The long-awaited second Greek Theatre LP has arrived! Lightning has indeed struck twice (thrice, if we're keeping count, as 2016's excellent The Sunniest Day EP, reviewed here, is surely not to be overlooked).
I am always hesitant to throw around terms like "instant classic", but this certainly fits the bill. The album kicks off with the wonderfully titled "Fat Apple (at About Noon)", which also happens to be the longest track on the LP, clocking in at over seven minutes and it really sets the stage for this beautiful record. For the initiated fan, within the first 30 seconds you will recognize that you are in familiar territory and in for a real treat (those unfamiliar with this brilliant Swedish outfit would do well to acquaint one's self with their first masterpiece here). Indeed, this is unmistakably The Greek Theatre that we know and love, a duo who have somehow managed to create a stunningly unique sound that I've not heard any contemporary band match. The guitar work is even better than ever, and that is saying something. As with all of their songs, there is a tremendous amount of depth and texture to the music. There is quite a bit going on, which is evident when you carefully listen to and study each track and start to understand how it somehow all blends together so seamlessly. This is psychedelic music at its very finest. There are some wonderful Folk, Country, and even Progressive Rock ingredients as well. However, dear listener, you may do yourself a favour and dispense with genres, labels, and any preconceived notions, as there is really no way to pigeon-hole the sound of this band. Just close your eyes and allow the music to take you to that special place that only music can do. The pacing of this opening track is brilliant; the introduction lures you in and it gradually starts to build, incorporating all sorts of instruments and arrangements and just takes off in a truly majestic flight. The trademark Greek Theatre vocals are firmly in place, buoyed by some outstanding interwoven guitar work.
"Paper Moon" will be instantly recognizable to those who have already had their ticket punched by way of their aforementioned "The Sunniest Day" EP, though a different version is present here with some new arrangements, resulting in a fuller sound this time around. Lovely swirling sounds in the background, beautiful harmony vocals which ring through clear as a bell, powerful drums, and some pretty mean bass playing are all components here. Again, some searing psychedelic guitar work takes center stage, along with some gentler acoustic guitar blended into the mix. "Still Lost Out At Sea" is the not-so-missing link to the classic first LP, both in terms of sound and, obviously, the title. A gentle, pastoral piece that is filled with reflection has a bit of a country feel to it, particularly in its slow shuffling, though subtle backbeat. It is uniquely punctuated by some sublime woodwinds. There is a terrific calming, contemplative mood woven into this track. The rhetorical question, "So, why am I lost out at sea?" cleverly recalls the lyric "Another year. lost out at sea" from the first album. However, make no mistake, this record is not merely "Lost Out at Sea, Part Two". The wonderful psychedelic journey continues, though what we have here is a brand new endeavor; this record clearly has its very own identity. The repeated lyric, "Love you even more..." somehow serves to reinforce the feeling of the record.
"Stray Dog Blues" marks the second appearance of a track first heard on "The Sunniest Day" EP, and as with "Paper Moon", it fits in perfectly with the album. A delicate masterpiece, we are treated to new mix of this track which differs from the EP version. Still present are the lovely female backing vocals in what appears to be a melancholic, though ultimately optimistic song offering up hope. In what I believe is the first instrumental piece from our beloved Greek Theatre, "1920" arguably serves as a short interlude that ties together the first and second parts of the record. Here we have some exquisite classical guitar work, with both a Spanish and Blues flavour sprinkled in. There is a careful dialog taking place between the various guitar parts here, a sort of unspoken story. It is, to me, unlike anything else in the Greek Theatre canon and one of the countless reasons to love this band so much - they are filled with so many surprises and cannot be nailed down in any singular way. The album's title track, "Broken Circle" fires up the aural cauldron for a delectable ambrosial psychedelic stew. There's a terrific driving organ that reminds this active listener just how important Rick Wright really was to Pink Floyd. I, for one, am waiting for the hour long out-take of this truly spellbinding jam, though I fear that particular dream may go unfulfilled. Things start to wind down into a calming, plaintive bridge with a lovely flute passage and the journey continues with a chorus of the song's title. A timeless, epic track, this is surely one of The Greek Theatre's finest moments. This piece is a testament to the power of music; there's an embarrassment of sonic riches somehow crammed into less than six minutes. The musicianship is truly stellar here, every little nuance is expertly crafted and fits together perfectly.
"Ruby-Khon" features some graceful layers of intertwined acoustic guitars and gentle, ethereal voices. Imagine yourself floating on a cloud and this is the perfect soundtrack to accompany you. And that may serve to exemplify what The Greek Theatre does so eloquently. They effortlessly take you to places where time and space cease to exist, they unlock that secret combination to one's imagination and allow you to be transported to a magical world. "Kings Of Old" begins with an almost unassuming introduction, but soon launches into a full-throttle psychedelic adventure, anchored by the record's most intense drumming. The album closes with "Now is the Time", which slowly winds things down and offers the lyric, "I saw you smile", which is outlined with cautious optimism and endless possibility. Soaring harmony vocals are joined by a splendid brass arrangement culminating in a grandiose farewell to a truly special record. If this is not the finest release from 2017, I'll gladly eat my hat.
Lastly, it must be noted that the production of this record is truly excellent, so if you're Bandcamping, don't short-change yourself with an mp3. Buy and download a lossless version and you'll be treated to a glorious 24-bit recording.
Reviewed by Duncan Fletcher for Harmonic Distortion
Swedish duo follow up their acclaimed debut with another stunning LP!
Having done this writing malarkey for quite some years now, there are certain albums that stick in the mind and heart more than others. One personal favourite that came my way has been Lost Out At Sea by The Greek Theatre. It was their debut album, the first of four LPs the band claimed, after which they would cease to exist. It's folksy, west coast soft-rock embellished with woodwind and pedal steel had a sun-drenched sadness and staring-at-the-sea introspection that chimed with me at the time. And still does.
At the time the band stated their next album would have more of a Brit-folk sound, taking its inspiration from the Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, Pentangle and the like. That album has now “dropped” as the current parlance goes. I was a little hesitant to play it at first. Who among us has not experienced that disappointment of the “sophomore” album. (Another journalistic pet hate, can't we just say second?!?) I'm pleased to say my fears were unfounded. This time round the sunny west-coast vibe has been replaced with chilly winds and drizzle from the North Atlantic.
Sven Fröberg and Frederick Persson are the core duo that make up The Greek Theatre. Their music is melodically strong but open ended enough for fluid improvisation. For this album they've been assisted several collaborators including pedal steel player Matthias Danielson (who featured on Lost out At Sea), Lisa Isaksson and David Svedmyr from Me and The Kites. Andreas Ralsgård adds clarinet to several tracks and drummer Tomas Eriksson does a sterling job with David Axelrod beats throughout.
Though the Greek Theatre's musical influences hail from the late '60s/early '70s they somehow manage to tap into today's zeitgeist. The music on Broken Circle would not be out of place on the recent Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs curated English Weather compilation on Ace Records. Gentle acoustic passages, interspersed with with improvised rock, all embellished with jazz and folk touches. It's music that reflects the uncertainty of our times. Not pessimistic as such, but resigned to sitting things out until the good times return. As they sing on the album's title track -
“Let's go together through the chaos all around. And though the road is rough and rocky rest assured it'll lead us home.”
Reviewed by Mike Davies for Roots and Branches
Stockholm duo Sven Froberg and Fredrick Persson made an auspicious debut back in 2013 with Lost Out At Sea and this more than delivers on the promise, immersing itself even further in 60s West Coast psychedelia. Again featuring assorted other musicians, it opens with its longest track, the seven minute Fat Apple (at About Noon), starting quietly with acoustic guitar, tinkling bells, clarinet and recorder, like something from early Mike Oldfield, gradually swelling to introduce jazzy drumming and pedal steel before the vocals finally arrive at the three minute mark and shades of Ummagumma era Pink Floyd swirl through.
Two tracks originally appeared on the between albums EP The Sunniest Day and reappear here in new arrangements Paper Moon is again all swirling clouds of sound with close harmony folksy vocals, acoustic guitar, muffled drums and electric guitar passages that call Dave Gilmour to mind, while the shuffling rhythm and tumbling chords of the sunny pop Stray Dog Blues has a sort of Erik Satie feel to the melody, the vocals here complemented by flute and harp plus the addition of a female voice courtesy Linda Heiling.
Clarinet resurfaces on the dreamily floating Still Lost Out At Sea with its soft, echoey vocals before the two-minute 1920 marks their first instrumental foray, Oldfield once more coming to mind in its effective marriage of Spanish acoustic and electric guitars creating the atmospheric Andalucian cocktail of calm and urgency.
The title track follows, building on electric guitar waves, a tribal drumbeat and psychedelic organ but also shifting to a sudden nakedly acoustic passage before the vocals, echoey with Gregorian choral tones giving way to whispers and the harmonised line "And though the road is rough and rocky, rest assured it'll lead to home" before the sonic momentum builds once more.
Heading into the final stretch, a concise Ruby-Khon sports ethereal soothing wordless vocals before the album returns to epic form on the six minute Kings Of Old, its hushed, muted introduction giving way to a storm of bass, muscular drums and unfettered guitar.
After the tumult it ends on a quiet and positive note (“I saw you smile”) with the waltzing Now Is The Time striking an almost musical box tone (in places it reminds me of the UK folk-psychedelia outfit Kaleidoscope), the hushed layered harmonies and tinkling chimes embellished by boudran and a trumpet arrangement. In its chosen genre, it’s going to be a hard act for anyone to follow, but it also has a beauty and appeal that could easily cross into less niche tastes. They’ll have to be quick, though, apparently its limited to just 300 copies.
Reviewed by Allan Weaver for TheePsychedelicatessen
Broken Circle is the second and long awaited-album by Sweden’s premier West Coast Psych act The Greek Theatre. The first album, Lost Out At Sea, was a gem of an LP and took many people by surprise such is its quality. This brand new album is the sequel of sorts but goes much deeper into full-on Psychedelia yet retains…….and even improves on…….their excellent songwriting from the first album. Sounding like a long lost recording from the vaults, Broken Circle evokes the hazy daze of Stillwater, Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Moby Grape and Love, with nine tracks of shimmering, sunkissed Psychedelia, this is one of the most beautifully mellow albums we have heard for quite a while……..we doubt if you will hear anything more tripped out and blessed this year.
While a lot of modern Psych bands adhere to trance like Floydian Space Rock, it is a rare thing to find an album of song based Psychedelia, which is what this album gives you………..and then some. The Greek Theatre channel the golden vibes of S.F circa 67/68 to create a mini masterpiece of grade A quality. The absolutely gorgeous ‘Fat Apple (At About Noon)’ which opens the album is a deep, rich track that evokes the swirling pop smarts of the Holy Mackerel blended with the laconic West Coast vibes of the early line up of the Steve Miller Band. The Greek Theatre add to their sonic palette West Coast Acid Folk and classic 60s Folk Rock troubadour elements with the beautifully evocative ‘Still Lost At Sea’ and the impressive ‘Stray Dog Blues’. There is a delicate gossamar fragility about The Greek Theatre’s songs which at times is heartbreaking and at others completely life affirming…….there is certainly echoes of Nick Drake at his best here. The album’s title track is The Free Design jamming with Airplane in a liquid light swirl out down at the Matrix while ‘Kings Of Old’ shows off the band’s West Coast Psychedelic Rock influences with six minutes of spiraling Acid Rock guitars as The Greek Theatre party like it’s 1969.The Greek Theatre’s “sound” may not be totally original, but they have skillfully pulled together all of their impeccable influences in order to record a record that is quite simply spellbinding. Closing the album is The Greek Theatre’s very own “Teenage Symphony To God”……’Now Is The Time’ is a distant relative to Forever Changes beautifully constructed with the complexity of Smile era Beach Boys……………totally stunning. Broken Circle is the first album of 2017 to totally blow our minds. Seriously recommended!!!!!!.
Reviewed by (again) Kent Whirlow this time for Terrascope Magazine
Unless you've been living under a pretty sizable rock for the past several years (thankfully not the case with regular readers of the Terrascope), Sweden has arguably become the epicenter of some of the most innovative music of recent memory. One need look no further than Stockholm's The Greek Theatre, a brilliant psychedelic duo who has just delivered their second masterpiece, Broken Circle. Terrascope readers with a keen eye and a sharp memory may recall this review of their first masterpiece from 2014.
That magical feeling that was so perfectly crafted on their first LP is back, and 'twas well worth the wait! "Fat Apple (at About Noon)" launches the new album, and what a glorious launch it is. A rich tapestry of sounds fills your ears as the introduction slowly builds, laying the groundwork for a truly splendid record. From delicate beginnings with a lovely, sunny folk-ish feeling to some jazz-inspired drumming, accented with layers of gorgeous arrangements, the song slowly builds into a grandiose piece and once we hear those familiar vocals, it's as though a dear old friend has just walked through the door. Wonderful acoustic guitar combined with some beautiful pedal steel lend a wonderful country feel, followed by some terrific psychedelic lead guitar work.
Between the band's two stunningly beautiful longer-players, an EP titled The Sunniest Day was released last summer and contained the track "Paper Moon", which appears again on the new album, this time with an updated arrangement. Opening with a hauntingly beautiful stark guitar line, we are soon in full-on psychedelia mode with swirling sounds and delightful harmony vocals. Some excellent bass playing is just one of the many joys to be heard in this complex, yet carefully constructed mix. The band's first album, Lost Out at Sea is fondly remembered in the track "Still Lost Out At Sea". Gentle vocals are layered upon one another and the relaxed pace is both calming and contemplative. Woodwinds make the perfect partner to accompany the acoustic guitar and dreamy vocals. Despite the lyrical and musical ties to the first album, it must be said that this is surely not just "more of the same". Rather, Broken Circle surely has its very own identity, distinct from, yet complementary to Lost Out at Sea. The journey continues and we are all the better for it.
Also having first appeared on The Sunniest Day EP is "Stray Dog Blues", an achingly beautiful piece presented here with a new arrangement. Though possessing a somewhat somber undertone, the track is peaceful and optimistic with the lyric "feel alive, alive". The accompanying female vocals really help to underscore the emotion of the track. Mining even more new sounds, the first instrumental offering from The Greek Theatre is "1920", which showcases some exquisite guitar playing to build a mysterious atmosphere which gracefully connects the earlier parts of the record with the rest of the album.
The epic title track, "Broken Circle" is both bold and adventurous and surely one of the band's finest compositions. The psychedelic organ used in the introduction is nothing less than sublime. If '71-'72-era Floyd fills your teacup, by all means: do not miss out on this! This psychedelic tour-de-force with its driving intensity, gentle passages and stately vocals proudly displays the gravitas necessary to bear the title track of the album. The stunningly clever lyric "And though the road is rough and rocky, rest assured it'll lead to home" delivers a most poignant metaphor.
The curiously titled "Ruby-Khon" boasts some ethereal vocals coupled with gentle acoustic guitar and subtle arrangements. Though not a cornerstone of the record, it does exemplify that all-important mortar needed to hold the bricks together. Difficult to pin down, "Kings Of Old" opens with an affable introduction and soon launches into a psychedelic maelstrom with punchy bass lines, some very powerful drumming and a guitar workout. Sadly, our terrific sonic adventure must end as the album draws to a close with "Now is the Time" and gives the listener much to contemplate with the phrase "yes I saw you smile". Layered vocals build and are joined with a lovely brass arrangement and bring a very special record to its natural conclusion. This is timeless stuff, and sure to sound fresh and relevant for years to come. Though not a man of the wager, I'm willing to bet the farm that Broken Circle will find itself at the top spot of my 2017 list.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge the excellent production of this record. Physical copies on the terrific Sugarbush label are indeed limited. Tarry not, ye.