REVIEW: Dan Berglund’s Tonbruket at the Vortex

Tonbruket: Dan Berglund, Martin Hederos, Johan Lindström, Andreas Werliin - Photo credit and © Fredrik Wennerlund / ACT Music


Dan Berglund’s Tonbruket, 
 (Vortex, Dalston 2 May 2017. Review by Rob Mallows)

In his review of Tonbruket’s most recent album Forevergreens fellow London Jazz News reviewer Patrick Hadfield questioned whether there was a "lack of passion and drive” from bassist Dan Berglund’s band on their fourth album and an overly eclectic mix of styles (LINK). Might  Forevergreens, perhaps, have been a crossover too far for this genre-defying band?

I came to the Vortex not having heard this most recent album. After sitting through a bombastic performance of it, maybe the lesson is that the purpose of some albums only becomes fully apparent when they’re given full rein in the live arena. Drive and passion were definitely not in short supply here.

Unlike former EST bandmate Magnus Öström, who has pursued a rhythmically focused jazz-rock, quasi-electronica route to express his musical ideas, with albums full of snappy hooks and complex time signatures and dotted lines back to EST, Dan Berglund has taken a more challenging route.

With Tonbruket, he jettisoned much of his EST heritage and incorporated a broader palette of rock, psychedelia and folk into his career as an ACT artist. At times during this gig, indeed, there was little that was recognisably ‘jazz’.

This may be down to the fact that the origins of three-quarters of Tonbruket lie outside the jazz mainstream. The band - guitaristJohan Lindström, keyboardist Martin Hederos and drummer Andreas Werliin, all have their origins elsewhere in Sweden’s music scene. Lindström's use of an effect-heavy slide guitar on many of the tracks was straightaway a heavy hint to the fact that Tonbruket’s music sits definitely outside the jazz mainstream.

The show was loud, brash and explosive, but also at times temperate, full of 180-degree shifts as sheets of wallpaper-peeling sound gave way to quiet, contemplative interludes. On a track like Tarantella, the band sounded like the elephant parade as the circus comes to town with its thumping drumming and cacophony of whirligig chords from Hederos’ keyboard, with Berglund's insistent, simple bass line punching through the lower registers to impact the audience.

By way of contrast, on a track like Music for the Sun King, Tonbruket were ethereal, as Berglund’s unwavering bass motif over two octaves in 9/8 - one of the loveliest bass lines I’ve heard for a while - and Lindström’s lyrical slide guitar took the audience on a meander through a forest glade.

Then it was back again to more bombast and energy, with Linton all distorted guitar, four-four rock beats and keyboard eruptions that sounded like the noises you find as you tune a short wave radio.

Martin Herderos’ keyboards are the defining element of Tonbruket’s live experience. He’s a livewire player, head bobbing Thom Yorke-style as he furiously twisted every knob and dial on his numerous keyboards as if he was trying to tune into radio messages from a distant star. In so doing, he produced some of the most unsettling keyboard tones I’ve heard in a while. This wasn’t a gig where the audience could keep one ear on the music while checking their Twitter feed. Full attention was necessary at all times.

Tonbruket offered up heavy punches and tender caresses which made for a cracking live experience. The Vortex audience experienced psychedelia, heavy - almost Kraut - rock, folk sidebars and, thanks to the slide guitar, even a hint of country. Eclectic? Sure. But it all flowed together as a whole rather well on the night.

Sure, there wasn’t a great deal of easily identifiable jazz, but so what? The audience were appreciative of this buffet of musical choices served up by Dan Berglund and his band and left happy which is, ultimately, the name of the game.

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