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6 June 2009

Arbete och Fritid - 'See upp för livet' (Musiknätet Waxholm)

Though Sweden is currently on the tongue of all socialism-fearing political pundits today, it's really not a scary place.  Even Arbete and Fritid's masterpiece, this double album, is more inviting than frightening.  It's not even close to being their most "out" record, sounding downright 'accessible' at times - but then, there's still the indescribable Weird that is present throughout.  There's a lot of singing, sometimes cartoonish and sometimes very human, but the voices never sound like demons or totalitarians.  The traditional/folk background is the strong suit of this band and this record shows a lot of it. In fact, large sections of this record feel pretty removed from the Idea of Electricity.   Fiddles, bells, and a light acoustic strum drive the second LP face, and some more campfire singalongs pop up at the end of side 4.  The modern eruption comes on side 3, which takes on a dirt-encrusted 1970s hard rock edge.   But it's the edges of this album that are the most interesting parts, particularly the opening track.  It's a long improvised piece, slowly fading in over about 15 minutes, and it's what won me over when I first heard this album.  None of the musicians overplay; they all hold back and let space build.  It's not the most remarkable atmospheric prog track I've ever heard but something feels a bit special about it.  The last side of this double LP is a mish-mash of their many directions.  It starts with some lovely guitar soloing over a soft bassline, a Harmonia-style Krautjam with a delicate breath.  Later, there's some more folky violin melodies, or at least what I always assume Scandinavian folk is supposed to be sound like.  The gatefold LP has a great Exile on Main Street feel and there's a booklet inside with all of the lyrics written out.  I'm somewhat glad I don't understand any Svensk - there's some narrated sections as well - cause the lyrics could run the risk of being incredibly stupid.  And I'd consider Arbete and Fritid to be some of my favorite practitioners of their genre/s - rock, folk, prog, what have you -- so I don't want anything to destroy that image.  There is just so much to hear inside the four walls of this record.  There's no better aural experience that can make you l feel like you're sitting in a field drinking a dubiously brewed local intoxicant with a group of old Swedish men that you've known forever yet never met.

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