Näskören - "Amputation Piece" (self-released 1998, NÄSMUSIK 1001)
Gaga Blung - "Documenta 72" (self-released 1999, NÄS CD 3)
Gaga Blung - "Raga Blung" (soon to be released 1999)
From Aural Innovations #8 (October 1999)
Gaga Blung and Näskören are two related projects led by Daniel Elander and Conny Blom who first came together in 1996 when they formed Analogo Bung in Sweden. Analogo Bung evolved into Gaga Blung, which eventually became Näskören, and now they're back to Gaga Blung. Confusing? Not to worry... we'll focus on the music. Elander and Blom have been the mainstays throughout and the bands have included a varying cast of musicians. At their mp3.com web site the Musical Style blurb states, "Sun Ra drops acid and jams with Can". This is pretty darn accurate. But if I were asked to write the blurb I would have said, "Univers Zero drops Sun Ra and meets The Residents in a dark dangerous alley". Are you following me?
Näskören's "Amputation Piece" includes Parts I & II of the title track totaling about 30 minutes, plus a six minute version of Gaga Blung's "Documenta 72". The first minutes of "Amputation Piece- Part I" consists of a single pulsating, and very mechanical, synth line. Percussion and guitar soon join in, and the whole thing sounds very much like a musical machine shop. I began to imagine an avant garde soundtrack to Metropolis. Next a dark fuzzed Roger Trigaux-sounding electric guitar plays a slow dark melody line. The atmosphere created by this guitar line against the coldly mechanical rhythm section (if we can call it that) is difficult to describe, but the effect is jarring. I've already mentioned Univers Zero and Trigaux and as the music develops I really am reminded of a darker and more industrial version of Univers Zero or Present. Part II is very much a continuation of Part I. It begins with a terribly annoying 'nails on the blackboard' sound that is quickly replaced by a repetitive synth pattern, once again joined by an electric guitar which, though similar in sound to Part I, is a bit more thrashing and aggressive. Both parts do a good job of building the intensity level slowly but peaking early and maintaining a grueling level throughout the remainder of the piece.
The Näskören and Gaga Blung versions of "Documenta 72" differ little other than the Gaga Blung version being an extended length 15 minutes. This of course allows it more time to develop, though the development is slow and very subtle. But overall this is more atmospheric and less industrial than the "Amputation Piece" works, and perhaps a bit more on the minimalist side. Definitely a good candidate for a horror movie soundtrack. Eerie stuff using organ to good effect, though I think the band makes their statement better in the shorter version. "Tummen Tittar Pa Natten", the second track on the "Documenta 72" CD is a short avant garde chamber music piece featuring percussion in the form of various blocks cracking together, dissonant guitar strings, and a whirring wall of background sound.
While the previous two discs are heavy on electric guitar and keys, "Raga Blung" is, as Daniel Elander explains, "all acoustic and dominated by diverse, more or less mutated string instruments like zithers and customized guitars." Raga Blung is without question the most 'off the beaten path' and experimental of these three releases. Yet it's also, in its own dissonant way, the most upbeat and melodic of the three. Most of the disc is an exploration of the possibilities derived from plucking and strumming freely and lazily on stringed instruments. Dissonant avant blues? "Raga Blung - Part I" introduces us to Gaga Blung's experiments with stringed instruments and includes some intermittent 'howl in the wind' chanting. "Asly Flound" offers more of the same but is more interesting having added more layers of instrumentation. Intentional or not, there's an element of playfulness here that came as a surprise after the intensity of the other two discs. "Raga Blung - Part II" is still more of the same, but with more of a focus on percussion in the form of blocks, tapping, and various other tangibles that you hit. Much more of a group feel than the first two tracks, Part II definitely had the most happening and succeeded most at keeping my attention.
Highly recommended to fans of creatively conceived improvisational mayhem. I found the dark electric music to be the exciting stuff, but at the same time I'm really pleased to have experienced different sides of the band.
You can visit Gaga Blung at their web site, and Näskören at their web site.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz