Tonbruket – Live Salvation
(ACT 9867-2. CD review by Rob Mallows)
In a month when the release of an album featuring the 2005 London Barbican performance of the Esbjörn Svensson Trio reminds us all of what this band did for jazz in the early noughties – and what, consequently, we’ve lost – it’s worth remembering that the Trio part of the band name was arguably as important as Esbjörn Svensson’s.
Drummer Magnus Öström has since had success with his own brand of rhythmic fusion. Tonbruket has been bassist Dan Berglund’s way to recover from his friend’s untimely death and continues to explore his own musical desires. Of the two, his musical journey has arguably sailed closest to the E.S.T. sound but also, in a way, signposted what it might have become over time.
Brasher, heavier and more occluded than E.S.T., Tonbruket has over four albums nevertheless made its own mark on the European scene. Sure, they’ve not recaptured the breakout sensation levels of E.S.T. – and were never destined to – but they have been adventurous and consistent.
Even within E.S.T., Berglund seemed to be the musical bruiser of the band, more Geezer Butler than Charles Mingus (he was a fan of Black Sabbath and started his career playing rock guitar) and since launching Tonbruket, he has trawled some choppier jazz/rock crossover waters. The fact that his bandmates, Johan Lindström on guitar and pedal steel, Martin Hederos on piano and synthesizers and drummer Andreas Werlin, did not come from the established jazz circuit when the band formed should give you all the clues you need that Tonbruket is not your average jazz band.
Recorded in Stuttgart in November 2016, Live Salvation captures well the power, noise, groove and oomph that characterises this band, now a decade into making music, and draws on tunes from their three most recent albums Forevergreens, Nubim Swimtrip and Dig it to the End.
Opener The Missing is somewhat pastoral in tone and feel, breezy yet languid, like it’s a track on the verge of breaking out that never quite does. There are eerie elements from Hederos’ keyboards which create a tension over Berglund’s conventionally simplistic bass track, and here and there – like driving on a road with black ice – as a listener you are a little on edge. Lindström’s spiky, tumbling guitar is the signature sound of the band and flies here.
As a live album, studio tracks are given a little more time and air to breathe, such as on third track Nightmusic, which starts of with a ’60s-space-station soundscape of bleeps and blurps which meld into a rocky, propulsive melody that’s hinted at rather than thrust on the listener; there’s a very strong prog, almost Pink Floyd, vibe to a track that goes around the houses, waxing and waning without offering up prime slabs of melodic beef.
This is a band, rather than a conventional jazz quartet, so there’s little sense of sequential soloing either being necessary or desired; as the press notes to the album highlight very aptly, they don’t need each to solo “as they have a way of soloing all together at the same time”. Sinkadus has some good examples of that in what’s a pretty trippy number which starts of with a folky guitar/accordion intro (played over added audio hiss and crackle), reflecting Berglund’s Swedish folk roots. Werlin’s drumming here is particularly jaunty, picking up the pace of what is essentially a slowish folk dirge.
Live Salvation not a flawless album across the eight tracks available – Gripe left this reviewer a little cold with its piano-led sparseness – but what it does demonstrate is that Berglund is clearly happy now ploughing his own musical furrow while still (through initiatives such as E.S.T. Symphony with Öström and the aforementioned release) recognising his legacy and love for his former bandmate’s iconoclastic musical legacy.
You may not find salvation with this album, but you’ll certainly find contentment.