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Träden - Träden Music Album Reviews

The Swedish counterculture legends formerly known as Träd, Gräs och Stenar revisit the universe they created in the 1970s, building woolly, choogling rock songs that sound both earthy and sublime.

When Träd, Gräs och Stenar got started in 1969, they were a one-of-a-kind counterculture act. As famous for their expansive, psychedelic jams as they were for their sincere DIY ethos, the Swedish ensemble didn’t just book their own shows and foster a scene—they built their own gear and even cooked macrobiotic meals for audiences at their performances, which were frequently held outdoors.

Through these practices, the band (whose name translates to “Trees, Grass, and Stones”) developed a Be Here Now-adjacent ethos that resonated with left-leaning Swedes of the era. Today, the band endures as Träden (“The Trees”), with guitarist and vocalist Jakob Sjöholm as the sole holdover from those early days. The bandmates he’s recruited over the past decade include Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske and bassist Sigge Krantz, as well as drummer Hanna Östergren. On their self-titled LP, they reverently expand the Träd, Gräs och Stenar universe, building songs that sound both earthy and sublime.

At first blush, Träden easily recalls the early work of Träd, Gräs och Stenar, making the same gestures toward woolly, choogling rock. The band’s winding songs aren’t familiar, per se, but it’s easy to guess their arcs: The rhythm section rumbles along hypnotic grooves while jagged electric guitar riffs spiral in different directions. “När Lingon Mognar (Lingonberries Forever)” makes for a stately and sober opener, before the brisk romp “Kung Karlsson (King Karlsson)” stirs in some sunshine with keys that flit in and out of the mix like butterflies early in the track. From there, the album’s moods vary from the airy, peaceful aura of “Hoppas Du Förstår (Hope You Understand)” to the oozing darkness of “OTO” and the brooding “Hymn.” With the exception of the stormy closing track “Det Finns Blått (There Is Blue),” the music of Träden feels softer, gentler, and the slightest bit clearer on this release, an attribute that is a credit to high-fidelity recording as much as it is to the musicians’ chemistry.

It feels appropriate that the arboreal portion of the band’s original name has remained: Sjöholm’s weathered voice and the songs’ deliberate, unhurried pacing bring to mind a band made up of Ents, the anthropomorphic tree creatures from Tolkien’s Middle Earth, rather than human musicians. “Å Nej (Oh No),” which begins with rain sounds before a swampy acoustic guitar lick takes the lead, cements this impression. An electric guitar’s insectile buzzing furthers the song’s woodsy appeal.

But Träden’s insistence on following the Träd, Gras och Stenar blueprint is also the band’s greatest liability. So much of what made the original group so special was its attachment to particular sentiments, ideals, and people. The band’s ideology—and thus its music—was built on a community in a specific time and place, so what does it mean to reach for similar (if not exactly the same) ends in the absence of the same conditions?

In 2002, original Träd, Gräs och Stenar bassist Torbjörn Abelli (who died in 2010) wrote, “Our music was a sort of ritualistic battle cry, a call for people to be free, follow their own rhythm, their own harmony: set yourself free from your own oppressors.” The contemporary Träden offers one flavor of freedom, kicking open the gate to a new pasture in which listeners can frolic and find respite. If only the band could also break free of its own legacy.

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