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GOTHIC IMPRESSIONS (Crimsonic CLSCD 101) [1995]

RONDO (Crimsonic CLSCD 102) [1995]

BILBO (Crimsonic CLSCD 103) [1996]

MUNDUS INCOMPERTUS (Crimsonic CLSCD 104) [1997]

A mixed lot here: Par Lindh is a Swedish keyboard player who owns his own studio (Crimsonic) and his own label (also Crimsonic), and has released four somewhat different albums. Three of these albums are actually credited to the Par Lindh Project; BILBO is credited to Lindh and Bjorn Johansson.

GOTHIC IMPRESSIONS is the best of the lot. Its title is misleading if it conjures images of "Goth" rock. This is an album of heavily classically-inspired music -- much of it performed on Gothic church organs. Lindh explains in his notes, "The bulk of this music was written in the seventies and intended for release at that time. Unfortunately for many years the music industry has not had the courage to support progressive music and it has made any release of my material impossible until present day [1995]. However, at the beginning of this decade people have more and more come to question the value of much of the commercial nonsense that was predominant throughout the eighties and have started to look for a deeper and more meaningful musical language again. This has led to new opportunities for independent record labels ... to release music that takes risks and dares to break new ground which is what progressive music is all about...." And in a separate note, "About the recording: An effort has been made on this CD to minimize the use of modern synthesizer sound in favor of old fine acoustic and electric instruments like the Hammond organ, Mellotron, Clavinette, etc. No clicktracks or other musical crutches were used. Therefore, what you hear is musicians playing on their instruments and not programmers fiddling their computers." In just under 53 minutes, this album presents six tracks of music that meld classical and baroque organ with a modern progressive rock sensibility -- and includes a take on Mussorgsky's "Night On Bare Mountain." (This piece attracts rock musicians: Italy's New Trolls [Atomic System] did a good version back in the mid-seventies.) This is music which had time to mature over a period of roughly twenty years, and it shows it. As Lindh's first release on his own Crimsonic Label, it was auspicious, a very good beginning.


But the followup release, RONDO, was a serious letdown. An "EP" with only a bit more than 22 minutes of music, its title track is yet another weary rock retread of the old Brubeck classic -- and no improvement on the versions Keith Emerson was doing with the Nice thirty years ago. The CD has only four tracks and no real musical cohesion. After the Emerson-like "Rondo," there's "Allegro Percussivo Humerioso," whose title tells it all, "Jazz Eruption," and a spacey-limp "Solaris" brings the album to a quick close. I was initially astonished to realize these two albums had come from the same musician and label.

Then came BILBO, "Music Inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit.'" I'm almost as tired of Tolkien-inspired music as I am of Tolkien-inspired epic fantasy trilogies. Fellow Swede Bo Hansson offered his take on Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS (Silence Records, 1988 release on CD) in 1970, and as far as I'm concerned that was sufficient. Lindh takes his text from the earlier (and more child-oriented) The Hobbit, but he and guitarist Johansson create similar dreamy music full of images of magic, quasi-classical in sound and structure, but seamless and relatively low-key throughout. I keep listening to this album waiting for it to make an impression on me, but it refuses to emerge as more than pleasant background music. At 65 minutes in length it has time to develop musically, but instead just spreads out.


Lindh's newest album, MUNDUS INCOMPERTUS, returns in part to the strengths of GOTHIC IMPRESSIONS. It runs just under 43 minutes -- a more handleable length, both for Lindh and the listener. Like the first album, it draws upon classical themes (Bach and Vivaldi), but it also makes use of the jazz energies as displayed on RONDO, blending them together successfully. There are only three pieces: "Baroque Impression No. 1," "The Crimson Shield," and the title track, "Mundus Incompertus," which is broken down into thirteen separately titled subsections and runs almost 27 minutes. Despite Lindh's choice of names for his studio and label, there isn't much that sounds overtly "Crimsonic" in his music -- that is, nothing that sounds very much like the music of King Crimson. The closest he comes is in his (subtle) use of a Mellotron (which occupies an upfront place in a photo of his studio in the booklet for GOTHIC IMPRESSIONS). "The Crimson Shield" might be expected to reveal Crimson influences, but Magdalena Hagberg's vocals (here and on Lindh's other albums) are more evocative of Rennaisance, although the melody line and arrangement (12-string guitars and Mellotron) are reminiscent of early Crimson pieces like "Peace -- A Theme." I haven't fully digested this album yet, and I find it too easy to treat it as background music -- like BILBO -- but it has considerably more energy to recommend it.

Lindh is a contemporary of Roine Stolt (see my reviews of his albums elsewhere in these pages), and Stolt appears on GOTHIC IMPRESSIONS as both a mixing engineer and a guitarist on one track. But otherwise Lindh seems to be going it alone, on a separate path parallel to Stolt's. His approach, musically, is far more classically oriented -- and the fact that he plays mostly keyboards pushes him in a different direction as well. He seems to enjoy grandiose organ music and impressionistic piano, which he has pulled together into a personal style and approach. I recommend GOTHIC IMPRESSIONS highly, do not recommend RONDO, and recommend the remaining two albums subject to my caveats

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