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(43:51, Sakuntala Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Summerwind 6:04 2. Words Would Do 4:31 3. He Ain't a Friend He's a Brother 6:04 4. Calling My Name 6:49 5. Skogsbo Is the Place 3:02 6. Moonfall 6:53 7. Sister Lovers Alone 10:28 LINEUP: Patrik Andersson – vocals; guitars Marcus Palm – vocals; ac. guitar Oskar Schonning – double bass Svante Soderqvist – double bass Fredrik Ohlsson – percussion, drums Andreas Soderstrom – vocals; harmonium Hanna Fritzson – vocals; piano; flute; glockenspiel
Prolusion. BARR is a Swedish outfit consisting of six men and one woman, who released their first EP in 2007. September 2008 saw the release of their first full-length production, "Skopgsbo Is the Place", the first release on the newly formed Sakuntala Records, another division of the Record Heaven label.
Analysis. According to the press blurb that followed this release, Barr makes "psychedelic lullabies in the spirit of Pentangle, Fairport Convention and Popol Vuh". Not being overly familiar with any of the above-named inspirations, I can't tell how accurate this description is, but at least it says something about what audience the band is trying to reach out to. My description of the music explored on this album would be folk-influenced acoustic rock. There are some psychedelic touches here and there, but not to the extent that I would say that they are a dominant feature. The compositions are structured very much like rock music; the instruments are partially utilized as in folk music and partially influenced by the same traditions, with distinct leanings toward a more modern Scandinavian tradition in this style. Acoustic guitars provide the main melody line from start to finish, often dual layered and harmonic. One of the guitars will have a slightly dominant role, but not to the extent that it can be said to be a truly dominant instrument; the bass will underscore and provide rhythmical facets to the composition, blending rather well with guitars as well as percussion and drums. Hand drums are used on several songs to provide some more folk flavor to the songs, while regular drums when used add a certain jazz tinge to the compositions. Harmonium and flute add more of these folk music tendencies. Careful use of piano does much the same and also strengthens the main melody line when utilized, while the glockenspiel adds to the rhythms. Male and female vocals, either one of the two or both in dual harmony, are the main dominant feature besides guitars. In a few of the tunes the instruments actually become the backdrop for the voices, which provide distinct and clear melody in themselves. All the compositions evolve in a quite similar manner, starting out slow, mellow and fragile sounding, with one or two guitars, sometimes a bass line, while drums or vocals are included from the start as well. As the song develops additional instruments are added, the guitars gradually intensify from careful licks to harder edged acoustic riffs, and the soundscape swells as textures, nuances and sounds are added in. At the very end the song will start to become mellower again, as instruments are removed or gradually fade away. Connecting all tracks here are sampled nature sounds, according to the background story recordings made by a reclusive character living in a cabin in the woods outside of the village of Skogsbo – the same cabin where this album was recorded, according to the press blurb. It's a nice way to create connectivity to a release such as this, even if the compositions are rather similar in sound, development and style. Personally I found these similar traits in the songs to be somewhat of a weakness. Not all the compositions here are as engaging as the others, and when there are few or no surprises as the song evolves in addition to this, there are a few songs here where the zip button on the remote may get exercised.
Conclusion. Atmospheric and melodic acoustic rock with strong folk influences is the content of "Skogsbo Is the Place", and although not a spectacular release it should be of interest to followers of folk and folk-influenced rock in general. The musicians are competent and there are quite a few fine compositions here. A solid release exploring familiar musical territories to people into music of this sort, and many will find this a pleasant experience.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: November 30, 2008
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