Dusted Reviews

Bjorn Olsson - UPA

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Bjorn Olsson

Album: UPA

Label: Gravitation

Review date: Jan. 27, 2003

Eclectic Swedish Psychedelia

Maybe it’s something in their sparkling mineral water, but suddenly Sweden is the hippest slab of land on the map. From the pages of Rolling Stone to finicky little indie pubs, the wealthy, Northern cap of Europe is being hailed as the new golden-land of rock. However, while most of the Scandinavian tunes making waves in the States are mediocre throwbacks to ’70s punk and psychedelia, the scene that birthed them still has a few surprises stuffed up its fashionable sleeve.

As founding member of retro-psych hipsters Soundtrack Of Our Lives, and prior to that Swedish legendaries Union Carbide Productyions, Bjorn Olsson has established a cozy little niche for himself in the Swede rock world. Yet, after Soundtrack’s excellent 1997 full-length Welcome to the Infant Freebase, Olsson split from the touring faction of the band, deciding instead to focus on solo material.

UPA, Olsson’s latest offering, is a complex and vivid journey through Bacharach-inspired orchestral pop and soothing psychedelia. Assembling a group of 16 musicians, Olsson assumes the position of master composer, creating what Brian Wilson referred to as “pocket symphonies” of sound. Though not shrouded in pop harmonies, Olsson’s work echoes Wilson’s in its warm atmospherics and intricate instrumental layering.

“Schweinfest” opens the disc with found-sound samples and heavily distorted guitars crunching over a playful Caribbean melody. Sounding like an island-hopping Martin Rev, the track is a slightly off-putting way to start the album as neither the tempo nor the kitschy melodicism is revisited. Yet “Schweinfest” succeeds in catching the listener’s ear, securing undiluted attention for the disc’s subtler moments.

“Tema IV” offers the first glimpse of Olsson’s true compositional genius. Beginning as an ethereal march, the tune evolves in a whirl of tugging strings. “Hello !” continues the album’s turn towards the chill with a lulling trumpet melody and shimmering, delicately picked guitars. The sun-drenched lounge groove of “#22” adds cooing female vocals to heavily-reverbed guitar, eventually sounding like Calexico gone space-rock.

Yet, just when it feels as if Olsson has gone all soft and serene, he counters with the album closing 7-minute prog-psych opus “Tema I.” Synths, strings and a gun-shot snare beat rattle before a 4/4 pulse carries the tune towards the dance-floor. To this, Olsson adds grating slices of buzzsaw guitars. As the instruments swerve and dance in and out of the mix, the tune blares on in primal immediacy.

“Tema I” provides the perfect super-charged freak-out closer, but – interestingly enough – Olsson tacks a complete, lo-fi mix of the album onto the end of the disc. “Version 2,” as it’s called, only slightly differs from the original, and therefore, it's hard to merit its inclusion.

UPA may not get Bjorn Olsson mentioned in Spin’s “Who’s Who of Swedish Rock” lists, but the album is a fascinating example of one musician’s creative vision. Olsson should be applauded for creating a record that reveals the style, grace and attention to detail that Sweden will be remembered for long after this rock fad has faded.

By Ethan Covey

Read More

View all articles by Ethan Covey

Find out more about Gravitation

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.