Ljudbilden & Piloten: One hundred fifty-five

Ljudbilden & Piloten (pronounced “yude-bill-den oak pee-loe-ten”) isn't a band but a multi-talented, Malmö, Sweden-based individual named Kristofer Ström. Nosordo has spared no expense in the presentation of Ström's premiere full-length One hundred fifty-five (split discs with Osso Bucco, Kama Aina, and Gregg Kowalsky appeared previously): accompanying the captivating music content is an equally captivating booklet of Ström's full-colour collages, one for each of the album's fifteen tracks. As pleasing to the eye as those images are, they're bettered by even more arresting musical content with Ström's songs remarkably crafted on both arrangement and compositional counts. His lush electroacoustic songs sound relaxed enough to suggest home production but impress for being so polished in structure and design. The songs unfold so naturally, they more suggest the playing of a simpatico group of acoustic virtuosi than a single person assembling tracks layer by layer. Ström builds them using a diverse array of sounds, from conventional instruments (piano, bass, guitar, trumpet) to unusual sources (his dog Elmo, a glass, a zither, an egg slicer). The music isn't gimmicky, however, and eccentricity for its own sake is never the goal; instead, the material is refreshingly bucolic, even pastoral. Ström often uses intricate percussive webs as a ground for uplifting acoustic guitar, piano, and vocal melodies that weave entrancingly over top, and the central presence of the acoustic guitar in One hundred fifty-five makes it feel kin to Greg Davis's Arbor and Curling Pond Woods. “You Know You're Doing OK” opens the album jauntily, after which glockenspiel and bass guitar take the lead in “Plokk” while a small army of percussionists keeps time. The light jaunt of “(Bjorn) One More Year” makes it the perfect soundtrack for walking through the park. Only “Pianosong Two” departs from the prevailing style by threading a bright electrical stream through its background. A wonderful surprise, One hundred fifty-five captivates with the beauty of its presentation and the high caliber of its compositions.

April 2008