December 22, 2009

Makajodama-Makajodama Review

Like the work of fellow Swede Gustav Ejstes (of Dungen fame), Matthias Danielsson’s instrumental post-prog experiment, Makajodama, is rife with psychedelia. But while records like Ejstes’s Ta Det Lugnt explore the pop influence of the flower generation, Danielsson and his quartet prefer a stylistic ambiguity allowing for copious amounts of improvisation and experimentation, making this self-titled debut an adventurous production.

 Makajodama set out to explore the fusion of written and improvised music from a progressive rock perspective (Danielsson regularly plays guitar for the prog band Gösta Berlings Saga). As a result, these eight tracks often involve elaborations upon a general theme, typically with prolonged sections of improvisation that at times owe allegiance to jazz or classical structures while at other times harken back to oddball, Zappa schizo-funk. As can often be the case with such ambition, Makajodama tend to overstay their welcome where many of the songs would benefit from a more concise treatment. For example, the latter six minutes of “Buddha and the camel” are purely superfluous, whereas the succeeding “Wolof” ties things up nicely in brass and birdsong in nearly a third of the time. But what really stands out about these songs is their instrumentation. The strings (violin and cello) deserve most of the credit for the focus and warmth they imbue, but bassoon, saxophone, sitar, flute, and pedal steel—among many others—all contribute to a sound that defies, even transcends, genre pigeonholing. For the patient listener that makes for rewarding repeat listens.

 As much as this record owes to art music, it hardly lacks soul. “Reodor Felgen blues” is steeped in psychedelia laid over a groove that eventually crescendoes in a careening 60s revival blitz. “Vallingby revisited,” named after a suburb of Stockholm, is a bass-fueled jazz shamble, featuring saxophone and violin interplay that eventually disperses for the eerie single-note whine introducing “The girls at the marches.” This track seems to breathe, stretch, and even yawn as though rising from a long, Nordic nap.

 It’s Makajodama’s final entry, “Autumn suite,” that singularly attests to this group’s ambition and artistry. From string quartet beauty, to English folk-rock groove, to near-comic fractured experimentalism, to psychedelic (think Dark Side of the Moon) ambience, “Autumn suite” tastefully blends a bevy of distinct styles into a single statement that not only rounds out a challenging and adventurous album but defines the reach and the harmony this group can achieve.

4/5 Stars

Stephen B. Griggs

December 22, 2009

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