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Dig It To The End


by Ian Mann

June 28, 2011


Tonbruket have already established a distinctive group sound and a strong band identity. "Dig It To The End" builds on the strengths of the first album.


“Dig It To The End”

(ACT Music ACT 9026-2)

Following the tragic death of pianist Esbjorn Svensson in a diving accident in 2008 it took a little time for his E.S.T. colleagues bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus Ostrom to come to terms with their loss. Both musicians broke their enforced silence in 2010 with the release of their début solo albums, both appearing on E.S.T’s old label ACT.

Berglund took the plunge first, his prog rock tinged “Tonbruket” album receiving a decidedly mixed reaction from the jazz press. Although exhibiting similar tendencies Ostrom’s “Thread Of Life”, which featured guest appearances from both Berglund and guitarist Pat Metheny, met with a more favourable reception.

Here at The Jazzmann we rather liked the first Tonbruket album, a consequence of our own rock backgrounds perhaps. Ian reviewed the album whilst Tim covered the London date of a successful UK tour. Unfortunately we both missed Ostrom’s solitary British date, apparently he played something of a blinder at the Pizza Express.

Something that Tim and I both commented upon was the strong group identity that Tonbruket had already established, a point emphasised by the use of the band name only on the cover of this second album (the first was credited as Dan Berglund’s Tonbruket, presumably as a hook to capture the old E.S.T. fan base). The personnel remains the same with Berglund joined by Johan Lindstrom on a range of guitars, Martin Hederos on keyboards and violin and Andreas Werliin at the drums. Guest appearances come from percussionist Nino Keller and organist Tomas Hallonsten.

I suspect that the new album may garner a similar reception to the first. This is emphatically not a jazz record but given Berglund’s rock background and E.S.T.‘s innovative genre bending approach surely this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Frankly if Berglund had taken to playing Wynton Marsalis style neo bop I’d have been disappointed. What the hell do the critics expect him to do?

For me “Dig It To The End” builds on the strengths of the first album. Yes, it owes much to progressive rock but this is highly intelligent instrumental music with Lindstrom’s use of pedal and lap steel guitars helping to give the band a unique sound. Lindstrom has also emerged as the group’s principle writer contributing six of the album’s eleven tracks. Hederos weighs in with a further three tunes and Berglund, ostensibly the leader, with just two. 

Things commence with Lindstrom’s epic composition “Vinegar Heart”, the title inspired by a phrase from the Arundhati Roy novel “The God Of Small Things”. Werliin’s rock drumming and Hederos’  dense keyboard drones immediately locate the music in prog territory but the composer’s steel guitars introduce an element of warped Americana. The tune goes through several changes of style and dynamics during the course of its nine minutes, the versatile Lindstrom adding searing rock guitar to his earlier gentle country inflections. As on the first album this may not be jazz, but there’s still plenty here for the discerning listener to enjoy.

Hederos’ “Balloons” features his trilling keyboards above an insistent motorik beat. Again it’s not jazz, there are elements of the oft cited Pink Floyd in the band’s sound, indeed the tune seems to be a cousin of “One Of These Days” from the Floyd album “Meddle” as Tonbruket sculpt and layer their electronic sounds.

“Tonbruket” roughly translates as sound factory and there are plenty of “noises off” on Lindstrom’s “Decent Life”, the “found sounds”, some courtesy of guest percussionist Nino Keller, being balanced by Hederos’ acoustic piano. Not that Hederos should be compared with Svensson, he’s a keyboard player and texturalist rather than a jazz pianist and his role in this group is very different to that of Svensson in E.S.T. Tonbruket frequently take very simple/naive phrases or snatches of melody and, as here, add layers to them, often creating an atmosphere of quiet menace. This is very atmospheric, cinematic music that one could imagine turning up as the soundtrack of a noirish Scandinavian film. Despite the presence of Lindstrom’s steel guitars Tonbruket’s music still sounds resolutely Swedish.

Berglund’s “Lilo” has an easy, quirky almost childlike charm with Lindstrom’s steel guitars and the composer’s bass both featuring above the insistent brushed patter of Werliin’s drums. Lindsrom’s “Lighthouse” proves to be a much darker affair with Lindstrom’s eerie guitar drone representing the aural equivalent of the sweeping of the searchlight beam and acting as the backdrop for Hederos’ glacial piano tinklings.

Berglund’s title track is a relentless, pounding stomp overlaid with a crazed Hederos organ solo and other keyboard and percussion interjections. Hederos’ own “Gripe” turns out to be a brief pastoral piano interlude complete with the sound of running water.

“Grandma’s Haze” is another Lindstrom venture into country/Americana territory with his acoustic guitar to the fore. It also features a welcome outing for Berglund’s bowed bass, once such an integral part of the E.S.T. sound. However the context here is very different with Berglund playing in an acoustic setting on what is probably the most straightforward track on the record.

Lindstrom’s “Le Var”  (“Ravel” backwards) acknowledges the influence of Ravel and Debussy on Tonbruket’s sound. The group substitute the “Bolero” rhythm with a Cuban Mambo. It’s an approach that suits their layering technique perfectly building from Berglund’s opening bass motif to Lindstrom’s soaring guitars. At times it verges on the cheesy and one can’t help feeling that the group have their collective tongue at least partly in the cheek.

Also by the guitarist"Trackpounder” begins equally insistently, a sturdy rock groove providing the backbone for Hederos’ keyboard layerings and Lindstrom’s playful guitar pyrotechnics, the latter seeming to reference fifties style rock ‘n’ roll. There’s a spookily atmospheric middle section full of electronic glitches before a powerful riff based finale.

Hederos’ lilting “Draisine Song” acts as gently lyrical coda and contains a beautiful, deeply resonant plucked solo from Berglund.

I’m sure jazz purists may scoff (and at times I can see why), but once again I very much enjoyed this. Tonbruket have already established a distinctive group sound and a strong band identity. Some of their pieces might sound simple but most possess a surprising depth with the group highly adept at blending acoustic and electronic sounds. They cover a surprisingly broad range of moods and styles within an easily identifiable group aesthetic and distance themselves from the worst elements of old style prog by injecting a little humour into tracks like “Le Var” and “Trackpounder”.

I’m sure many of E.S.T’s old fans have come to this exciting new band and they deserve to pick up on the more adventurous element of the rock audience too. Once again I’d direct fans of Jaga Jazzist towards Tonbruket, the two seem to have many similarities.

And yes, I’d go to see them again.

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