Swedish composer, accordionist, and keyboardist Lars Hollmer was a much beloved artist who escaped the notice of many during his lifetime but who nevertheless touched listeners across the world from Europe to Asia to North America. Given his longstanding membership in the quirky Samla Mammas Manna, he was often considered a progressive rock performer, but Hollmer could just as easily be placed in folk, avant-garde, world, or even classical categories. Upon hearing his music, however, it's also easy to understand how he rendered labels meaningless, since his many influences were united by such a singular artistic persona. Rather than define Hollmer's music via stylistic boxes, it is perhaps best to focus on its warmth, intimacy, and even innocence, and its occasional tinges of melancholy. And while some of his compositions may be a bit demented at times, with unconventional instrumentation and odd time signatures, his music is also tuneful and accessible, and often disarmingly lovely.
including Vendeltid, were later compiled onto the 1993 single-CD set entitled Lars Hollmer 80-88 (later reissued asThe Siberian Circus), and well illustrate his artistic growth during the decade. In the disc's liners, Fred Frith noted the futility of assigning stylistic descriptors to Hollmer, indicating that, like all great composers, Hollmer's work touches the listener at a deeper level. "Like Astor Piazzolla, Lars Hollmer is a serious composer working in a popular traditional language and one who defines his own terms,"Frith wrote. "Sometimes Lasse's manic skittishness and infectious enthusiasm give way to the most eloquent expression of our inherent loneliness that I know of," Frith continued. "This is no small gift."
In Hollmer's compositions of this time one may hear the echo of classical works of a magical mood --Saint-Saëns' Aquarium from Le Carnaval des Animaux for example -- but with a rustic quality entirely absent from the concert hall, as if the (in his case Hungarian) folk themes Bartók discovered and used in his compositions had been wrested away from the classical setting and returned to their earthier points of origin, while also somehow maintaining a contemporary feel. (It is perhaps worth noting here that Hollmer was a self-taught musician.) And yet his music was not merely a facile appropriation of folk themes to rock music in the manner that proggers "rocked the classics" -- his music maintained an authenticity, originality, and depth of feeling that the far more prosaic rock bands rarely even hinted at.
It was also during this period that Hollmer began composing music for various film, theater, and dance projects, including collaborations with former Von Zamla bassist Wolfgang Salomon. TwoHollmer/Salomon projects were released on Salomon's Chance Records label, 1989's Alice im Wunderland, from a theater production based on the Lewis Carroll novel, and 1996's Neunerplatzmusik No. 3, the latter a trio release by Salomon, Hollmer, and Thomas Heinemann of the Theater am Neunerplatz in Wurzberg, Germany (and issued as a Chance/KRAX co-production). From the late '80s into the '90s Hollmer was also a member of another progressive world/folk quartet, Fem Söker En Skatt, somewhat in the mold of Ramlösa Kvällar and indeed also featuring saxophonist Ulf Wallander and trumpeter Kalle Eriksson from that earlier ensemble.
Featuring music composed between 1993 and 1996, Andetag was yet another peak for Hollmer, paradoxically comfortable and challenging, traditional and cutting-edge, with all of the diverse stylistic touchstones one had come to expect from a Lars Hollmer album. Again, most of the instruments were played by Hollmer (accordion, piano, keyboards, melodicas, and percussion) along with contributions from bassist Wolfgang Salomon, violinist Santiago Jimenez, drummer Hans Bruniusson, and bassoonist/oboist Michel Berckmans. In 1999 Andetag won a Swedish Grammy Award, and as part of the award Hollmer was cited as follows: "To a giant in the Swedish musical society...from Samla Mammas Manna to 'Boeves Psalm' to the new CD Andetag...there's always wonderful music coming from the Chickenhouse."
Meanwhile, the on-again, off-again Samlas had been beckoning, and in fall of 1998 Hollmer, Krantz, Bruniusson, and Apetrea were back together at the Chickenhouse for the recording of Kaka, a sometimes powerful, sometimes zany recording including live concert material from 1993-1998 and voice-over "comments and interpretations" for the uninitiated by a "narrator" named John Fiske. The album was released in 1999, but in November of that yearBruniusson, who had been with the Samlas from the very beginning 30 years previously, quit the band. As it turned out, Samla Mammas Manna would carry on after some communications between Uppsala and a perhaps surprising location, Japan. In 2000 Hollmer received an invitation from clarinetist Wataru Ohkuma and Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida to perform with them in Tokyo, and off he went.
Lars Hollmer was an artist who looked back at the past with fondness and warmly embraced his many experiences with family, friends, and musical collaborators around the world, but he always seemed to be looking toward the future as well. So it was a shock to all who knew him when he became gravely ill during 2008 and, diagnosed with cancer, was unable to participate in planned European tours ofAccordion Tribe (Amy Denio appeared in his stead) and Fanfare Pourpour, the latter ensemble focusing entirely on Lars' repertoire during an October ten-concert tour in France and Sweden. During the final show of the tour, however, at a packed venue in his hometown of Uppsala, Lars was able to summon up the spirit and energy to join Fanfare Pourpour on-stage for a complete performance of his compositions from the joint Hollmer/Fanfare album Karusell Musik. The performance was filled with many favorite compositions from Hollmer's previous quarter-century as a solo artist and bandleader, and he reportedly seemed quite happy as the audience delivered multiple ovations in response to the playing of his classic tunes, including "Boeves Psalm." It would be Lars Hollmer's last appearance on-stage. On Christmas of 2008, Lars succumbed in his battle with cancer. He was 60 years old.
Soon after Lars' death, Guy Klucevsek reflected upon his Accordion Tribe friend: "He could be unabashedly sentimental ('Boeves Psalm,' 'Soon Song'), write incredibly dense and complex counterpoint with the best of them ('Pas de Valse,' 'Utflykt Med Damcykel'), and be mischievous and joyfully whacked-out ('Cirkus I,' 'Cirkus II')." Noting Hollmer's varied and extensive discography as both leader and collaborator, Klucevsek found Lars' own words and gestures to be the best summation of his music's "common element": "To quote Lars from the documentary film Accordion Tribe: Music Travels (Stefan Schwietert, Maximage Films, 2004), 'It all begins here' (he says, pointing to his heart); 'it may go through here eventually' (he points to his head), 'but it all begins with the heart.'"
After Lars' passing, Gabriel needed some time away from his father's music, but in fall 2009 he began delving into the Chickenhouse archive, listening to the Med Mjölad Hand material as part of the grieving process and also to honor his father's request for help in shaping the project. It became clear to Gabriel that the archive held much music worthy of a wider hearing, and with encouragement fromSteve Feigenbaum at Cuneiform, he began assembling a diverse selection of tracks that extended as far back as the early to mid-'80s. Ultimately, 26 tracks in various stages of completion were chosen, some of which reflected the flavor of craziness Lars had originally intended for Med Mjölad Hand, while others (including Chickenhouse-recorded versions of tunes that had appeared in altered form on otherHollmer releases) touched on different moods and emotions characteristic of his music over the years, from light and whimsical to ethereal and beautiful to dark and unsettling.
Meanwhile, Feigenbaum and Cuneiform secured the rights to release on DVD a professionally shot, multi-camera video of Hollmer's aforementioned 2005 Gouveia Art Rock Festival performance, primarily solo but also in duo with bassoonist Michel Berckmans and together with Miriodor. The DVD (also featuring a 2005 duo performance of Lars with accordionist Fizzè at a small venue in Switzerland) was included as a second disc accompanying the Med Mjölad Hand CD compiled by Gabriel (and mastered by Cult of Luna's Magnus Lindberg), with the two-disc CD/DVD set ultimately released by Cuneiform in May 2012. Since much of the music on the CD had not been finished by Larsand was in various stages of completion, the title of the collection was appended with a parenthetical "(skisser)" -- i.e., "(sketches)." The CD/DVD's cover artwork was painted by Lars' daughter and Gabriel's sister Rinda Strand Hollmer.
Biography by Dave Lynch - Source: allmusic
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