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5 Aug 2016

Kultivator “Barndomens Stigar” 1981 Swedish Prog




Kultivator “Barndomens Stigar” 1981 Swedish Prog

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Often lumped in with the Zeuhl bands, I still think Kultivator has a lot more to do with the British art rock style somewhere in-between King Crimson, Henry Cow and even Soft Machine, than with Magma or later generation Zeuhl act Kōenji Hyakkei. For Swedish references, ”Klossa knapitatet” era Samla Mammas Manna is probably the most appropriate parallel. Kultivator’s sole album ”Barndomens stigar” stands up well to any international comparisons, with tight and intelligent compositions, excellently executed with the nothing short of amazing Johan Svärd on drums and bass player Stefan Carlsson. Kultivator had a connection with the legendary Ur Kaos as keyboard player Johan Hedrén were in both bands for a while. Together they formed the core of the highly active art rock scene in Linköping, a city otherwise best known for its university and the vanguard hospital. With Lars ”Lach'n” Jonsson, highly talented musician and owner of the Bauta Records label, the scene had an obvious centre. Bauta Records is still active, providing the world with top notch Swedish progressive rock with a striking arty edge.
Recorded in 1980 but not released until the following year, ”Barndomens stigar” kicks off with the energetic ”Höga hästar”, one of the album’s definite highlights, with Svärd going wild on the drums. Energy is like a code word for the album; even the title track which relies on a somewhat subdued folksy or baroque sounding themes has an inherent force that is anything but relaxing.
As mentioned above, Kultivator’s compositional skills are proven again and again throughout the album. Some prog (and for that matter, progg) bands just don’t seem to understand the cause-and-effect function of musical segments, haphazardly jumbling up a bunch of themes and time signatures, but Kultivator has a firm grasp of causal musical relations. However, ”Barndomens stigar” is a much freer spirit than the regular, strictly performed Zeuhl album, why some Zeuhl fans have expressed their disappointment with the album – another reason why it shouldn’t be forced into an area where it doesn’t fit too well. The thing is that ”Barndomens stigar” is an original piece of work and should be approached as such.
The album has been released on CD twice. The first time around, two tracks were added to the original running order. ”Häxdans” connects well with the title track taking good use of baroque influences. ”Tunnelbanan” is a medley recorded live in their native Linköping two years prior to the release of the original album. Although not as focused as the remainder of the album, the track nevertheless shows they were on to something already in the 70’s.
Some years ago, Mellotronen released a further enhanced version of the album, including not only a live version of album track ”Novarest”, but a bonus EP entitled ”Waiting Paths”, comprising four songs recorded by the re-united band in 2006. Still a great band, they kept the intensity of 1980 a bit at bay, going for a slightly more reflective approach, as in the beautiful ”Bringing Water”. Although less zealous, in a sense more ”mature”, these four songs don’t detract from the original album’s excellence. The Mellotronen version of ”Barndomens stigar” is the one to get.
Johan Hedrén has been involved in several Bauta releases, and has also released a tranquil ambient styled solo album entitled ”Kretslopp” which also featured a set of paintings by Linköping born and bred artist Ola Freijd. Ingemo Rylander appears on J. Lachen’s solo release ”Music for the Dying Forest” …..

“Barndomens Stigar” is KULTIVATOR’s only album. The music has plenty in common with the Zeuhl movement; However, I wouldn’t call" Barnsdomens Stigar" a “Zeuhl” album. You can hear obvious MAGMA-influences: furious bass and Fender Rhodes chops, ritualistic themes, and MAGMA-like vocals. But, the music doesn’t really sound anything like other Zeuhl bands due to the mixing-in of traditional prog rock and traditional folk influences from Sweden. If you can still find this CD, grab it! …….

I am not too sure about the Zeuhl tag on this band though there definitely are major influences from that genre here, notably from Magma with very unusual vocal stylising etc. But in addition this band also have a good dose of folk-rock, avant-garde and fusion elements making it very hard to classify properly though the overall style is a lot like some of the original Zeuhl bands so I think I’ll be fine with the current classification. Musically, this band sounds like a cross between Magma, Gentle Giant, Samla Mammas Manna, Myrbein and Kebnekaise but they still manage to create their own sound and rarely go into any overused prog clichés. The album has some really strong songwriting with a very adventurous style throughout and the music is never boring, as well as being supported with some really excellent musicianship. Heavily dominated by the Fender Rhodes keyboard, the songs are complex but very playful and not too intense, they all sound very balanced with very few over-the-top moments. The production is good though it could have been a bit warmer and broader, in my opinion.

Not much to complain about here except for that this album is very hard to find, but if you are interested look for Internet stores that specializes progressive rock then you might find it. A very rewarding album and definitely one of Sweden’s finest prog-rock achievements, too bad it’s fairly unknown among several prog fans. Get it if you can find it!…..

ANEKDOTEN lists fellow Swedes KULTIVATOR as an influence. Hard to believe this came out in 1981, another record I can hold up as an exception to some of the mediocre music of the eighties. This really is an interesting album with that fuzzed out bass, Fender Rhodes and repetitive vocals it makes me think of Zeuhl all the way while many refer to that Canterbury flavour.

“Hoga Hastar” is dominated for the first two minutes by aggressive drums and organ. This is a great uptempo track to open the album with. Love the fuzzed out bass too which is very Zeuhl-like. “Vemod” brings to mind the title of ANEKDOTEN’s first album but the music here is slowed down now from the first track with female Swedish vocals. The instrumental passages in between the vocal sections are fantastic ! Some great sounding liquid keys on this one and check out the deep bass line too. Flute ends the song. “Smafolket” opens with keys as bass and cymbals join in. The keyboard play shines 2 minutes in.There are several tempo and climate changes in this one.

“Kara Jord” has a definite Zeuhl flavour to it, especially the male vocals before 4 minutes and also that really catchy Zeuhl-like rhythm after 4 minutes with female vocals. It’s back again 5 ½ minutes and the angular guitar is great, especially the tone of it. “Barndomins Stigar” opens with flute before keys and drums arrive. This song is like a breath of fresh air. Again the bass is prominant. Great song ! “Grottekvarnen” has female vocal melodies which are Zeuhl-like with drums until the mood changes part way through. “Varfol” has more female vocal melodies and along with it a jazz feel with light drums, bass and guitar. “Novarest” reminds me of ESKATON. This is a cool song with male and female vocals singing “novarest” over and over again. An extended instrumental section follows with some great guitar.

The two bonus tracks fit in really well and are just as good as the album tracks. You have to go get this album…..

It seems so unreal that outside Canterbury and after the 70s were over that good Canterbury-influenced music could be created and recorded. And when I say “good”, I mean “Excellent”, “magnificent”, “exciting”. Swedish band Kultivator was regrettably a one-shoot act whose “Barndomens Stigar” album was an important legacy for the world of jazz-prog. This album’s material is to a large degree based on the influences of “4th”-“5th”-era Soft Machine, Gilgamesh and the jazzy elements of Henry Cow’s first two albums. There are also hints to Matching Mole and the somber aura of early Univers Zero, but these are less dominant. This exhibition of complex, experimental jazz- rock comprises a peculiar, challenging melodic vibe that includes an important dose of dissonances and an inch of disturbing darkness. Ingemo Rylander’s mezzosoprano timber is obviously influenced by Amanda Parsons, while Linge’s guitar deliveries state a midpoint between Phil Miller’s stylish chops and Fred Frith’s cerebral delirium. Additionally, Hedrén’s organ emulates the vibrato archetypized by Dave Stewart and Mike Ratledge. Well, Kultivator is mostly Canterbury- based, which is not a denial of the band’s capacity to elaborate certain variables in this frame. The first three pieces pretty much fit the standard described in this review, with the third one being the most aggressive track: this is due to the way that Carlsson’s fuzzed bass takes center stage in the track’s development. ‘Kära jord’ and 'Grottekvarnen’ are the two longest numbers in the album, with enough room to work on the extroverted side of the band. The interactions are solid and creative, allowing the main motifs to be developed toward an electrifying climax. The namesake track is another highlight: it starts with a beautiful intro on recorder, which eventually turns out augmented by the whole ensemble with controlled colorfulness: if one ever wondered how it would be if Gentle Giant and Gilgamesh had written and recorded a prog piece together, this song is the answer. 'Vårföl’ has a festive mood that places a sense of warm flourishes, while the closer 'Novarest’ finds the band going the opposite way, to the dark side of their musical voice. To my ears, it sounds like a mixture of UZ’s “1313” and ZMM’s “Familjesprickor”. The final blow works as an effective farewell to the repertoire. But this is not the CD’s finale, since it contains two excellent bonus tracks. 'Häxdans’ retakes the mixture of Renaissance colors and jazzy dynamics that was already present in the 'Barndomens Stigar’ track. 'Tunnelbanan Medley’ is a live track from a 1979 concert: it follows the pattern of the official album’s first three pieces. Kultivator is a must for every lover of experimental prog with a heavy Canterbury component: as simple as that. ……

Kultivator is a Swedish band as unique as unclassifiable. This was formed in ’78 by the nucleus of Tunnelbanan a symphonic prog rock band highly influenced by Yes and Genesis, in addition with guitarist Jonas Linge whose playing is reminiscent of Phil Miller and the soprano Ingemo Rylander.

The LP named “Barndomens Stigar” recorded in 1981. KULTIVATOR’s musical influences: MAGMA, KING CRIMSON, HATFIELD & THE NORTH, HENRY COW, ART BEARS, GENTLE GIANT, ART ZOYD and UNIVERS ZERO. A true hybrid to sum up that blends influences from Zeuhl, Art Rock, Canterbury, RIO and symphonic prog rock. Some famous “journalistic shortcuts” place them halfway between Zeuhl and Canterbury (‘Halfway between heaven and earth’ sang Richard Sinclair…). Reality, in the light of their music and their influences, is much more complex and it needs a better definition of what Zeuhl is; much more than what commonly defines it on the base of powerful, hypnotic and repetitive themes, achieved by the rhythm section and the piano or on the base of incantatory chants with melodies at times dissonant but above all simple in terms of harmony. The question is not “To be Zeuhl or not to be”. The answer would have been given by the following albums once KULTIVATOR would have found its musical maturity and would have gone farther than its original influencesThis is the first vinyl re-issue since 1981 of this sought after disc, with 3 bonus tracks, 1 studio + 2 live. Liner notes by Johan Svard (Drums). …….

Line-up / Musicians

- Stefan Carlsson / bass, bass-pedals
- Johan Hedrén / Rhodes, organ, synthesizers
- Jonas Linge / guitars, vocals
- Ingemo Rylander / vocals, recorders, Rhodes
- Johan Svärd / drums, percussion

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Höga hästar (3:32)
2. Vemod (2:35)
3. Småfolket (5:15)
4. Kära jord (7:07)
5. Barndomens stigar (5:13)
6. Grottekvarnen (7:05)
7. Vårföl (2:52)
8. Novarest (6:14)
Bonus track, 1992
9. Häxdans (6:35)
Bonus track, 1979, live at Grottan, Linköping
10. Tunnelbanan Medley (3:13)


johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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