Intro: Dimitris Kaltsas
The fact that instrumental progressive rock is gaining more and more friends is not a contemporary fashion or trend. It’s just that today’s great prog bands with no vocals happen to be too many, maybe more than ever before. Undoubtedly, one of the most important of these bands is Gösta Berlings Saga from Sweden, who since their debut Tid Är Ljud (2009) have amazed us with every release, either with their more jazzy / avant-garde achievements or with the electronic elements more recently, elements that decorate the standard progressive rock context of their music.
The band’s line-up remains the same as their previous album, the wonderful Et Ex (2018), with Rasmus Booberg (guitar) and Rasmus Booberg (bass) accompanying the founding members David Lundberg (keyboards) and Alexander Skepp (drums), but the music of Gösta Berlings Saga is changing once again. No surprises here…
Delightful retro-modern, cinematic, synthwave, cyberpunk prog rock
With twenty years and five albums on their back, the Swedes Gösta Berlings Saga have become a recognizable band with slow but steady steps. Taking advantage of the popularity of prog in the Nordic (and not only) countries over these last twenty years, they manage to create within a framework of freedom that leaves room for experimentations which revolve around an electronic prog hybrid, which is gradually evolving in their albums.
These five records have built their identity, always with the help of their instrumental direction, which has always created those soundscapes, through which the listener can wander, through paths that are built masterfully and with experience. And if their previous album, Et Ex (2018) put them very dynamically in the modern progressive rock equation with the support of several internet media, their sixth album, Konkret Musik, continues right from that point. In the current mood for experimentation, and with a strong presence of synthesizers, the compositions are developed with a cinematic conception and thus the band offers a 43-minute album that travels through its voluntary eclecticism to 80’s art-pop circumstances. These circumstances remind us a little of the video game soundtracks of that time. This alone is an element of a retro approach, enough to win over the listener who is looking for something different from traditional prog rock forms, but the sophistication towards today’s synthwave revival is already a whole new category.
The associations with “old-fashioned” 80’s recipes in Basement Traps or Vista Guldklocka work in favor of the compositions. Building around the synths also advocates this, as does the groovy bass in combination with the trippy guitars. Cyberpunk, synthwave, post-rock, psychedelia. All these terms describe Konkret Musik fittingly and highlight the variety of sounds that Gösta Berlings Saga is able to combine while seeking an experimental path, but through a relatively easy and safe course, typical of the band’s recent albums. This parameter, however, is not a serious reason not to engage in such an ambitious effort and a band that displays a fresh musical convention, which is in absolute agreement with the promises they had made in the past.
This is an entertaining, retro album with a modern view, an interesting cinematic music approach that balances the experimental element with the more kraut-meets-jazz appetites of the Swedes. Konkret Musik is an album that transcends the boundaries of music genres and is open without restrictions, as do all their previous albums.
7.5 / 10
Two years after the release of the very good Et Ex, Gösta Berlings Saga returns more minimalist than ever, without dismissing the essence of their music. The krautrock references are multiplied and cling to the already existing – throughout the band’s career – King Crimson sound. However, what the Swedes have achieved is that, despite their influences and their instrumental character, they have created their very own style. The tendency towards minimalism this time influenced the duration of the compositions. The twelve tracks, which do not exceed 5 to 6 minutes, are divided into “rhythmic” and “atmospheric”, with the former giving a strong dance feeling, at least for progressive rock standards. The electronic elements are also multiplied, both through the instrumentation and the production, and the guitar plays a more minor role. What Gösta Berlings Saga achieves with Konkret Musik is to present a more accessible version of their sound, offering some great tracks, such as the title track and To Never Return, but they do not manage to do it with the same consistency in all 12 compositions.
7.5 / 10