#021 – Archimedes Badkar
Album: II (1976)
Archimedes Badkar on Prog Archives
After a regrettable and unplanned absence, I return to the legendary list; lean, energised and hungry for the sonic delights, baffling oddities and, no doubt, the occasional disappointments that await me…
This time my first stop is Sweden for another dose ethno-jazz noodling a la Arbete Och Fritid, or so it seemed. For despite the obvious similarities (a quick glance at the available lineup info online suggests that they shared at least one member, drummer and percussionist Bengt Berger), Archimedes Badkar are definitely a distinct proposition to their musical cousins.
Yes, both bands explore a diverse range of folk and world music styles through jazz-informed improvisation (clunky wording, I know, but the improv on this album is far enough removed from jazz for me to be very cautious about using the term without any qualifications or caveats). Yes, they are both Swedish. But, on the strength of this album, it appears Archimedes Badkar stride much further into other musical realms and deliver a patchy but ultimately far more satisfying experience than the Arbete album I reviewed earlier this year.
II, their originally entitled second album, was fittingly enough a double LP, Thankfully there are no side-long monstrosities in evidence, but as with so many double albums the temptation to sprawl leads to some of the best ideas becoming lost in the mire. Overall, the quality is strong and even at its most uninspired it makes for pleasant and comparatively refreshing background music.
However, on certain cuts, most notably Radio Tibet and Tva Varldar – the tracks which occupied side 3 of the original album – the bar is raised considerably higher, and the ethnic noodling and vaguely psychedelic drones are pushed towards something much more arresting and profound. Radio Tibet comprises of a brass drone (tuba, trombone or something more exotic and obscure, perhaps?) embellished with reverb-laden guitar and sparse percussion. The sheer lack of groove made my ears prick up and held my attention far better than the hooks and beats of tracks like Fortryckets Sista Timme or Afreaka II. The second track from side 3, Tva Varldar, is even more remarkable, shamelessly borrowing as it does from the minimalist compositional style of Steve Reich. However, this is no simple pastiche – Archimedes Badkar build on the repetitive, shifting piano and violin motifs with wailing horns, and bursts of bass-and-drum punctuation, neatly appropriating the ideas into a rock/improvisation context consistent with their overall ‘sound’. The result is utterly captivating.
The album closes, rather bravely, on a ten minute assault of muddy, dissonant organ and a dialogue between two abused violins. The most avant-garde track on the album by some distance, yet clearly recorded with as great a sense of raw musicality as everything that precedes it.
All in all, this album has been something of a surprise for me. Uneven, perhaps, but well worth seeking out, if only for side 3.
Freak Factor: 7/10
Overall score: 7/10