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Anekdoten, 'Vemod'

Vemod  (1993,  46.34/57.00)  *****/TTTTT

Karelia
The Old Man & the Sea
Where Solitude Remains
Thoughts in Absence
The Flow
Longing
Wheel

[Jap CD adds:
Sad Rain]
Anekdoten, 'Nucleus'

Nucleus  (1995,  48.59)  ****½/TTTT

Nucleus
Harvest
Book of Hours
  Pendulum Swing
  The Book

Raft
Rubankh
Here
This Far From the Sky
In Freedom
Anekdoten, 'Live EP'

Live EP  (1997,  25.32)  ****/TTTT

Nucleus
The Flow
A Way of Life
Karelia
Anekdoten, 'From Within'

From Within  (1999,  51.06)  ****½/TTTT

From Within
Kiss of Life
Groundbound
Hole
Slow Fire
Firefly
The Sun Absolute
For Someone
Anekdoten, 'Gravity'

Gravity  (2003,  46.24)  ****/TTTT

Monolith
Ricochet
The War is Over
What Should But Did Not Die

SW4
Gravity
The Games We Play
Seljak
Anekdoten, 'Waking the Dead'

Waking the Dead, Live in Japan 2005  (2005,  78.56)  ****½/TTTT½

Monolith
From Within
Kiss of Life
Hole

SW4
Moons of Mars
The Sun Absolute
Ricochet
Gravity
This Too Will Pass
Sad Rain
Anekdoten, 'A Time of Day'

A Time of Day  (2007,  45.03)  ****/TTTT

The Great Unknown
30 Pieces
King Oblivion
A Sky About to Rain
Every Step I Take
Stardust and Sand
In for a Ride
Prince of the Ocean
Anekdoten, 'Chapters'

Chapters  (2009,  127.35)  ****½/TTTTT

Ricochet
The Great Unknown
From Within
In for a Ride
The War is Over
Monolith
A Sky About to Rain
Every Step I Take
Groundbound
Gravity
When I Turn
Sad Rain (alt mix)
Wheel
The Old Man & the Sea
Nucleus (demo)
Book of Hours (demo)
This Far From the Sky (demo)
30 Pieces (demo)
Prince of the Ocean (demo)
Anekdoten, 'Until All the Ghosts Are Gone'

Until All the Ghosts Are Gone  (2015,  46.22)  ****½/TTTT

Shooting Star
Get Out Alive
If it All Comes Down to You
Writing on the Wall
Until All the Ghosts Are Gone
Our Days Are Numbered
V/A, 'Progfest '94'

Progfest '94  (1995,  14.39)  ****/TTTT

[Anekdoten contribute]
Muscle Beach Benediction
Wheel
Mars
V/A, 'This is an Orange'

This is an Orange  (1995,  7.20)  ****½/TTTT

[Anekdoten contribute]
Cirkus (live)
V/A, 'Third Cyclops Sampler'

The Third Cyclops Sampler  (1996,  9.36)  ***/TT

[Anekdoten contribute]
Book of Hours (live)

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

In the early '90s, a whole crop of bands sprung up in Sweden, all seemingly dedicated to playing progressive rock as it was, rather than is; as a result, some of the best prog of the decade was recorded in the space of a few years in one small spot on the globe. Änglagård were the first, but Anekdoten were nipping at their heels. The two bands had an approach in common, but Anekdoten were far more Crimson than Änglagård; in fact, some people accused them of being copyists. The influence is undeniable, but Anekdoten have their own style, and have moved away from their original template over the course of their four studio albums. Now, I'd already 'decided' which tracks did and didn't feature the 'Tron, but the band have posted an official list on their site, rather blowing some of my ideas out of the water.

Vemod's opening track, Karelia, opens with Mellotron bassoon, with guitarist Nicklas Berg playing a doomy minor-key part, building up until the strings come in, very effectively capturing the 'arctic wasteland' feel of the area for which the song is named. Anekdoten owned a Mark V 'Tron at the time, and could play two parts simultaneously, a trick they use to great effect throughout the album. After a minute of so of solo 'Tron, the whole band break in with a heavy Crimsonesque feel, which they keep up for second song The Old Man & The Sea. After the vocal section, there's a burst of 'Tron choir, with some superbly effective chords. In fact, there's not one track on the album without some Mellotron somewhere. Anna-Sofi Dahlberg's cello is also used very effectively, although she spends much of her time at the 'Tron. The Japanese version of the album (as with so many) adds an otherwise unavailable track, Sad Rain, at ten minutes, one of the longest the band has written. Once again, it's soaked in 'Tron strings and flute; worth finding, as long as you don't have to pay a fortune for it.

Anekdoten, from 'Official Bootleg'

Second album Nucleus immediately showed signs of a stylistic change; more dissonance was in evidence, along with longer songs. It's debatable whether the album was actually an improvement over its predecessor, but it's a very strong collection, whatever. An advancement on the Mellotron front is the introduction of vibes; In Freedom features them played solo. Grungy as hell, there's no doubt that they're the real deal, key-click and all. Like Vemod, this is an essential purchase; Book Of Hours is an absolute classic, and despite (or maybe because of) its more diverse feel, Nucleus is really quite essential.

A hard-to-find Japanese release, Live EP is worth buying if you can ever find it. Three tracks drawn from their first two albums, with one piece of improv. Like King Crimson, Anekdoten are keen on improvisation, and this is a particularly good example of their craft. There was also a Japanese double-live CD, Official Bootleg: Live in Japan (*****), but as they were only using Mellotron samples it doesn't qualify for inclusion here (see review below). For all that, it's a great album, featuring an early version of From Within's Groundbound and two otherwise unreleased tracks, but it's hellishly hard to find, and expensive if you can track it down.

Anekdoten on stage
photo: Sven Eriksen

There was a lengthy wait between Anekdoten's second and third albums; From Within finally appeared in time for their European tour in late '99. It is immediately apparent that the band have quietened down a little in the interim; there is still plenty of intensity, but less pure noise. Some reviews have called the album 'more mature'; however you see it, it's another great record. Less immediate than its predecessors, it benefits from being given time; once more, no duff tracks, although maybe less truly outstanding ones than in the past. Interestingly, according to the list below, the band used several Chamberlin sounds via Mellotron, notably on Firefly and Sun Absolute, giving a distinctly different sound to the album.

Anekdoten's fourth album in a decade, Gravity, follows a familiar path, with the songs making a logical progression from that on From Within, being more groove-based and less 'Crimsonic' than before. That isn't to say it's more dynamic; live, the earlier material sounds less 'samey' than the later, if more derivative. The material actually sounds better in its recorded form, with a rare acoustic guitar on The War Is Over, and for the first time, none of Anna-Sofi's cello, as she shifts across to full-time keys, adding a good dose of Farfisa to the mix this time round. On the 'Tron front, it's the usual complement of strings and flutes, played by not only Dahlberg and Berg (now Barker), but also drummer Peter Nordins. SW4 (yes, it's about London) doesn't appear to feature any 'Tron sounds, despite the faux flutes, and The Games We Play has Mellotron wineglasses (!), and it's full steam ahead on everything else, with more of those Chamberlin sounds cropping up.

Their second official live album is Waking the Dead, Live in Japan 2005, proving, if nothing else, that they a) have an enthusiastic Japanese audience and b) make good live albums there. This time round, they seem to've borrowed a monstrous three Mellotrons, with Nordins again playing one, although the main player is definitely Anna-Sofi, who seems to've given up on cello entirely. The material is largely culled from their two previous studio albums, with ripping versions of the likes of Kiss of Life and The Sun Absolute, although the album's chief appeal lies in two new pieces, the Mellotron trio Moons Of Mars and This Too Will Pass, plus a version of Vemod's Japanese-only track, Sad Rain, although this still isn't available on a European release... Much Mellotron, although not knowing the stage setup slightly hampers identification of sounds and players. Apart from the ubiquitous strings, I can hear cellos, flutes and vibes, though strangely, no choirs. Other sounds are possible, though I don't think the solo violin is any sort of tape-replay, which almost certainly means it is. All in all, an excellent addition to the Anekdoten catalogue, although as with all Japanese releases, you're not going to find it cheap.

The usual several-year wait preceded the release of 2007's A Time of Day, and on its release it proved to be... another Anekdoten album. No problem there in principle, but apart from a slight stylistic shift in the late '90s, they don't sound that different to the young guns of fifteen years ago, though whether you consider that to be a good or bad thing is entirely up to you. The band's keyboard palette has grown this time round, with not only an unidentified organ on a couple of tracks, sounding not unlike Rick Wright's Farfisa, but credited Moog too, plus a sleeve photo of the band clustered around an uncredited VCS3. Dahlberg and Barker's Mellotron work is, of course, everywhere, with the usual strings dominating, plus cellos (or are they real?) and vibes, though the flute is definitely real. Is that Mellotron brass on Prince Of The Ocean? Hard to tell - it could be Moog, or a combination of the two... I'm hoping Anekdoten's website administrator adds the 'Tron sounds on this album to their list sometime soon, so I can, er, rip it off for this page. Anyway, another half-decade, another Anekdoten album. Don't get me wrong - it's a good record, but doesn't break any new ground, and maybe at this stage in their career the band need to be seen to be taking a few chances. Or maybe not. Buy it anyway.

Instead of taking a chance, though, the band opted to release their first compilation in 2009, Chapters, albeit one with a difference, containing not only one new track, but also most of a disc of hard-to-find tracks and demos. All but one from disc one are the band's 'best of' their three previous albums; difficult to argue here - it's a good selection, but you could say that almost any selection from them would be good. Anyway, we get a mere two from my personal favourite of those three, From Within and four each from Gravity and A Time of Day, making for a good primer of their more recent work. The disc's final track is When I Turn, finally recorded as the band would like, featuring Spiritual Beggars/Opeth man Per Wiberg on piano, a worthy addition to their catalogue featuring an unusual 'Tron flute part, plus strings. Disc two's where the real meat'n'potatoes lies, though, opening with a remix of legendarily elusive early classic (and the band's longest-ever piece) Sad Rain, pretty much indistinguishable from the original, before re-runs of two tracks from Vemod. The next three selections are Nucleus-era demos (the title track, Book Of Hours and This Far From The Sky), all interesting to hear, but inessential to all but the hardcore fan, while the last two tracks are demos of two more tracks from A Time of Day, bringing the set's count up to six from that release in one form or another. Overall, then, an ideal first purchase for the sceptic, while the band's fanbase will want to hear the demos, the new track and Sad Rain without having to buy one of two expensive Japanese-only releases.

After an unprecedented eight-year wait, 2015's Until All the Ghosts Are Gone can be considered a triumphant return to form, successfully combining the sound of their first two releases with that of their later albums. With no fewer than four tracks topping the seven-minute mark, it's safe to say that Anekdoten are back in 'prog' territory after a lengthy diversion, highlights including opener Shooting Star and closer Our Days Are Numbered, both featuring the reintroduction of their original, more complex compositional style. Mellotron on all six tracks, with (unless my ears deceive me) less variety than in the past, mostly string, flute and choir parts, top use including the string line in Writing On The Wall, reminiscent of Nucleus' Book Of Hours and an angular, monophonic choir part lurching across the rhythm on Our Days Are Numbered. Dare I say, "Best since Nucleus"?

There are several compilations featuring exclusive live Anekdoten recordings, including Progfest '94 (a 'Tron free improv and two Vemod tracks), The Third Cyclops Sampler, with a ripping version of Book Of Hours and the super-rare This is an Orange from early in the band's career, where they tear up Crimso's Cirkus on their MkV to good effect. I believe the Progfest CD is the only one of these still available; only 250 copies of This is an Orange were ever produced, and even CD-R copies are hard to find.

So, for fans of either the Mellotron or pure, undiluted Crimsonesque progressive rock, it's difficult to go wrong with Anekdoten. All their albums are more than worthy of your time. Buy.

Just out of interest, the band's official site actually lists all the Mellotron sounds used (up to Gravity, at the time of writing), so here they are:

And a quick YouTube vid...

albums
Anekdoten, 'Official Bootleg: Live in Japan'

Official Bootleg: Live in Japan  (1998,  110.45)  *****

Karelia
The Old Man and the Sea
Harvest
Slow Fire
Thoughts in Absence
Road to Nowhere
Book of Hours
The Flow
Groundbound
Where Solitude Remains
Wheel
Tabatah
Nucleus
Rubankh, part 1 & 2

Current availability:

Anekdoten are known as one of the current progressive scene's major Mellotron users, touring with one when playing in Europe, and frequently borrowing one (or more) when further afield. However, going by the pictures inside the lavish packaging, their first full live album, 1998's Official Bootleg: Live in Japan, sees them using samples exclusively, doubtless due to the problems involved in sorting out 'Tron hire in foreign climes. The double CD is stunning, featuring the very best of their early repertoire, plus several new tracks, although going by the setlist provided in one of the booklets, it seems a couple of tracks remain unreleased in any form. This is Anekdoten in full flight, captured just before their style changed to a more 'modern rock' direction, although two of the tracks turned up on the following year's From Within.

The 'Mellotron' sounds are as spot-on as any samples I've heard, doubtless recorded from the band's own machine, and if I didn't know better, would easily have fooled my ears. Pretty much every track features the thing somewhere, mostly strings, with the odd bit of choir, flutes, vibes, plus bassoon on Karelia, although this particular sound doesn't fare so well. Despite not being 'real', this is a 'Tron-lover's delight, as you might have expected from this band. All in all, Official Bootleg is a great live album, pretty much faultless, in fact, and the lack of real Mellotron shouldn't put anyone off, on the offchance that it might. It's devilishly hard to get hold of, but persevere; it's worth it.

bootlegs

Folkoperan, Stockholm, 29th August 1997  (54.54)  ****½/TTTT½

The Old Man and the Sea
Slow Fire
Thoughts in Absence
Book of Hours
Karelia
Nucleus
Wheel
Tabatah

Mellotron used:

The only officially-available real-Mellotron live Anekdoten prior to 2005's Waking the Dead is '97's Live EP, leaving a hole in their discography, Mellotronically speaking. Pictorial evidence tells us that they used samples at their 2000 NEARfest performance, leaving me with the slightly thin-sounding radio broadcast of August '97's set at the Stockholm Folkoperan. The band were clearly on a roll at that point, ripping out selections from their two studio releases plus a new track, Tabatah, still only available on the following year's Official Bootleg. Highlights include The Old Man And The Sea, Book Of Hours and Nucleus, but you'll struggle to find any low points here.

Nicklas and Anna Sofi both play what I presume to be the band's MkV, replicating most of the studio parts, although I wonder whether they may've employed a sampler, too. Aside from the ubiquitous flutes and strings, notable Mellotron passages include the oboes on Thoughts In Absence, Book Of Hours and Karelia, the vibes on Tabatah and choirs dotted about here and there. I don't know whether anyone's put this recording online, but if you get the chance to hear it, do so.

links

Official site

Unofficial site

See: Nicklas Barker | Cyclops Samplers | Progfest | This is an Orange | My Brother the Wind


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