Eric Malmberg Den Gåtfulla Människan

[Häpna; 2005]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: psychedelic; progressive; experimental pop; solo organ
Others: Sagor & Swing; The Soft Machine; Fats Waller; Urdog

On Den Gåtfulla Människan, Eric Malmberg is instantly identifiable as the keyboardist for the drum and organ duo Sagor & Swing; his playing style on the album, his debut Häpna full-length, is in general so distinctive as to leave no doubt on the part of any listener who has had the good fortune of hearing the Swedish band. Malmberg allegedly played every note on the album, which, intriguingly, was composed and performed entirely on the Hammond organ. Presumably the drum machine beats, which serve as a replacement for the usual drum work from Sagor & Swing's Ulf Möller, were programmed on the organ as well. The synthetic, rudimentary nature of the beat programming, with its stark simplicity, complements the warmth and richness of Malmberg's emotive keyboard playing.

Like his work with Sagor & Swing, Malmberg's organ playing is incredibly adroit, melodic, and surprisingly playful. The tracks on Den Gåtfulla Människan are considerably more uplifting than the darker, more minor-key material that comprises much of Sagor & Swing's output. Furthermore, Den Gåtfulla Människan is a record that has the ability to remain with the listener far beyond the album's duration. In an era of lo-fi bedroom recordings, and a seemingly endless series of laptop pop releases, Eric Malmberg's warm, infectiously memorable melodies are a welcome pleasure.

What is most impressive about Malmberg's compositions is his ability to make an individual track sound like it is the work of several different instruments, defying belief that these sounds were produced in their entirety by a single Hammond organ. Malmberg's playing exhibits a fluidity which indicates that he is very much at ease with his instrument, and the variety of ways in which the instrument is displayed here demonstrates his mastery of technique. Den Gåtfulla Människan is the sum total of a diversity of styles that converges in such a way as to result in a solid, coherent recording.

Malmberg plays with a unique, personal style that has the end result of contributing an otherworldly, almost eerily alien quality to the music. There is certainly melody to be found here, yet it sounds like nothing else that's been recorded of late. Once the listener thinks she has a handle on the direction in which she's being carried by the melody, it suddenly changes its trajectory. This reviewer was reminded, on some strange level, of Fats Waller's spooky pipe organ recordings from the 1920s. The odd quirkiness of Waller's recordings was no doubt the reason director David Lynch chose to include them in his nightmarish debut film Eraserhead. Malmberg's recordings have an unsettling effect on the listener that is not dissimilar to that of Waller's compositions.

Another notable characteristic of Malmberg's playing style is its oddly timeless, anachronistic quality. The record's more minimalistic pieces sound vaguely contemporary in their icy delivery and moody detachment. Other pieces recall the floweriness of '60s psychedelia, while the influence of '70s progressive rock is distinctly felt upon other tracks as well. At times, sections of these pieces sound as if they were nineteenth-century classical organ sonatas. Overall, Den Gåtfulla Människan is entirely devoid of rock cliché and even, for the most part, any sense of traditional rock structure in general. It's an extraordinarily well executed album that will undoubtedly haunt the listener for a long time afterward.

1. Det Högre Medvetandet
2. Undermedvetandet
3. Jaget
4. Överjaget
5. Delpersonligheterna
6. Språk Och Tankestrukturer
7. Människan Och Tiden
8. Människan Och Evigheten

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