The initial review was published in Gnosis on August 28, 2007. I've since rewritten a portion of it, and that's what you see below.
Berits Halsband were an obscure band from the small coastal town of Hudiksvall, in central Sweden. Their relative isolation allowed the group an artistic freedom that ultimately created one of the greatest progressive jazz rock albums... ever.
In the mid 1970s, Sweden was harboring a handful of jazz bands looking to push the envelope beyond the usual bebop standards or electric noodling. These groups were very much influenced by the North American freaky fusion of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. Collectives such as Ibis, Ablution, Egba, Kornet, and Archimedes Badkar were bringing that same kind of kinetic creativity up to Scandinavia. And one has to figure those long, dark winters played a role in creating hallucinations even among the most puritan of Lutherans wandering about in their show shoes.
This was the creative environment that Berits Halsband were operating in. Their artistic contribution to the scene, and most distinctive mark as it were, would be the musical crossover to the indigenous Scandinavian folklore of the local wooden dance hall. Berits Halsband's brand of progressive music wasn't dished up through the Zappa blender (like the popular Samla Mammas Manna for example), but rather more of an introspective art school approach. As with other large scale ensembles, the 8 piece Berits Halsband makes full use of its entire membership in unique ways. To underscore this point, consider the prominent use of trumpet, which is often filtered and heavily effected through a wah wah pedal. Their second lead instrument of choice is the lovely flute, often in unison with the trumpet, or as a peaceful solo alternative. And while Side 1 sounds like the best soundtrack to your dream Stockholm vacation, side 2 takes us closer to home, near the Arctic Circle, for some serious deep funk grooves. And here we find some added ring modulated electric piano combined with amazing fuzz electric guitar soloing. All this layered on top of a trance-like bass and a very busy percussion section. While the musical ingredients are familiar, the end result is entirely Berits Halsband - one of a kind.
In conclusion, Berits Halband's sole album is a strange bedfellow meeting of 1974 electric era Miles Davis, combined with the Swedish ethnic rock of Kebnekaise, and the psychedelic pyrotechnics of Flasket Brinner. Yes... it’s that good.
LP: 1975 Forsaljud
CD: 2015 MusicBazz (Greece)
Originals are quite scarce, and one I chanced on well over a decade ago (2003 to be precise). It was from there that we got the ball rolling on the awareness of how great an album this is! The CD reissue (scan #2) is fantastic. Comes in a very sturdy mini-LP, with superb liner notes, and great sound. I presume the LP reissue is awesome as well. Don't sleep on this one!