We haven’t written about ‘1900’ before, the project from Swedish musician and composer Christian Gabel, also known for being the drummer in the excellent Bob hund. The previous album was some 7 years ago, but after hearing the pre-album singles we’ve been awaiting release of his latest offering ‘Tekno’, with some intrigue and excitement, because we do like music that is original and challenges us to not always reach for our favourite but predictable melancholy folk or indie guitar band release each evening.
The key point to know up front about ‘1900’ is that all music is recorded on Tape, which I'd guess (there is simply no beginning to my knowledge on such technical matters...) is a huge restriction in terms of the musical inputs, but one that allows Christian Gabel to focus on what can be achieved rather than an open book offering a vast array of different technologies. And it gives the music real character, a feeling that you are entering a dusty library and unearthing a hidden manuscript – maybe to an extent similar to the warmth of 23:23 and his lo-fi exploits.
‘Tekno’ is a fairly extraordinary composition, instrumental focused music which is so diverse in its output that I'm reluctant to make too many comparisons, or suggest influences. However, opening with ‘Den modernitet som aldrig kom’ we’re offered a slowed down scratchy variation on Beethoven's ‘Moonlight’ Piano Sonata, and a building of an atmosphere and character which continues all the way through to the end of the album. 'Maskiner Åt Alla' builds continually with absorbing rhythmic drumming and handclapping, and the varying patterns formed remind me of Steve Reich and similar minimalist compositions.
But the highlights are still to come, recreating the song that Gabel saw a Brass Band perform in a church for a member that had passed away, 'Ljuva Mekaniska Jag' has the most strikingly beautiful theme, melancholy and respectful, but totally uplifting too - i can only imagine what the original must have sounded like. And then in 'Anti 1900' the emotional power increases yet further with the partial use of 91 year old Harry Smith's speech which charts the desperate struggles of life in his early years, and through it 1900s music is made even more compelling - Gabel came across the speech after he'd written the music, and the intonation and even imperfections in Smith's voice seem to fit perfectly, it is a fine tribute to his words. And i love the piano theme accompanied by metronome in 'Vi', a sound so familiar in my childhood but that I've rarely heard since.
'Tekno' seems very personal in its composition and I don't know the background behind every track, so i can only write about how this album makes me feel - and whilst it has a melancholy tone, it actually makes me feel positive, uplifted, wanting to celebrate diversity, natural beauty and love as well as think about loss and the sacrifices of previous generations. And to do that through a predominantly instrumental album makes it really special, even if i can't quite explain why it has has that impact. I think it is the personal nature of the recording techniques, the care that has gone into every note, the inspiration behind some of the tracks and the gorgeous if often simple musical themes. I totally accept that not everybody might find such an attachment to an album like this, but i really hope that you'll give this a try, because in '1900' and 'Tekno' we have something we should really treasure.
Nordic Music Review 9/10
'Tekno' is available on various streaming services, and you can buy it on Itunes here:
It is also available on Vinyl, try this link: