and intensity. The track starts off somewhat orchestrated in a Zappa way, but has a frenzied rockin' pace. It then evolves into a rumba-like rhythmic rocker with some fiery bouzouki from Apetrea, and then on to a romantic Italian themed bit. "Första Ikarien" is similar, but less rockin' and more quirky. Like a jaunt through a carnival of the absurd that stops off at various jazz and ethnic clubs along the way. Or maybe a medley of Broadway tunes that have been spun in the cuisinart. "Frestelsens Café" is the track where the band stretch out and really show their chops. Carefully composed, but with a freeform jam feel, the band blast through a series of themes that have a distinct 70's progressive rock sound, covering jazz fusion, a Latin styling similar to what Camel sounded like in their earliest days, a heavier rock version of Univers Zero, and plenty of the Samlas trademark ethnic influences and playfulness. Some hot marimba and guitar work too. And "Tredje Ikarien" is the band's huge, bombastic, prog, heavy rock, gimme some more speed blowout. A hell of a roller coaster finalé
There's lots of playfulness scattered throughout the album and I suspect there's a theme I'm missing. There are several narrated parts interspersed between the tracks that stylistically remind me of a cross between Monty Python and Robert Calvert's Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters. During one bit, a man is rambling and the narrator says, "as you can hear, the singer now believes himself to be singing in English... Correction, it is of course American, rather than English". That was good for a chuckle. In summary, though, the Samlas are a hot quartet of musicians, and Kaka is a solid collection of creatively composed and arranged music played by a seriously tight ensemble.
Gazul releases are distributed by Musea Records. You can visit their web site at: http://www.musearecords.com.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz