Rymden ‘Space Sailors’ 2LP (Jazzland Recordings) 5/5

I love Rymden. So, unpredictably, I’m going to top and tail this review saying just how much I love Rymden. They enthral me with an easy rapport-building blend of power, wisdom, impish playfulness, prog earnestness, mind-bending musicianship and an improbably acute insight into the human condition. I’m sure they’d make great therapists (Gestalt); the sort who would confidently allow you to set the hourly rate. And their music is palpably “Music Made in Scandinavia”, which, I assume, is also part of their appeal to me.

With that first paragraph in mind, I guess the only question being posed here today is does the new album, “Space Sailors”, make me love Bugge Wesseltoft (keys), Dan Berglund (bass), Magnus Öström (drums) even more? Let’s see.

Berglund slaps down a distorted 25 or 6 to 4 bluesy bass riff to begin the trio’s narration of “The Life And Death Of Hugo Drax”. Öström anchors it with a chip pan rock beat and Wesseltoft briefly apes Berglund before some prog pixie frolicking then back into the riffing piano rock. Midway through we get a beautiful, swirling period of contemplation as ponderous Wesseltoft lines fleetingly hook and release. Then we’re back riffing and prog beasting the hell out of it to announce Drax’s demise. A variety-packed 4 minutes 43 seconds the experience of which was further enriched by it causing me to learn a new fact: ‘Moonraker’ is a, possibly pejorative, nickname for people from Wiltshire. Rymden inspire one to learn.

“The Space Sailor” is FUN. Pounding, high energy new wave drum and bass are mocked by giddy, angular keyboard. The atmosphere swells and bleeps and the sails billow, projecting us into a Bob Mortimer danceable Kraftwerk meets fusion space before, unexpectedly, the wind falls causing the sails to gradually slacken and the kraft to almost halt. The wind fortuitously returns, the sails extend again and the track picks up with even greater urgency than before, running to a self-satisfied abrupt end. Extraordinary.

A reflective space opens up via “Söndan”. A gently guiding, padding beat is embraced by Berglund’s paternal shapes as Wesseltoft floats free association melodies over their subtle empathy. Piano chords then deliver what, to me, is unfathomable; they speak of everything unspoken: love, fear, experiences, hope – all of it. Just a few piano chords…How can that be?

“Terminal One” grooves. It beats out a tik-tik-tik-tok yet still swaggers due to Berglund and Wesseltoft’s perfectly loose ‘n’ baggy story-telling delivery. Öström even breaks some fire beats yet it still swaggers on.

A perfectly pedalling NIN-ish metallic riff and a simple, evocative echoing piano motif makes “The Final Goodbye” a shifting, intense, irrevocable Godspeed. It has menace, authority, it’s not suffering fools, gladly or otherwise and it’s not here to play. “Pilgrimstad” feeds off that darker, insular mood; an intense Berglund-bowed solo poem to the home of Jämtlands Bryggeri beer.

“Arriving At Ramajay Part I” is short but epic, boldly building through Wesseltoft escalating patterns and chords, Berglund’s punctuation and Öström’s busyness.“Arriving At Ramajay Part II” initially has a foreboding synth pulse, a sinusoidal threat, however, a sky full of pervasive twinkles, pings and zaps offer glimmers of hope. There’s a brief touch of fusion Supertramp before an unexpected explosion of wonderfully filmic and upliftingly optimistic Jarre utopian spacefest. It then rests before firing up the engines again for another half-minute of excitement and a deft landing. And I thought Part I was epic.

“The Actor (Gonzo Goes To Pasadena)” is another throbber, more synth gallop this time, with Öström pushing, keeping it in-the-pocket tidy throughout. Wesseltoft stabs some slightly incongruous, slightly unnerving chords that are periodically, appeasingly anchored by a neat recurring 8 note motif. He then goes on an easy-tempered, eye-brow dancing, stroll with the Wurlitzer (or Rhodes? I can’t tell but, again, there’s something Supertrampy about it so…) before an energised, stuttering build to end.

Wesseltoft’s enchantingly pure melodies are so limpid, so emotive, so reflective in “My Life In A Mirror”. Initially only Berglund’s guttural bowed bass offers augmentation but as the piano grows more raw and insistent the quiet is filled with a mobilising structure on which piano and voice can now soar; free, purposeful and resolved.

And soaring is exactly what “Free As A Bird” does. Wesseltoft’s repeating piano pattern and Öström’s tightness let Berglund fly over land and sea with his synthy bow before Wesseltoft’s extensive, winsome Starcastle solo allows Öström to finally open his shoulders a bit too, which is always a good thing. “Söndan Outro” outs things and is another opportunity to be caressed by “Söndan”.

“Space Sailors” is a deeply immersive experience. Its accomplished, wide-ranging dynamic shifts of mood and sonics ensure there’s never a dull moment. Riveting performances from start to finish. Also, remarkably (given their combined experience), they’ve grown as a trio. They seem more confident; more prepared to try different things but also happier to do the simple, effective things. So there’s an easy answer to the question I posed earlier. Does “Space Sailors” make me love Rymden even more? Yes. Yes, it does.

Ian Ward

Read also:
Rymden ‘Reflections and Odysseys’ 2LP/CD (Jazzland Recordings) 5/5