Eric Malmberg
“Verklighet & Beat”

Häpna H.34, CD (sold out)
10 tracks, 42 minutes
Listen to: Till minne av Lilly Lindstöm, Finalen
Reviews of “Verklighet & Beat”
Release date: Sept 12, 2007 (Sweden), mid October (World)

Eric Malmberg’s music is a small miracle.

I don’t want to call him a genius, because I don’t want to jinx him. But I will say that he’s a complete original, in addition to being a vastly talented musician. I will also say that his recordings and the two performances that I saw by Sagor & Swing merit a place on a short list of most enjoyed musical experiences of the last half decade.  I could bleat about the quality of the work, but “most enjoyed” to me carries the stronger charge.

Verklighet & Beat, meaning “Reality & Beat” (as opposed to “Sagor & Swing”: “Fairytales and Swing”), is a second high point in Eric Malmberg’s career. The first came with 2001’s Orgelfärger, the first album by Sagor & Swing. S & S were the duo of Eric on his beloved Hammond organ and Ulf Möller on sympathetic, timeless drums. The obvious comparison was to Hansson & Karlsson, the Swedish organ and drums duo from the 1970s. Indeed, Eric is the author of a number of comic books detailing the adventures of Hansson & Karlsson. (He’s also the author of the comic Happy Hammond in Slumberland.) Bo Hansson returned the favor by giving him an organ—as well as by appearing on synthesizer on Verklighet & Beat.

Orgelfärger came out of a clear blue sky. A brisk, chilly blue sky over a kind of stubbornly verdant rural landscape that I can easily picture but have never actually seen. It charmed by seemingly having zero connection to its era. A Hammond-whirlpool of minor-key melodicism. A snare, a brush, a mellower Mitch Mitchell. A sense with each new composition of starting back from the same place, of getting exquisitely lost in the woods each time, differently. Eleven songs, eleven paths. Listening to this album again, I can’t imagine how it could be improved. (Do I have to spell it out?  Time on this planet is brief. If you haven’t heard Orgelfärger or the follow-up Melodier och fåglar, you need to be taking better care of yourself.)

Sagor & Swing reminded you that the Hammond organ was once a medieval instrument.

All of which brings us to Verklighet & Beat. Sagor & Swing disbanded after four albums, and this is Eric’s second solo release. The first, Den gåtfulla människan, finds Eric alone at the Hammond, with the occasional desolate rhythm-box accompaniment. Verklighet & Beat is an entirely different animal, a beautifully arranged and fully realized vision of how to present Eric’s music.

Verklighet & Beat has two obvious hits. “Till minne av Lilly Lindström” is the album’s effortless high-water mark in providing instrumental coloration for what had previously been implied by Eric’s bare-bones melodies.  Are those guitar strings fifty years old? Sleigh bells haven’t sounded so good since the first Stooges album. Then the descending disco strings carve up the dance floor. A tip of the hat to producer/musician Jari Haapalainen. The other surefire smash in the Top 40 of my mind or dreams is “Söndagskonsert,” which holds its own when compared to the most moving of Peer Raben’s scores for films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Verklighet & Beat suggests that an impeccably programmed movie theater has opened in Eric’s neck of the woods.

The album’s opening track, “Finalen” is a signature gesture of Eric’s, wherein stirring, nearly martial melodies are rendered with maximum Hammond mellowness. A number of these pieces are essentially marches, and yet they could hardly be less bellicose. “Finalen” is another in a series of Malmberg earworms: melodies that after a few listens seem as if you’ve known them since childhood.

“Min kompis Anton” is another bittersweet, inward-turned march. It incorporates the musicality of distantly heard recordings of kids’ laughter – an intuitive gesture that seems so right as to preclude further comment.  Synth is using sparingly, to merely indicate the stratosphere. “Slutet på en epok” is hard-rocking and frantic, much more like the S & S live sets, and a style only occasioned hinted at by previous studio recordings. Ascending modulations are handled in the style of a surf instrumental.  The brushes are out on “Leksand, tidigt nittiotal,” a series of reexaminations of a single melodic line.

A key fiddle can sound as lonesome as any harmonica.

Verklighet & Beat is paradigmatic of Häpna in that its execution is improbably beautiful. It’s better in practice than in theory. And Eric Malmberg’s vision now radiates color.

- David Grubbs, New York, March 2007

This is Eric Malmberg’s second solo record on Häpna. He did four records with his previous group Sagor & Swing. This record is his first with a larger personnel. Featuring musicians like Goran Kajfes, Lars Skoglund, Johan Berthling, Cecilia Österholm and legendary organist Bo Hansson. Produced by Jari Haapalainen.

Personnel: Eric Malmberg: Hammond organ, synthesizer, piano, Farfisa organ, celesta, Clavinet, church organ, bells; Jari Haapalainen: electric guitar, tambourine, bells, maracas, castanets; Johan Berthling: electric bass, double bass, bells, Hammond organ; Lars Skoglund: drums; Bo Hansson: synthesizer; Goran Kajfes: trumpet, pocket trumpet, cornet, trombone; Cecilia Österholm: key fiddle; George Kentros: violin; Anne Pajunen: viola; Lisa Rydberg: violin; Leo Svensson: cello

Tracks: 1. Finalen, 2. Min kompis Anton, 3. Till minne av Lilly Lindström, 4. Slutet på en epok, 5. Leksand, tidigt nittiotal, 6. Söndagskonsert, 7. Milda döden hämtar oss alla till slut, 8. Ackordflödet och evigheten, 9. Varat fanns någonstans i röran, 10. Styx

Eric Malmbergs första skiva under eget namn var ett filosofiskt soloäventyr. Nu har hammondprinsen - fd Sagor & Swing - spelat in med ett helt band (Johan Berthling, Bo Hansson, Goran Kajfes mm) och blandar in alltifrån discostråkar till nyckelharpa i sin både supersvängiga och mollpräglade vandringsmusik. Vissa låtar dansar fram i virvlar, andra smyger in i såväl rymdklanger som Leksandsmelankoli. Lyhörd produktion av Jari Haapalainen, strålande spelat av hela gänget, och förhoppningsvis hittar Eric Malmbergs förtrollande melodier en stor publik.
Rated 4/5, PM Jönsson, Göteborgs-Posten

[...] Här finns en framåtrörelse från den sekund han sätter sig på pianopallen till den sista klangen tonar ut. Som vore musiken försedd med hjul som snurrar och snurrar, snabbare och snabbare för att nå ännu lite längre nästa varv. En evig rytm som fångar och spinner gnistrande nät runt lyssnaren, där de så typiska Malmbergkompositionerna - det finns sådana, be mig bara inte förklara mer exakt hur de låter - blir utsmyckade av en större orkester än den annars gärna ensamme organisten någonsin jobbat med. Och tack vare den stora uppslutningen realiseras på "Verklighet & Beat" för första gången fullt ut den vision om mötet mellan sextiotalets orgelpop, svenskt folkmusikarv, modern elektronik och moderna angreppssätt som Eric Malmberg så länge har jobbat utefter. [...]
Rated 8/10, Sara Martinsson, Sonic

Eric Malmberg might not be a name on everyone's lips (especially if you've been born and raised anywhere south of Sweden) but this latest from the ex-Sagor & Swing organist, despite a title that makes pronunciation to a non Scandinavian about as easy as humming the Hungarian national anthem, is a real triumph. Some of you might have heard Sagor & Swing before, some might even have caught them live - I was lucky enough to manage the latter and it was an unforgettable experience, pinned together by Malmberg's virtuosity on his trusty Hammond organ. Prog fans will no doubt have heard the name Bo Hansson bandied about a little, and the man who once wrote an album dedicated to Lord of the Rings (how prog is that?! and this was before Peter Jackson had even had a sniff) serves as Malmberg's biggest influence, even popping up on 'Verklighet & Beat' on the synthesizer. So far so Swedish. But this album, easily Malmberg's most assured solo work to date, should see the musician carry his music far beyond the Northern Lights. Okay so maybe I'm not the best person to ask about this, being a Goblin completist and self-confessed Rick Wakeman fan (sorry) I have a rather high tolerance for proggy excess, but this record is a dictat in Hammond-led magnificence from its first, assured chord. The instrumentation is simple - live drums, Hammond organ, guitar, bass and the occasional synthesizer and over ten tracks Malmberg creates an acid-laced, THC haze of tie-dyed, rose tinted gorgeousness, harnessed by each player's clearly outstanding abilities. It's odd because with this unusual burst of interest recently in anything proggy, psychedelic and breaks heavy (thanks in part no doubt to Andy Votel's killer Finders Keepers imprint) Malmberg's music suddenly makes a lot of sense in 2007. He might have been busying himself with the Hammond for many years now but the climate feels right at the moment for him to capture the hearts and minds of crate diggers and a new generation of psychedelic explorers, and I suggest that anyone enamoured by recent rediscovered psych/prog gems from the 70s should check this album without any further delay. I don't want to go into it track by track, because first and foremost (like every great prog album) it needs to be heard in its entiriry, but a special mention needs to go out to the phenomenal and totally bonkers 'Till minne av Lilly Lindström' a track which starts with a clean break, builds into dancefloor abusing Hammond-hammering mayhem and then ends up with lush string orchestrations and disco-lite sweeps. Insane and more enjoyable than you could possibly imagine - an album to totally lose yourself in, and one for anyone looking for something just that little different. Huge recommendation.

As half of the aforementioned Sagor & Swing, organist Eric Malmberg explored keenly interwoven tapestries of ambient sound and near spiritual instrumental textures. Following up his much more skeletal solo disc from 2005, Den gattfulla manniskan, Malmberg presents Verklighet & Beat, a set of tunes that brilliantly expands his palette. Even with the added instrumentation, though, Malmberg's prowess behind a variety of different keyboards and electric pianos easily dominates the aural landscape here. Feuled by his familiar Hammond lines and some twee synths, tracks like "Till minne av Lilly Lindstrom" explore terrain that calls to mind a more space-aged variant on Florian Fricke's early Popul Vuh work. Other pieces, like the lazy lope of "Sondagskonsert," are more pastoral in their temperament, awash in gorgeous melodies and powerful strings. Even better are those pieces like "Ackordflodet och evigheten," all swinging rhythms that carry the layers of keys and distant vocals to a buoyant process, sounding like a severely funked-up Bo Hansson. And while it definitely is a shame that Sagor & Swing chose to bow out a couple of years ago, it's nice to know that Eric Malmberg seems pretty intent on keeping that group's playful flame alive, as clearly evidenced by the near sublimity of Verklighet & Beat.
Michael Crumsho, Other Music