LARS HOLLMER – With Floury Hand (Sketches)

Cuneiform

Lars Hollmer: accordion, keyboards, melodica, ukulele, mandolin, percussion, voices and more; Michel Berckmans: bassoon; Fizzé (Victor De Bros): accordion. Appearances on single tracks: Eino Haapala, Miriodor (Pascal Globensky, Bernard Falaise, Rémi LeClerc, Marie-Chantal LeClair, Nicolas Masino, Chantale Bergeron)

When Frank Zappa died in 1993 I was in such a state of shock that both listening to his records and watching him remained unfeasible for weeks, until one day I had the nerve to feed my VCR with Does Humor Belong In Music? and, as Zappa appeared from backstage in the video, I joined the cheering and clapping as an actual attendant of that evening’s concert (while alone in the house, in case you were worrying). Fifteen years later, Christmas 2008, the sudden news of Lars Hollmer’s passing left me in similar grieving stupor; another hero of mine had gone. Thus, when reading that Hollmer’s son Gabriel was initially having a hard time revisiting the tapes from which the material for this posthumous release was extracted, the sympathy was there from the beginning.

Published in 2012, this CD/DVD set might constitute an excellent point of entry for those who have never enjoyed Hollmer’s ingenious methods. On the other hand, the cognoscenti already know that everything contained here carries plenty of value, even in the shape of brief sketches like several of these earlier pieces are. Let’s call things with the right name; the guy was a genius, and this can be ascertained from different angles of analysis. Mixing witticism, a unique melancholy, a few hints to harmonic gloom and absolute technical command, LH was able to let his creations walk in total steadiness across myriads of melodic inventions, bizarre changes and unusual tempos. Ever tried to dance on “Utflykt Med Damcykel”? Careful not to hurt your ankles; even the great Michel Berckmans stresses himself quite a bit as he plays the piece on stage, Hollmer almost sadistically holding the 15-beat pulse in full-acceleration mode in spite of the old comrade’s difficulties.

Speaking of the DVD – a manna, pun intended, given the scarcity of footage regarding Hollmer – it features two gigs from 2005 (in Portugal with the aforementioned Berckmans and Miriodor in the final “Talrika”, and in a Swiss restaurant with Victor “Fizzé” De Bros – remember Kulu Hatha Mamnua and Peeni Waali?). The sets, especially the former, underline the utter wisdom – always permeated by dry humor – of Hollmer as a performer, those fantastic fingers finding ways to unreal listener’s felicity as he snorts and grunts while making his Zero Sette inhale and exhale. By the way, did anyone else notice the striking facial similarity between the Swedish master and Klaus Kinski?

The audio portion was compiled by Gabriel Strand Hollmer, ultimately keeping a promise made to dad (who had anticipated an album brimming with “weird ideas and weird songs” before the powers that be in heaven decided to discuss RIO directly with one of the protagonists). It’s a minor masterpiece featuring uncounted moments of funnily subversive activity, noble sarcasm and pure beauty; “Franklåt” still distributes immense joy as soon as it starts. I could list titles and pathetically try to explain why certain rhythmic singults work as perfectly as a 4/4, or emphasize how the composer’s brilliance was enough to set people comfortable by having them accepting cheap timbres as celestial voices and (apparent) nonsense as normalcy. Case in point: during the Portuguese evening, someone from the audience asks for a “waltz”, Hollmer promptly answering “we’re gonna play a strange waltz now” ahead of launching into the near-impossible, anti-foot tapping, über-fractured “Inte Quanta”.

Let me leave you with another memory. When I first listened to Fred Frith’s Gravity I was puzzled by a line on the cover: “Lasse, Hasse and Eino are members of Zamla”, entirely unaware of how much that “Lasse” would have changed my life as a listener AND musician from that moment on.
Thousands of smart-as-a-whip compositional designs, still appearing as suitable for children. Intelligence. Sensibility. Please gods – give him back to us, under some semblance.

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