Friday 18 September 2020

Music from a Room

Joel Lundberg Music from a room; Kalle Stenbäcken

Joel Lundberg Music from a room; Kalle Stenbäcken

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 18 September 2020 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
Diverse influences, including that of Frank Zappa contribute to this suite of piano pieces by contemporary Swedish composer, Joel Lundberg

Joel Lundberg is a contemporary composer based in Sweden, and his background includes a long stint playing the guitar in a progressive indie rock band as well as having a degree in composition and improvisation. His inspirations range from Kraftwerk, Charles Mingus, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Radiohead to Stravinsky, Bartok and Debussy, with Frank Zappa looming large. Joel Lundberg's latest project is Music from a room, a disc of piano solos performed by Kalle Stenbäcken.

One of the inspirations that Lundberg quotes is Frank Zappa, "The most important thing in art is The Frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively - because, without this humble appliance, you can't know where The Art stops and The Real World begins. You have to put a 'box' around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?

And for this disc Lundberg's 'frame' is Impressionism, and he sees the works on the disc as an 'homage to the Impressionists who were active in Paris around the year 1900, spiked with my diverse vinyl collection almost a century later.' 

The eight pieces all have intriguing titles, 'The Catalyst', 'Prelude to a PIB', 'PIB (Post Industrial Bliss)', 'The Friendly Antagonist', 'Predicaments', 'El Condor', 'Killer Whales', 'Dans le bateau, sur la plage'. And to add the layers of influence, the cover image is not an impressionist picture but a contemporary one by Ola Mellberg (who is a friend of the composer's). The music is available on-line via various streaming outlets, but there is also a limited run vinyl disc.

So, what of the music? 

Lundberg admits that he is not a trained pianist (he is a guitarist) and that getting closer to the piano has been a difficult process.  The music is surprisingly romantic for someone who has been a guitarist in an indie rock band. The harmonies are often lush with rich textures, which perhaps sometimes seem less like piano solos than good piano reductions of orchestral material (maybe an orchestral album is lurking in the wings). And, there is freedom to the music which suggests and improvisatory feel to Lundberg's composition techniques. This also brings a sense of narrative drama, which only serves to make the titles of the individual movements all the more intriguing.

These are far more than  just songs, though they incorporate song-like fragments and some are pretty substantial with 'El Condor' lasting over 10 minutes. The entire album of eight movements is nearly 45 minutes long.

Joel Lundberg - Music from a room [44:07]
Kalle Stenbäcken (piano)
Recorded December 2018, Studio Epedimin, Göteborg

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