Boots Brown

Be Yourself


Family ties are an interesting topic when it comes to these three records. First two feature dad – Mats Gustafsson, while the last one features the daughter Alva Melin.
Strountes is in fact Maria Eriksson's band, but the picture wouldn't be anywhere close from being complete without input of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and composer/multi-instrumentalist Anla Courtis. Their communal debut is one that features music that is as austere as it is flailing and dangerous. It's soothing, yet there's a stark element of underlying tension present. It's bare, yet it sounds overtly full. Don't expect this music to be shelved into any one category. Neither folk, experimental, improvised nor noise, it falls nicely between borders of niches. Being at the centre of attention, Eriksson's voice never fails to amaze. Falling somewhere between crooning tones and mysterious sweetness, it's equally bare as it is haunting. Her phrases are often times drawn out and cockled, while her delivery can be equally straight-forward as it is complex. When she hits her toy piano, the music takes on vibrant, child-like flavour. Gustafsson is amazing agile, flirting between baritone, tenor, slide sax, fluteophone. Alongside his robust delivery, he also utilizes some dense electronic landscapes. In fact, electronics give this music its overtly noise-driven keel. Argentinean composer Anla Courtis splits his time between electric guitar, violin, contact mic and pocket theremin. The dueling guitar interchanges between his electric guitar and that of Eriksson's acoustic are phenomenal. Even though the album features some real songs [Eriksson is highly adept at creating rich arrangements], the stand-outs are the free improvised sections. Take "As If Caught" for instance, where Gustafsson devours the landscape with his baritone blasts, while the other two create a cacophony of aural delights that are dense and fulfilling. Watch out you weird acid-electronic-folk fanatics, here comes Strountes and there's nothing that is going to stop their raw power.
Roots Brown is a quartet featuring Gustafsson playing the same instrumentation [alto, tenor, slide saxophone and electronics], bassist Johan Berthling, trumpeter Magnus Broo and guitarist David Stackenas, who also plays low budget electronics. The string section gives the session a more mellowed flavour. If anything Stackenas pensive acoustic guitar picking keeps the other players at bay. Add to this Broo's haunting trumpet work and electronics from both Gustafsson and Stackenas and you've got yourself a full house of morbid fun. Gustafsson keeps his intense blows to bare minimum. If anything, he holds back allowing natural atmosphere of the quartet to run its course. Listen to the way he tongues his mouthpiece on "Black Industrial Greasy". As he's joined by the others, the scene remains stark and intensely charged. The foursome is joined by organ player Tomas Hallonsten on one track – the stunningly fulfilling "Gaucho Volcano". Interplay between every member is tight, while the pacing tends to remain more on the dire side of things. Acoustic jazz or improvised fest for the senses, "Roots Brown" is an intensely rewarding record that holds pleasure at every turn.
Dräp En Hund is a project of bassist/vocalist Alva Melin and drummer/vocalist Gabbi Evrén. Melin is Mats Gustafsson's daughter but that's a topic I'm sure everyone has already bludgeoned to death by now, so let's move on. Perhaps taking their cue from the stark bareness of The White Stripes [their "Seven Nation Army" anthem is covered as the album's closer], the two sound equally interested in making music that is intense as they are in having fun. Both have growling, raunchy voices but each one is allowing the other to have equal say. On "God Damned Destroyed", they're both wasted after a long night of partying, while "Don't Drink" seems to be a raunchy anti-booze song. Don't expect master chops from either party. You can hear the duo is just learning their way around their instruments. Evrén is a bit too overwhelming on percussion and her rhythms are oftentimes off-centre, while Melin's bass playing could use a bit more oomph. Still, their songs are charged with emotion and more important, total and bare honesty. Then again, why am I whining when the two had the guts to pen their own songs, go into the studio and record the makings of what someday could amount to a real killer band? Just imagine how great they'll sound when they're old enough to buy hard liquor!

- Tom Sekowski

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