Friday 22 November 2013

Tonbruket and Ane Brun at The Kentish Town Forum November 14th

Tonbruket - Photo by Steve Worrall
Following the split of The Soundtrack of Our Lives in December last year, it hasn’t taken long for some of the band members to get right back into their stride with new projects that in a way, probably suit their musical backgrounds even better. For example, Mattias Bärjed’s unabashed love for Seventies Heavy Rock is given full vent in his new band Free Fall, and when Retro Man Blog reported on their first U.K. show back in February here, you could sense that, although TSOOL was always a very fluid and eclectic band, Mattias was just loving the chance to let loose and “Rock Out”! On the other hand, keyboard player Martin Hederos came from very much a studious, classical music background, but the two very different characters ended up in the Karlstad based Nymphet Noodlers together and Martin's style took the short-lived band off into a sort of free-form Rock ‘n’ Roll. That's not to say the band were meandering Prog Rock by any means, as they always retained that Stooges like edge and unpredictability to their sound, but they had a groove and a fluidity to their music. When Martin went on to join The Soundtrack of Our Lives (to be followed later by his Noodlers' colleague Mattias Bärjed), his classical grounding brought a whole other depth and dimension to TSOOL’s sound. He could veer from the full-on 60’s "Nuggets" Garage Rock style Hammond organ on the Psychedelic Punk of songs like “Galaxy Gramophone” and before switching track completely to add intricate harpsichord or beautifully minimalist Erik Satie style piano on ballads such as “Tonight” and “Song For The Others”. 

Martin Hederos & Dan Berglund of Tonbruket - Photo by Steve Worrall
Hederos also became more than just a highly sought after session musician and orchestral arranger, and more of a collaborator, evident in his successful partnerships with his ex-Nymphet Noodlers front man Mattias Hellberg, under the name Hederos & Hellberg and also with the singer Nina Ramsby. One really telling example of his skill as a musical arranger, in my view, was his impressive work on the Swedish Weekend at La Gaite Lyrique in Paris last year, where he not only played a full set with The Soundtrack of Our Lives but also performed two shows with Peter von Poehl, one with his full band and then one in a more laid back acoustic set-up. Hederos also played a quite stunning set with the superb French singer songwriter, Marie Modiano, whose band featured the equally busy and versatile drummer Ludwig Dahlberg from Free Fall. Tonight, Hederos pulls off another similar feat, although crammed into just one evening’s entertainment – appearing as support with his current band Tonbruket who then provide the majority of headliner Ane Brun’s backing band.

Ane Brun - Photo by Steve Worrall
The two acts are currently out together on a tour promoting Brun’s new compilation album "Songs 2003-2013", released to celebrate her 10 years in music. Martin has previously appeared on some of Ane Brun’s recordings and tonight he not only excels on keyboards and piano, but also contributes violin and accordion. I think of the Velvet Underground's John Cale and the way he switches  between instruments, influences and genres. When Brun graciously left the stage at the end of her main set to allow each of her band members to play on a bit and then depart one-by-one to take the crowd’s acclaim, it was no surprise that the very last person to leave was Hederos to a rapturous round of applause. It was the first time I had seen Ane Brun perform and had not heard much of her music before, but I was captivated by her set of emotional and organic folk songs. Songs which seemed to be made even more naturalistic by the huge backdrop of the rings of an ancient tree, her flowing pagan/druid-like white dress and the glowing Scandinavian lanterns scattered around the stage, it was all lapped up by the packed out Forum crowd with enthusiasm. I will certainly investigate Ane Brun's music further after tonight's show.

Tonbruket - Photo by Steve Worrall
Before that, Tonbruket played an impressive support slot, the band were formed by Dan Berglund, the double bass player with the popular Swedish nu-Jazz outfit E.S.T. or Esbjörn Svensson Trio, who came to a sudden and untimely halt due to the tragic death of Svensson in a scuba diving accident in 2008. Then in 2009 Berglund recruited Johan Lindström, one of Sweden’s best exponents of slide guitar, Martin Hederos on keyboards and Andreas Werliin on drums and percussion to put his combined loves of Rock Music and Jazz together in one band. Tonight, swathed in dense single colour lights, the band are almost only visible as silhouettes against the swirling dry ice. Although Tonbruket are labelled mainly as a Jazz band, no doubt due to Berglund’s E.S.T. career, I think they are out there in a pretty unique field of their own. I’m not a Jazz fan so it’s difficult for me to reference where they might be coming from, as to me they are sometimes more like an avant-garde instrumental Rock band, with echoes of Y.M.O. or some of David Sylvian's more atmospheric work.

Martin Hederos - Photo by Steve Worrall
Sure, there are lots of intriguing passages from each of the highly talented band members, who all contribute equally to the mix. But at times Tonbruket can also crank out a menacing motorik beat that reminds me of Krautrock bands such as Neu! and Can, driving some pieces along with a powerfully hypnotic groove. Unlike a lot of Jazz bands they understand the dynamics of “less-is-more” and sometimes allow things to drop out almost completely, giving the music space and atmosphere. They seem to be as much influenced by the expansive Psychedelic Rock of Pink Floyd or the experimental side of Radiohead, as much as they are by Jazz. In fact I once read someone saying that Berglund played the double bass like Jimi Hendrix which made me smile, but he certainly wrings out some impressive sounds and nimble bass runs from the cumbersome looking instrument. Having just got back from Berlin, at one point I’m immediately transported back there by a thundering drum-beat reminiscent of Iggy’s lurching “Nightclubbing”, and there are certainly strains of the Berlin-era Bowie and Iggy, of “Low” and “Heroes”, of “The Idiot” and “Lust For Life”. It was a relatively short set, but mightily effective and very well received by an appreciative audience. After the show I noticed a fair few of their CD’s being snapped up at the merchandise stall, and I imagined that these people were going to get a bit of a headache if they like to file their albums by genre, as Tonbruket are certainly a tough band to categorize!

Ane Brun - Photo by Steve Worrall
Tonbruket's new album "Nubium Swimtrip" is out now on ACT Records. For more information on the band please check out their official web-site here. Thanks to Martin Hederos. For more photos please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page, hit "Like" for access to the Photo Album.

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