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Mats/Morgan Band: On Air With Guests

The true-life buddy cop story that is keyboardist Mats Öberg and drummer (and Zappa Band alumnus) Morgan Agren has added another episode to its serial. Seriously, Mats & Morgan have played together since they were kids, so they've had much of their respective lives, I estimate, to perfect their notably steroid-pumped fusion that somehow achieves a balance between cohesion & chaos—and On Air With Guests generates enough electricity to power one of those energy-sucking Vega$ casinos. Of course, it's probably assumed they were just born playing as well as they do! The Guests part of the title actually refers to showcases in which friends are given the spotlight, with one or more of the mainstays sitting that tune out.

Öberg and Agren don't indulge in too many moments of genuine mildness, and even the downtime parts—those titles suffixed as -jingles on this release—are sufficiently charged to set off sparks on their own (and they're really intros & outros, anyway). "Hollmervalsen" is an excellent example of energies being kept at bay, flaring up beyond imposed restraints like flames licking at wood, only to be pushed back by intermittent bursts of H2O. The track sizzles with a rounded analog bass occasionally giving way to bassist Tommy Thordsson's erstwhile robotic grooves, and Mats' clavichord lead is offset by second keyboardist Robert Elovsson's smooth, active chordings. Morgan's playing on this cut (and other times throughout) reminds me (favorably) of Forever Einstein's John Roulat. Alternating jigs (figuratively) on the snare drum and further manipulating polyrhythmic parts like licorice sticks, Morgan plays with a machinelike consistency that would make 97% of aspiring drummers switch to different instruments. Jimmy Agren gets around to soloing on his guitar toward the end, and once it's eight minutes are out, the track does resemble some deranged sort of soundtrack to a horrific nursery rhyme.

The funky, '70s-flavored "Chicken" guest-stars saxophonist Jonas Knutsson, who has the ability to really tear the roof off; his showcase is perfectly juxtaposed against a suave organ solo by the Öberg'er. It's seven minutes can easily swing on for another ten. Guitarist Fredrik Thordendal steps in to add some metallic chunkiness to "Sol Niger Within"—did Anders Johansson also step in to cover for Morgan while he, Mats & Rob ran down to the donut shop? This would perfectly fit on any of Anders' harder fusion outings with Jens. The Jimmy Agren Band—Jimmy on guitar and violin, Rolf Hedqvist on bass, Gunnar Gustaffson on rhythm guitar—features on the beautifully titled blues rocker, "She's Louder Than Me, But I've Got The Microphone." Mats takes back the mantle with the whimsical "Baader Puff/Paltsug," a musical puzzle of shifting tiles that circumnavigate dizzying speeds that finally, abruptly, come to an inevitable halt.

That's only half the fun. These guys are better than espresso. Mats' keyboard prowess is scissor-sharp and a testament to fluidity. Morgan's adventurous percussive style sounds as though it could fit perfectly in the context of jazz, rock, funk and metal—simultaneously. The other half of said fun? Picking up this title and listening to it. You may never hear the same phrase repeated twice.

Tracklist:
1. En Schizofrens Dagbok 6:15
2. Spök-jingle 0:48
3. Hollmervalsen 7:57
4. Knut-jingle 0:13
5. Chicken 7:01
6. Jigsaw-jingle 0:13
7. Sol Niger Within 5:40
8. Advokaten 7:31
9. Watch Me-jingle 0:13
10. Min Häst 6:49
11. Etage A-41 6:00
12. Dagens Övning-jingle 0:17
13. She's Louder Than Me, But I've Got The Microphone 4:22
14. Baader Puff/Paltsug 3:26
15. Mats-jingle 1:04
16. Ta Ned Trasan 8:26
17. Hard To Find-jingle 0:12
18. Trum-jingle 0:27
Total Time: 67:04

Added: February 10th 2004
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Score:
Related Link: Morgan Agren Dot Com
Hits: 2715
Language: english

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