Polar Kraut folks…Polar Kraut

Mattias Olsson, drummer/percussionist extraordinaire formerly in Änglagård, is a busy man. He runs his own studio in Stockholm, called Roth Händle Studios, he collaborates musically with lots of people, he lends his talents to other progressive rock outfits such as Norway’s finest – White Willow and he kicks off projects in many directions.

One of the newest projects of his is Walrus – a band which in a tongue-in-cheek manner is described like this on its Facebook-page.

Kraut Rock / Progressive Rock Group from Stockholm, Sweden. Instigators and prime movers of that immensly popular style, Polar Kraut. Two drummers, one bass player, one cello player, one keyboard player, and one chord – what more do you need?
September, 2010 A.DThe scene:A dark bar at the End of the World, on the shores of the Polar Sea, in the Far North of Norway. The result of some highly spirited, wine induced bragging, five strangers find themselves sharing a stage under the assumed name WALRUS. The lights go on, and there, on the spot, they have to make up some music that can live up to the brazen boasts that got them on stage.The cast:An Organ Player who can turn from lyrical to mechanical in a moment, from shimmering to abrasive, from the dead calm of the ocean to the death rattle of an orca. A remarkable Cello Player with angelic features, who seems to be having a loud on-stage argument with his instrument, always teetering on the brink of a sonic fist-fight. A Bass Player who plays in an almost geometrically meditative fashion, angular, repetitive and hypnotic, and whose fuzzed out sounds could turn iron into rust. And then there’s the two-headed beast: Two manic Drummers playing the same, sprawling double drum kit, but attacking it from different sides and angles.The sound:While early German Electronic Kraut Rock seems to be in the band’s collective DNA, that’s just a small part of it. The roots of their music may be firmly planted in age old Psychedelic and Progressive Rock, but their branches reach well into the future – to a new kind of Post-Rock perhaps. And theirs is a sound that changes constantly. Going from pastoral and emotional to jugular aggression in mere seconds, the band ebbs and flows, back and forth, creating spectacular atmospheres and moods. Building tension and tearing it down, telling stories and painting pictures. There is nothing quite like it.The denouement:

Well, shaking their heads in disbelief after the show, they quickly decided that this group, albeit still half imaginary, was too good not to be true. And in tribute to the remote part of the world where their band and their music had been born, they named their particular brand of music ‘Polar Kraut.’


Some time later they reconvened in one of Stockholm’s oldest and finest active recording studios to capture the music they had been improvising on their first few concerts, using equipment from the Golden Age of Recording on both sides of the glass. And after months of meticulous editing, Bitches Brew-style, four stately compositions had been thawed out of the ice (as it were) and were ready to be let out into the World South Of The Arctic Circle.


Renowned film music composer and piano player Matti Bye on Hammond & Farfisa Organs, Mellotron and Wurlitzer Piano. The Tiny and Gul 3 member Leo Svensson on Cello and Minimoog. Producer and composer Kristian Holmgren on Electric Bass and Fuzz Bass. Mattias Olsson of Änglagård on drums, with Henrik Olsson of Gul 3 and Harr joining him at their double drum kit, The Sprawl.

The studio mentioned is the legendary Atlantis studio which really is a survivor in the music biz providing real old-school recording facilities.

Mattias is a funny guy regularly posting somewhat crazy YouTube-snippets from ongoing recording projects (right now Necromonkey) from his own Roth Händle studios. Matti Bye  who is also in Walrus is a renowned Swedish composer of film scores. He’s a fine pianist with great improvisational skills! The film Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick which he wrote the score for was an Academy Award nominee 2008.

For listening and buying Bandcamp is a great place to go!


Big Big Train and the birds

I’ve been in love with a band called Big Big Train since late 2011. It was very many years since I got so moved by music as I have been by the music of BBT. Many great posts have been published here at Progarchy about the music and lyrics from the pens of David Longdon and Greg Spawton. So now it’s my pleasure to here in my blog premiere make a little detour to the world of birds… Why, you may think, is that? Well for starters I couldn’t add much new to what’s already been said about the themes in the music and lyrics and then I’m a birdlover and have been so delighted by the use of birds in the lyrics and even in songtitles (Brambling). It’s apparent that the songwriters are quite familiar with some of the common birds in Britain (they’re also common in Sweden. I mean the fantastic Hedgehoppers’ Chorus line where blackbird, redwing, song thrush and yellowhammer are mentioned is something that I can connect to as well. Those are birds that are typical for the Swedish countryside too. And they are all birds that signal springtime by letting us enjoy their melodic songlines from March onwards until Midsummer or something.

The thing that distinguishes Big Big Train from many other bands and artists is that they not only use the general expression “birds” in the lyrics but actual names of real species. You also find the partridge in the lyrics on Uncle Jack and Hedgerow. This precise way of describing what kinds of birds that inhabit their lyrical landscapes is something that put Big Big Train in the same league as literary giants such as our very own (Swedish giant) August Strindberg who was a keen naturalist and knew much about birds and plants. In his novels you always find the names of actual species as well, not only the general terms “birds” and “flowers” for instance. This way of namedropping species adds much to the feel of a very alive lyrical landscape within the musical landscape that is Big Big Trains. And for me who know what all those different birds look like, when they can be expected to come back from their winter quarters, when they start singing and also what they sound like when they do it, the picture widens and gets deeper colours so to speak.

So is birds in music a novelty then? Of course not. We all remember the second movement of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony (No. 6) where several birds lend their voices to the great master’s musical creativeness. There we can hear the nightingale, the quail and also the cuckoo.  Within the bird theme Big Big Train also connect in a very fine way with Vaughan Williams. How is that? Well, Mr Williams wrote that absolutely wonderful piece of music called The Lark Ascending which makes us think about the eighties masterpiece Skylarking by the wonderful band XTC whose guitarist Dave Gregory nowadays as we all know resides in…Big Big Train. Skylarking is by the way such a fantastic album title. For me the word skylarking doesn’t actually mean what it’s supposed to mean (playing boisterously or to sport or something like that) but to lie flat on the back in the sun on a green meadow watching the skylark hanging there on its invisible string singing its heart out about spring, love and joy underneath the deep-blue dome….but that’s a meaning I’ve made up all by myself. But the music of Big Big Train’s always makes me want to go skylarking – in my meaning of the word.