Trad Gras Och Stenar - "Punkrocker" (Homeless Cats)
Sweden’s trance-rock pioneers Trad Gras Och Stenar assembled Homeless Cats to mark the band’s 40th anniversary. The collage of studio and live recordings, made between 2002 and 2007, could be the last to feature guitarist and composer BoAnders Persson, who recently left the group because of tinnitus. But he’s here for at least one more round, along with the rest of the core lineup: guitarist Jakob Sjöholm, bassist Torbjorn Abelli and drummer Thomas Mera Gartz.
Surprisingly, this isn’t retread material. The disc expands considerably on the group’s long-form sound, encompassing many other musical influences and exhibiting further curiosities. Myriad musical types, several of them opposites, are apparent as the disc proceeds along its eclectic path. The opening tune, “Punkrocker,” seems to contain an element of parody on first listen, but its slow three-chord drag and introspective lyrics speak to a possible sympathy. Gartz injects much of the track with bursts of freedom that belie as much jazz influence as rock, and the song sounds decidedly un-punk as the protagonist’s isolation is exposed. The almost durgy homage contrasts completely with “Summer Disco,” a bubbling bit of strictly metric lightness that dances along as its name suggests. Inhabiting a totally different world is the monumental “Don’t Fear the Northern Lights,” which breathes crushing dissonances and meterless freedom before morphing into one of the slowly building drones characteristic of the band’s classic sound.
The multilayered guitars hold it all together, giving each tune continuity in context. Thrumming and shimmering by turn, oozing a mixture of liquid and metal with vibrato all but absent, they provide perfect support for Abelli and Gartz to emote in whatever style they choose. On “The Unexpected Encounter in the Mushroom Forest,” the guitars can be heard without any rhythm section, their slow swells and fades transcending mere drone in favor of much more intricate sound sculptures, akin to those by Kawabata Makoto, with whom the band has toured.
Given the many styles on offer, the album’s title is appropriate. In between many of these tracks can be heard the sounds of travel, its associated movement, clanking and disembodied voices mirroring the tales in the accompanying booklet. The music also swims in and out of focus, as if each was a snapshot, a transitory moment on a long and often humorous journey. While it’s somewhat of a departure for the group, this is a fine album, recorded as well as it’s played.