Every now and then the jaded listener of retro-rock comes across something so great and so fresh-sounding that it restores his faith in the beauty of the analog. This album is one of those things!
My Brother the Wind is something of a Swedish psych supergroup made up of Anekdoten’s Nicklas Barker, Makajodama’s Mathias Danielsson, and Magnolia’s Ronny Eriksson & Tomas Eriksson. I must admit that I’m only familiar with Barker’s previous work, being an Anekdoten aficionado. That group has a long history starting as a devotee of King Crimson’s mid-70s style (ie Red) and eventually developing into something of a prog/post-rock hybrid. I have at least one Anekdoten post in me somewhere, so the less said the better for now. This is My Brother the Wind’s second album under this name.
This music is apparently improvised, which surprises me, since some of the quieter pieces, while pleasantly repetitive, seem to develop in a planned way. Anyway, I don’t care how it all came about — it just sounds glorious.
The group’s territory is vintage psych freakout in the style of ye olde gods of Krautrock, ie Ash Ra Tempel, Guru Guru, Agitation Free, Amon Düül II, etc., with, I assume, some homage to the mighty Hawkwind in Space Ritual form. There’s actually been a lot of bands mining this vein in the last 15 years or so, but I have to say few as well as MBTW does.
The instrumentation of freak-out reverb guitar (I wonder if there’s an actual Echoplex being used here) and thundering bass and drums is one that could go very wrong in the wrong hands, ie people with no sense of dynamic and no subtlety. Without actual songs, it could be quite boring, but fear not, gentle listener, My Brother the Wind’s music sweeps over you like a buran in the depths of the Taklamakan Desert (look that up) and flattens you. It’s a trip, and I don’t care if that sounds like a hippie stereotype. This is one trip you want to go on. Peppered throughout are some more delicate pieces that feature some awesome vintage synths and everyone’s favourite primitive space vehicle, the mellotron (Barker is a bit of an expert with those).
Track one, the appropriately titled “Fire! Fire!” flies out of the gate with 13 minutes of classic freakout…we’re definitely back at Glastonbury ’71 here or some festival in the heart of Bavaria, exorcising Europe’s wartime ghosts for good. The track has some changes in dynamic but keeps up a frenetic pace that lasts its entire length.
Track two mellows out into Popol Vuh territory with chiming 12-string acoustics, sitar guitar and an organ that sounds like it’s been lifted straight from Bo Hansson’s Lord of the Rings. Unashamedly 1969, and I loves it, my precious!
Track three, “The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart” is an ominous fuzz-bass and-mellotron-driven herky-jerky bememoth that actually could be on King Crimson’s Starless and Bible Black album. Oh yeah, I’m not kidding, it’s that good.
Just when you’re thinking this has to let up at some point in its consistent goodness, we hit “Torbjörn Abelli”, 11 minutes of smoooooth ambient rock in which the reverb washes over you like a cooling brook, accompanied by gentle tribal percussion. Gradually the wah guitar rises in a distorted wave as the psychedelic soloing crescendos before crashing like a wave on the shore (that’s yet another appropriate use of a simile there, folks).
Another freakout similar to track one follows before we get our album-closing money shot. If you’ve read my other reviews, you’ll know that I must insist each album close with a track that completes the experience in a suitably emotional way. This lot had a tall order to fill here, but they’ve succeeded admirably, to say the least.
The title track is true ambient music made by rock instruments, as the sound of a gentle stream gives way to the caress of a sweet guitar lick and gentle synths ebb and flow behind, while the rhythm section keeps just enough time to move things along and keep our torsos swaying. It’s one of those pieces that could go on for basically ever and ever and I’d be happy as a clam.
So yeah, this is a perfect album for its genre. There are plenty of people who love vintage psych and Kraut who may not have heard this band, and when they do… they will weep tears of joy.
So help me spread the word!
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