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ANEKDOTEN: VEMOD (Virta 001) [1993]

VEMOD +bonus track (Arcangelo ARC-1001) [1995]

NUCLEUS (Virta 002) [1995]

LIVE EP (Arcangelo ARC-1035) [1997]

LIVE IN JAPAN (Arcangelo ARC-1036/37) [1998]

Anekdoten is one of the more interesting Swedish bands to come along in the nineties. Following on the heels of the (now defunct) Swedish band Anglagard, and a contemporary of Landberk, Anekdoten has drawn considerable inspiration from the seventies King Crimson, and is often referred to by progressive rock enthusiasts as a good band to listen to while waiting for King Crimson to make up its mind on its new direction and begin recording again.

Anekdoten is basically a quartet, although it occasionally used an outside musician. Nicklas Berg plays guitar and keyboards; Anna Sofi Dahlberg plays electric cello, keys, and sings; Jan Erik Liljestrom plays bass and sings; and Peter Nordin is the drummer. The keyboards (played interchangeably by Nicklas and Anna Sofi in live performance) are a (real) Mellotron and a sampler which includes Mellotron samples (but has a brighter sound), in addition to piano and pump organ (harmonium). The combination of pump organ, Mellotron, and a deeply bowed cello creates a rich dark sound of brooding intensity in places. Rounding this out is not only the sometimes clangorous guitar, but (on VEMOD) occasional cornet or flugelhorn -- varieties of trumpet.

The music draws upon King Crimson's darker and more violent music -- like "21st Century Schizoid Man." The lyrics (in English) are sometimes doleful, and rarely intrusive. Anekdoten understands the Crimsonic use of contrast, but tends to offer contrasting tempos and dynamics. The prettier, "I Talk To The Wind," side of King Crimson is not used.

There are, to date, only two studio albums -- VEMOD and NUCLEUS. But VEMOD exists in two versions, the Swedish, released in 1993, and the Japanese, in 1995. The packaging is nearly identical (Arcangelo adds a separate booklet in Japanese), but the Japanese version has an added bonus track, "Sad Rain," for an additional ten minutes of music, making this edition the better buy. (The lyrics for the eighth track are substituted in the main booklet for the page on which the band's personnel was previously listed, however, including credits to Per Wiberg for additional piano and to Par Ekstrom for the flugelhorn and cornet.) I like VEMOD a lot. The music is rich and varied and its appeal to anyone who likes vintage King Crimson is undeniable, but this is not copy-cat music. Rather, Anekdoten has been mining an area of music which Crimson seems to have largely abandoned, to the dismay of some of its fans. The cornet/flugelhorn over Mellotron is particularly effective, and makes me wish Crimson would give up its fixation with guitars and guitar-synthesizers in its current double-trio incarnation.

NUCLEUS has disappointed some people who liked VEMOD. The trumpet is gone (although Helena Kallander guests on violin), and the production has a modern, Seattle-grunge sound that has put some people off. But, once one gets past this, the music is as strong and no less interesting, albeit less directly Crimson-inspired. Anekdoten is developing its own voice.

In addition to the two studio albums, there are two live albums, both issued in Japan. These do not come in jewel boxes but in stiff cardboard mini-LP-style sleeves, roughly 5-1/4 inches square, which open as gatefolds like the fancier LP packages of yore -- a growing trend in CD packaging in Japan. LIVE EP runs a bit over 25 minutes long. It was "recorded one night in Cozmoz, Borlange, Sweden, 1996." It contains four tracks, the third of which, "A Way of Life," is new. "Nucleus" is from the second album, "The Flow" and "Karelia" from the first. The performances (by the basic quartet) are strong.

LIVE IN JAPAN (subtitled "Official Bootleg") contains over 110 minutes of music (on two CDs) and four new songs, "Slow Fire" and "Road to Nowhere" on the first CD, and "Groundbound" and "Tabatah" on the second. This was recorded in Tokyo on October 11 and 12, 1997. Again, this is the basic quartet, with no guest musicians. The almost two hours of music covers much of their repertoire and again the performances are strong, if lacking the subtlety and finesse of a studio production. However both live albums are quite well recorded; this is not a "bootleg" in sound quality.

I saw Anekdoten in July, 1998, at the Phantasmagoria outside Washington, D.C. -- where I had the opportunity to buy both live albums. I was impressed by that performance, despite some sound problems. This is a band who have had the time to develop over time, perfecting both their music and their performance. They have recognized and pursued an area of music pioneered but largely abandoned by King Crimson, and we in the audience are lucky they have. This is strong stuff and comes strongly recommended.

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