Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Ralph Lundsten
Stromkarlen - Nordisk Natursymfoni NR 1

Released 1973 on HMV
Reviewed by gogmagog, 08/02/2006ce

It was with some surprise that I recently keyed Ralph Lundsten into this Album review's index to be met with a "No Matches" reply. Knowing the fondness Julian and many other people who contribute to this website have for ancient Scando-Nordic myth AND early seventies Euro-Electronica I thought it my duty to bring to your attention this particular muvver, which brings the two together with soul-enhancing perfection.

Ralph Lundsten was perhaps Sweden's premier pioneer of avant-electronica and had been making 'musique concrete' since the late fifties, set up in the infamous Andromeda Studios - a privately-owned "electromusic studio." But it was with this 1973 ur-text that I feel he really made his mark. Made exclusively with early proto-tronica (treated moogs and echoed solinas abound) and traditonal Scandinavian folk instrumentation (hurdy gurdy / ancient flute) and some of the very earliest sourced samples of natural sounds, the LP conjures up atmospheres of the ancient Scando myths. Some absolutely stunningly peaceful music opens the Lp, calling to mind Liberty/Pilz-era Popol vuh (especially In den Garten Pharos) - supple abstract moogs resonante across some ancient plain as swans and other mammalia cut through the trickling water surface/sample.
The whole symphony bases itself around the story of 'Stromkarlen' (Transl. the Neck); thankfully the long and detailed liner notes explain all: the 'neck' being an ancient Scandinavian beast of myth that spirits maidens away.

Moving on through Side One - tracks like "The Bewtiched Cave" call to mind an early Cluster vibe - huge globules of abstract electronic essence susbstitute for the mud-drenched marshes of elder Swedish years. Everything is echoed off its tree, and later, abstract (but somehow still tuneful) strings are plucked and vibrated. However, even when the tone goes dark, there is still a sublime serenity to the whole thing.

Side Two is just as beautiful, bringing on more Cluster vibes but this time it sounds like Lindsay Cooper, Yatha Sidhara, Delia Derbyshire and the Clangers have invaded procedings. I can only urge anyone into early world music, abstract electronica, and traditional Scando-Nordic music to investigate.

Imagine Florian Fricke journying back in time to Sweden's ninth century(but with his big moog and echo box) and meeting a similarly transupplanted (but slightly less dissonant) amalgam of Krystof Penderecki and George Crumb. Add in the above-mentioned and there you have it. Sounds crazy but there is such an amalgam and his name is Ralph Lundsten - and he's made about 30 Lp's!!!

The final track is called "In Shaggy Cave." I mean...COME ON??!!

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