Tom Hayes 5-Sep-2006 Von Zamla – No Make Up!

Second album from international version of the zany S/Zamla Mammas Manna bunch with ties to Albert Marcoeur’s group. Featuring an expanded lineup of six, including Univers Zero reeds man Michel Berckmans, “No Make Up!” is undeniably an avant progressive tour de force. The album opens, interestingly enough, with ‘Forge Etude’, a rework from Zamla’s (then) final album “Familjesprickor”. A rarely mentioned fact, possibly due its obscurity, is the relationship of Von Zamla with the German fusion band Munju during this period. Both recorded for the German based JA&RO label (aka Exil). And not only do they share a full time member, bassist Wolfgang Saloman, but Berckmans also played extensively on Munju’s “Le Perfectionniste” album. This collaboration is reflected on the third track ‘Für Munju / Indojazz’, one of the livelier pieces on “No Make Up!” Throughout the album, it’s once again Lars Hollmer’s familiar accordion, that drives most of the Nordic European style folk melodies. The ensemble work is tight, in typical chamber music fashion, with the aggressive rock edge provided by guitarist Eino Haapala, the same role he played for the Zamla clan prior. It’s fair to say that most of the groups in the Rock in Opposition camp find it hard to avoid some crazy improvisation, sort of their bitch-slap to the establishment. Here Von Zamla only utilize one piece for that, the unbelievably irritating (and mercifully short) ‘Voice Improvisation’. Fortunately the remainder of the tracks remain composed, energetic and satisfying. “No Make Up!” was to be reissued on CD in 1998, but for reasons unknown, did not happen. As of this review, it remains a vinyl only issue. Highly recommended to fans of the original RIO movement, the collective avant progressive sound, and those who have recently arrived through the Nordic front door via the Northside label.

Eric Lumbleau    13-July-2001 Samla Mammas Manna - Kaka

For the humor impaired and whimsically challenged, the relentless barrage of berserk good cheer Samla Mammas Manna unleash is a recipe for a migraine. Mining a vein of indigenous Swedish folk influence and undermining it with ingenious infusions of dadaist detournment, the maniacally merry machinations of these Swedish avant-prog maestros is an admittedly acquired taste but one well worth acclimating yourself to. Though two albums were issued under the moniker Zamla Mammaz Manna in the late 70s, this is the first statement from the original quartet since 1976's Snorungarnas Symfoni. Remarkably, time has not altered their capacity for radicalism a whit.

Effortlessly negotiating impossibly tricky unison lines with clockwork precision and impish glee, a track like the ferocious, fractured "Frestelsen's Café", with its whirling marimbas and flailing guitar paroxysms will leave even skeptics slack jawed and starry eyed. Evenly slotted between these densely composed bits are some completely out-to-lunch improvisations that find our heroes looning and gibbering like escapees from a muppet asylum while a befuddled narrator gamely attempts to come to grips with what he's witnessing. Welcome back friends. Its been too long.

(Originally published in Alternative Press #141, p.98; reprinted by permission)

Eric Lumbleau    13-July-2001 Von Zamla - 1983

Assembled in the wake of Samla Mammas Manna/Zamla Mammaz Manna's dissolution, Von Zamla tempered the gonzo gestalt of their immediate forebearers by emphasizing the punchy, pummeling, and repetitiously percolating facets of their musical personas. Keyboard and accordion wielding wonderboy Lars Hollmer and Zamla-era guitarist Eino Haapala's post-Zamla Mammaz Manna ensemble Von Zamla (what a mouthful!) are flush with the beatific glow of composers and musicians operating at the very nadir of their abilities. If their two long out of print LPs from which this material is gleaned were exhilarating excursions, in a live setting, as represented here, Von Zamla are nothing less than a force of nature. There's a severity and even darkness to some of this (something anathema to Samla Mammas Manna) that moves this a good deal closer to the acute angst-riddled drama of a Univers Zero or Present than anything their previous work would lead you to expect. It's goosebump-inducing artistry of the highest order. Ignore at your own peril.

(Originally published in Alternative Press #141, p.98; reprinted with permission)

Sjef Oellers 15-Jan-2001 Samla Mammas Manna - Maltid

On their second album, the band's original integration of various musical styles is already present: European folk, Zappa-styled jazz-rock (i.e., Hot Rats) and even "symphonic fusion" parts similar to Focus (like the mid section of "Den Aterupplivade Laten"). The music is mainly instrumental with occasional silly vocal stylings that are clearly inspired by the early Mothers of Invention. Most of the compositions are centered around the great percussive piano playing of Lars Hollmer. The guitar playing mostly supports the melodies provided by the keyboards, but occasionally the guitar player takes a lead solo as well. Some of the guitar/piano interplay may also recall German bands like Thirsty Moon and Virus. Although their own style may not yet have fully matured yet on this album, Maltid is among my favourite Samla Mammas Manna albums. Recommended.

Sjef Oellers 15-Jan-2001 Samla Mammas Manna - Klossa Knapitatet

Samla Mammas Manna might be the most varied of the original RIO bands, as they incorporate various styles that all could be determined as RIO. There are tight, angular sounding sections like Etron Fou Leloublan and Henry Cow, folky chamber music sections that recall Stormy Six, and improvised parts that bring Henry Cow to mind. Add some instrumental Frank Zappa and European folk/entertainment music and you get a fantastically diverse musical amalgam under the name of Samla Mammas Manna. Klossa Knapitatet is my favourite album by the band. All the above elements are integrated on this (and later) album(s) to yield a mature and characteristic group sound. The album starts with a short track where Lars Hollmers piano/accordion plays the lead melody. Halfway through, the track takes on a circus music-like appearance and next we segue into the ten-minute "Small Dialectics". A fantastic track of complex and melodic instrumental music with elements of jazz-rock, circus music, European folk and some great guitar playing by Coste Apetrea. The closest comparison would again be Zappas Hot Rats/Waka Jawaka. The other tracks are in a similar style where the inventive, percussive piano of Lars Hollmer, non-cheesy accordion and fluid guitar playing by Apetrea are the defining elements of Samla Mammas Manna. Klossa Knapitatet is a supreme classic of the RIO scene and at the same time arguably one of the most accessible albums to come from the scene.

Mike McLatchey    15-Jan-2001 Zamla Mammaz Manna - For Aldre Nybeggenare/Schlagerns Mystik (Silence SRSCD 3610, 1978/1993, CD)

Zamla Mammaz Manna - Familesprickor (Silence SRSCD 3612, 1980/1993, CD)

For my money, SZamla incarnation number two was their prime. Zamla is the same line up as Samla, except Eino Haapala had replaced Coste Apetrea at the guitar spot (and later Bruniusson would be augmented and then left, replaced by drummer extraordinaire Vilgot Hansson). This Swedish quartet/quintet were practically spilling over with invention, in fact it seems that the abundance of talent and egos is partially what created such amazing tension which led to the transformation to Zamla and then Von Zamla.

For Aldre Nybeggenare/Schlagerns Mystik are two linked yet separate albums of incredibly dense fusion that is often described as Rock In Opposition. If you aren't into the experimental side of progressive (like Henry Cow, The Muffins, Picchio Dal Pozzo, Univers Zero, Etron Fou etc.) then I wouldn't recommend this CD, but if those bands are part of your listening reportoire, then this one is likely to appeal greatly. The double album is extremely diverse, in fact too much to talk about here, as it goes from weird folk ditties to ripping and uncompromising RIO fusion to improvisation in the fascinating way that only Samla could do. The only difference is that the improvisations and more traditional moments both take up a CD each rather than being integrated fully into the whole album.

Familesprickor is an utter classic and among my favorites in this genre. A brilliant music that eludes description, it fuses rock, jazz, folk, avant-garde, polkas and any other disparate forms of music they could dig up into a distinct whole. It's probably much more accessible (relatively speaking of course) than most of their work, so is certainly the one to start with for those with interest in exploring this fascinating "genre" of music. Every song is a gem and as the album is designed to flow as a whole it almost seems like two side long tracks. This is probably the most symphonically styled of their albums and I can't enthuse enough, especially in the way that Lars Hollmer integrates accordion so tastefully. Highly recommended, both of 'em.

(Originally published in Exposé #3, p. 17-18, Edited for Gnosis 1/15/01)

Sjef Oellers 15-Jan-2001 Zamlas Mammaz Manna - For Aldre Nybegynnare/Schlagerns Mystik (For Older Beginners/The Mystery of Popular Music)

For me, For Older Beginners/The Mystery of Popular Music is the band's least appealing album. As part of the title ironically suggests, they rework the mystique of European entertainment and folk music. The stronger presence of elements of traditional European music makes For Older Beginners... sound more like a Lars Hollmer solo album. Accordion is featured quite prominently. If you like the "circus" music aspect of the band, then definitely try this album. Personally I am not a big fan of the types of folk/entertainment music they try to give the Samlas Mammas Manna treatment on this album. A disappointing and rather dreary album.

Sjef Oellers 15-Jan-2001 Zamla Mammaz Manna - Familesprickor (aka Family Cracks)

"Family Cracks" might be the band's most gloomy album. Remarkable is the fusiony or even symphonic touch of some tracks like "Ventilation Calculation," "The Farmhand," or parts of "The Forge". Other tracks like "The Thrall" are darker, experimental and occasionally free form in nature, which may remind one a little of Univers Zero or Henry Cow. The rather dark atmosphere is enhanced by mechanical, percussive sounds (a bit like hammering on steel) on the first tracks. As always the music is diverse and inventive, but this album might be a bit more difficult to get into than their others. Nevertheless, an excellent and highly recommended album.

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