20 November 2009

CD REVIEW: Makajodama, Makajodama (Laser's Edge, 2009)

It’s late fall, and young prog fan’s thoughts turn naturally to the colder, bleaker north…specifically the northern European nations. There’s just something about fall and bands from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland that seem to go hand in hand. It may be the smaller amount of light, the flatter, grey-er days, the skeletal branches of hardwoods reaching toward the sky trying to grasp at the last bits of sun and warmth. Scandinavian prog bands seem to match these images pretty well…I can’t count the number of times from now till spring that Anglagard’s Hybris, Anekdoten’s Vemod, or Viima’s Ajatuksia Maailman Laidalta will get played.

I have a new addition to that list of bands that will see repeated plays as the days grow darker and colder, and that band is Makajodama.

Makajodama is a new project started by Mathias Danielsson, guitarist for the progressive rock band Gösta Berlings Saga. On this new all instrumental project, he is joined by Mattias Ankarbrandt (drummer, formerly of Carpet Knights), Johan Klint (violin) and Karin Larsdotter (cello). A host of guest musicians add to the chamber fell of the music, contributing flute, bassoon, tenor sax, tuba, sitar, and a number of other instruments atypical of rock music. Nicklas Barker of Anekdoten mixed the resulting 8 tracks, recorded over almost 2 years (June 2007 to April 2009).

How can I describe Makajodama? It’s tough. They certainly have a bit of a chamber prog sound thanks to the variety of orchestral instruments chosen, but they’re not at all like Univers Zero. They can be heavy like Anekdoten or 1973 King Crimson, dark like Van der Graaf Generator, and as complex as some of Frank Zappa’s more intricate works. The band’s press sheet lists a number of influences, among them Third Ear Band, Can, Faust and psych pioneers Älgarnas Trädgård. For me, the end result is a musical pudding that is as deep and dark as it is addictive and enticing.

I hate to say I can’t describe this music, but this is one of those times where writing about the music would be every bit like dancing about architecture. There’s a sense that this music is totally out of its time…while it has a modern sound and mix, the music itself feels more like some lost classic release from 1973, just discovered in the back of some cupboard in a studio in Europe, and released unexpectedly to the world. The playing is absolutely sublime…I find myself nearly brought to tears from the beautiful cello/guitar/violin work on “Buddah and the Camel.” The song is so perfectly arranges and played, the instruments like wordless voices weeping and crying alongside some slowly running stream in a deep, dark forest. The bass groove that opens “Reodor Felgen Blues” is deep enough to hide an ocean liner in, and when the song kicks into full gear, I swear that what I am hearing is an alternate version of “The Orange County Lumber Truck” from some alternate universe.

And these are just the first two tracks!

I am not someone who gives into hype. At times this has backfired on me, at other times it’s kept me from being disappointed by something that was assured to be the next big thing. This time I am instead hoping to be hyping myself, as there hasn’t been much said about this release that I can see. And it’s a damned shame, because Makajodama has come out of nowhere to rate as one of my albums of the year. If it had vocals, people would be raving about it. If it were less edgy and angular (not that it’s intensely either of those things), it’d be held up by the masses in the genre as one of the standards of modern prog. Thankfully, Danielsson hasn’t given in to any influences to make the music more easily digestible. This is an album that requests…nay, it demands!…repeated listens, and rewards the diligent listener handsomely.

Am I over enthusiastic? Perhaps. But it’s not often, perhaps once every couple of years, that an album hits me as hard as this. Drink deep, readers, and don’t be afraid of the dark. It’s only the shadows of winter, and Makajodama has crafted the perfect soundtrack for it.

Track Listing:

Reodor Felgen Blues

Buddah and the Camel


The Train of Thought

The Ayurvedic Soap

Vällingby Revisited

The Girls at the Marches

Autumn Suite


Mathias Danielsson - guitars, electric bass, organ, pedal steel, percussion, Korg WT10

Karin Larsdotter - acoustic and electric cello, percussion

Johan Klint - acoustic and electric violin, organ

Mattias Ankarbranth - drums and percussion.

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1 comment:

Barry Cleveland said...

I came across your review while doing a Google search on "Makajodama" and you did a good job of describing the album. Yes, very 1973, in a very enjoyable way.