Eric Malmberg: Den gåtfulla människan

In the absence of clarifying detail, writers sometimes struggle to identify sound sources in the material reviewed, a complication exacerbated to a greater degree with electronic music. (Listening to a given piece, for instance, I might wonder, “Is that a melodica, accordion, or harmonium, or is it a digital simulation?”) Recorded in Insjön, Sweden, Eric Malmberg's Den gåtfulla människan poses no such difficulty as it's performed entirely with Hammond organ. Don't necessarily assume, however, that the ex-Sagor & Swing organist is making some defiant stand against modern technologies; I suspect he's simply found an instrument whose plenitude of sonic colour is more than equal to his musical needs. Couple the organ's tonal range with the composer's formidable command of the instrument and one understandably might conclude that, in Malmberg's view, nothing more is necessary.

Each of the eight pieces in this charming and captivating collection rises phoenix-like from the ashes of the other. At the outset, “Det högre medvetandet” plunges the listener into glacially-shifting pools of shimmering wonder before flowing into the ruminative sparkle of “Undermedvetandet.” While “Delpersonligheterna” is a drone soundscape of shimmering echoes and drum machine burble, “Språk och tankestrukturer” offers the aural equivalent of spellbinding sights glimpsed through a space shuttle window. The album exudes the relaxed feel of an explorative and itinerant travelogue.

Malmberg eschews familiar organ clichés (there's not a single soul flourish in sight), opting instead for an almost classical-pop style that's pretense-free, I might add. And, though the deep sonic richness of the organ spans centuries, there's a modern dimension to the recording too; the ascending and descending whorls haunting the background of “Människan och evigheten” could be taken for a Kraftwerk nod. Häpna describes Den gåtfulla människan as “a highly personal record (and) a travel into the human psyche” and, while I've no doubt that that's true, what'll stay with you longest are the album's timelessly simple yet melancholy melodies.

June 2005