This is probably the most obscure track to grace the ‘Trackback Thursday’ feature so far. Kvartetten Som Sprängde were a short-lived band from Sweden in the early 1970’s, somewhat ironically named after a well-known 1924 novel by Birger Sjöberg, entitled “Kvartetten som sprängdes” [The quartet that fell apart]. The quartet had already become a trio by the time their only album ‘Kattvals’ (cat roll) came out on the little-known Gump label, after which they did – indeed – fall apart.
What they left behind, however, is a marvellous album which has stood the test of time rather well. The band are very much seen as being part of the Swedish ‘Progg’ movement which emerged from the political turmoil of the late 1960s, finally petering out a decade later. During that time, however, it brought about a huge body of interesting music which I find fascinating.
The ‘Progg’ movement, it should be said, cannot really be equated with ‘progressive’ music elsewhere; firstly because of its breadth… covering everything from the political folk of such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to the rawness of the 60s garage scene encapsulated by the ‘Nuggets’ compilation.
Arguably where ‘Progg’ could be compared to ‘progressive’ would be the part of the movement that involved trained musicians… although their output was less grandiose and more rooted in Swedish folk music. It would be this camp that you could locate Kvartetten Som Sprängde whose album is replete with folk flourishes amidst some amazing guitar and organ parts.
‘Gånglåt Från Valhallavägen’ [‘Walk Away From Valhalla Way’, if Google translate is correct] is the longest and, for me, the most impressive track on the album. It begins with a reference to the movement’s folksy origins with the sound of cow bells before the central riff kicks in. This is a variation of the first few notes of the Hendrix classic ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’, from his ‘Electric Ladyland’ album (see below); and it is fascinating to hear this track in that context.
From there the band go off on a wonderful flight of fancy which I find both lush and moving. That central theme burying its way into my head and often staying there for hours in a way that always improves my day. Indeed, this is why I like this track so much… there is something hopelessly optimistic about it, played in a way that feels so liberating.
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