by Lars Hollmer

CD(Jewel Case)

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Issued in Japan through Disk Union in late 2007 and in the U.S. by Cuneiform in May of 2008, Viandra (which translates as "We + Others") was recorded and mixed between 2001 and 2007 at Lars Hollmer's Chickenhouse studio in Uppsala, Sweden, amidst all the international projects that sent Lars packing up his accordion and rushing to the airport for the next flight out of Stockholm. And the cover itself also appears to be seven years in the making, if not even longer -- Hollmer's photo collage encompasses a massive electricity transmission tower, misty cathedral spires, the wide world glimpsed through his airplane window, snowy composite exterior shots of his home and the Chickenhouse, and the intimate warmth of family and musicians inside the studio or glimpsed through windows, in doorways, or perched incongruously in unexpected places, along with whimsical and surreal juxtapositions of iconic images with hidden or implied meanings. The music itself is as wide-ranging as that photo collage and as strangely -- sometimes as magically -- wonderful as anything Hollmer recorded previously in his solo career. Lars is joined on various tracks by old friends like double-reedist Michel Berckmans and violinist Santiago Jimenez, along with cellist Andreas Tengberg and, in cameo appearances, drummer Morgan Ågren, Samlas member Coste Apetrea, saxophonist Ulf Wallander, and several Hollmer grandkids, but Viandra is nevertheless a true Hollmer solo endeavor. He places his keyboards and accordion prominently in the mix and can also be heard on melodica, glockenspiel, digital drums, percussion, wordless vocals, mandolin, and more, while the strings and Berckmans' double reeds are the secondarily most dominant voices -- as if the more chamber-esque elements of 2000's Utsikter were married to Lars' '80s solo work. Viandra thus suggests a sweep back from 2007 through perhaps a quarter century of his music, but more striking is the mood that Lars brought to the 16 compositions here, which range from just over a minute to five and a half minutes in length: a sense of reflection sometimes touched with melancholy. Lars would unexpectedly pass away at Christmastime just over seven months after Viandra's release by Cuneiform, but despite the album's elegiac qualities, he didn't intend it to be a coda to his life or his music, and indeed had already begun work on the quirkier and crazier follow-up With Floury Hand, posthumously issued in "Sketches" form in 2012. And yet, in a sense, a coda is what Viandra became, and a beautiful one at that. "Alice" recalls the joyful innocence of "Simfågeldans" from 1985's Tonöga, and was written for an Alice in Wonderland theater project in the late '80s, but its conclusion turns harmonically dark accompanied by what sounds like a ticking clock -- intimating portents of the future. Likewise, "Prozesscirk" layers its primary themes, stated mainly by the strings and almost martial in their severity, over an undercurrent of keyboards and glockenspiel that peeks through at intervals, attempting to introduce a magical element but ultimately disappearing under the strings' increasing vehemence. Even the briefest and gentlest of interludes, such as the wistful "Moldaviska" with Hollmer on accordion, melodica, and piano, mixes simple beauty with elements of sad knowledge -- this piece was written for a film about Moldavian girls returning home after escaping the underworld of Western European sex trafficking. Other pieces tinged with darkness, melancholy, or a sense of life's fleeting treasures include "Fosta 05," an outright funereal dirge with emerging hints of dissonance toward its conclusion; "Folkdron Menad," an elegiac rubato homage to Hollmer's departed dog Yrsa (also a bittersweet inspiration for "Yrsa Requem" from 2000's SOLA) featuring emotionally heart-wrenching violin from Jimenez; and "Sök" (Search), whose winding melody played on accordion and English horn and accented by pizzicato strings over a measured rhythm suggests that not all searches end fruitfully. However, Viandra wouldn't truly represent the range of Lars Hollmer's artistry without dipping into the lighter aspects of his music, and the album includes moments of untempered joy, innocence, and fun, such as the uptempo polka-informed "Strutt." "Konstig" rocks with high energy and spirits and would have been a great candidate for a Global Home Project live set; "Påztema" is a gently swinging moonlit dance that ends a thematic line with a downward scalar tumble; and the driven "Snaabb" strips all elements of melody away to end with a twisted, window-rattling rhythmic finale played on bass keyboard, digital drums, and oddball percussion, perhaps even reminding some listeners that Lars penned the synth-dominated "Doppler" during the heady days of Von Zamla prog. Still, on Viandra Lars Hollmer's music speaks of journeys away and back home again to a place of good times with family and friends where emotions run the deepest, but where life stories don't necessarily have happy endings.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/13/2008
Label: Cuneiform
UPC: 0045775027128
catalogNumber: 750271
Rank: 171676

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