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Schlagerns Mystik

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Album Review

By the autumn of 1976, Lars Hollmer's group Samla Mammas Manna was a fairly big success in its native Sweden, and even had a couple of local hits. For various reasons, the band fragmented, with members forming various solo and small combo projects. However, Samla's success reached overseas, catching the attention of Chris Cutler's international (if underground) distribution at Recommended Records in London. With international promotion, the group got back together in early 1977 with a slight name change (Samla to Zamla) and a new guitarist, Eino Haapala. When they went on tour that summer, they played all improvisations, to the point where at one show a fan cut off their power because they wouldn't play their well-known songs. The band recorded all the improvisations, and took the best ones for the second disc of this set, För Äldre Nybegynnare ("For Older Beginners"). Cutler was quoted at the time saying that this group was among the finest improvisers in rock, and it shows on this album. They have a wide range, from straight rock grooves to experimental textures. The album was put together in the studio and included conversations and cuckoo clocks as well as material from the tapes. Perhaps because this material was so unconventional, they paired För Äldre Nybegynnare with a second disc, Schlagerns Mystik ("The Mystery of Popular Music"), although this album is as unique in their discography as För Äldre Nybegynnare. (The original LP cover offered a dotted line with scissors so the purchaser could discard the improv album.) Side one of Schlagerns Mystik is a series of quirky folk songs, sung relatively straightforwardly. Although Zamla always included at least one track with vocals on most of its albums, the vocals were typically shouted, buried in the mix, or sung in falsetto. This time, the lyrics are completely comprehensible (in Swedish), and the arrangements are subdued. Yet they retain all of the tunefulness for which Zamla became famous, and even through the strange elements, the melodies are truly charming. Only the second side of Schlagerns Mystik contains anything like progressive rock; the long instrumental "The Fate" — structurally similar to Pink Floyd's "Echoes" from its album Meddle — has a clearly stated theme, a spaced-out improvisational section in the middle, and a return to the theme. The closing moments of "The Fate" contain the same sounds as the beginning of För Äldre Nybegynnare, tying both records in the album together. [In 2008 the Japanese Arcangelo label reissued Schlagerns Mystik/För Äldre Nybegynnare as a two-CD set, remastered and packaged in a double mini-LP sleeve and including a mini-poster reproduction. The set was also included in Arcangelo's eight-disc Samla/Zamla Box, featuring all the albums (also remastered and with some bonus tracks, and packaged in mini-LP sleeves) released by Samla Mammas Manna and Zamla Mammaz Manna between 1971 and 1980, along with the Gregory Fitzpatrick album Bildcirkus.]

Customer Reviews

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Formed: 1969

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Perhaps best known as Lars Hollmer's group during the 1970s, the experimental and quirky avant-progressive rock outfit Samla Mammas Manna enjoyed a following in Scandinavia beginning early in that decade. The Samlas were formed in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1969, when their original lineup consisted of keyboardist Hollmer, bassist Lars Krantz, drummer Hans Bruniusson, and percussionist Henrik "Bebben" Öberg. The Samlas recorded at the Chickenhouse, which was so named because it really was built on a former...
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Schlagerns Mystik, Zamla Mammaz Manna
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