The Talmud teaches that the loss of a single life is like the destruction of an entire world. But the passing of the prodigiously productive, beguilingly creative Swedish musician Lars Hollmer, who died at the age of 60 after a brief and sudden illness, is more like the end of a steadily expanding galaxy. The posthumously complied album, With Floury Hand (Sketches) makes a compelling case for the vast scope and idiosyncratic humanity of Hollmer’s kaleidoscopic musical vision. A composer of astonishing range and depth who combined earthy folk forms with a wide torrent (rock, jazz, film scores, carnival and circus music, classical and more!) of contemporary musical currents, Hollmer’s music transcended any single musical genre and evoked the heart and soul of traditional Scandinavian music. Like Astor Piazzola (Argentina), Ivo Paposav (Bulgaria), and Fela Kuti (Nigeria), he was a musician/composer who created radically unique, modern music that paid homage to indigenous folk forms. Beloved in his native land, which awarded him a Swedish Grammy for 1998’s Andetag, and long revered internationally by the musical avant-garde, he died on Christmas Day 2008, on the verge of gaining overdue popular recognition on music’s global stage.
An accordionist, keyboardist, vocalist and composer who has written scores for film, theater and dance projects, Hollmer played a central role in numerous bands, while sustaining longstanding relationships with a global array of musicians. In a four-decade career defined by a gift for passionate collaboration, he was a galvanizing force in an array of musical contexts, from the Nordic progressive rock of Samla Mammas Manna and the Japanese collaborative ensemble SOLA to the international genre-exploding conclave of Accordion Tribe and the guitar explorations of Fred Frith. A charter member of the hugely influential Rock In Opposition (RIO) movement launched by Henry Cow in the late 1970s, Hollmer performed with Samla Mammas Manna at the first RIO festival in London in 1978. He continued to work with Frith (Henry Cow), Michel Berckmans (Univers Zero), and other globe-trotting RIO stars throughout his lifetime. Shortly before his death, besides membership in the international Accordion Tribe supergroup, Hollmer was performing at festivals and touring on three continents with an unprecedented number of ensembles from Sweden, Japan and French Canada (Jean Derome, FanFare Pourpour, Miriodor), and appearing on numerous recordings. At the same time, he was collaborating with the Japanese Disk Union and American Cuneiform labels to release a solo album. In May 2008, Cuneiform released the beautifully brooding Viandra world-wide (excepting Japan). Hollmer’s 12th solo album and his first-ever released in the USA, Viandra was greeted with a deluge of positive reviews in the international music press.
On the cusp of greater recognition following Viandra’s release, Hollmer was stricken before he had a chance to record a follow-up. Assembled by his son, Gabriel Strand Hollmer, With Floury Hand provides an unvarnished look at a brilliant composer whose work is so protean that an uninitiated listener might swear it was the output of half a dozen artists. The two-disc package features a CD of fascinating studio odds and ends gleaned from Hollmer’s personal archives, and a DVD of two 2005 live performances, including a sensational set from the Gouveia Art Rock Festival and an intimate duo performance in a Northern European cafe.
Listening to the CD is like stepping into Hollmer’s legendary home studio in Uppsala, the Chickenhouse, and watching his capaciously inventive mind at work. Recorded between the early 1980s and 2008, the 26 tracks encompass a myriad of moods, styles and textures. Constructed via multitracking as he employed his full arsenal, including accordion, keyboards, melodica, ukulele, mandolin, sequencers, drum machine, percussion, and vocals, the music touches on the full range of human experience. Achingly beautiful, sardonic, gloriously grooving, manic, tender and ferocious, the tunes feel lovingly hand made, as if he pulled the various influences, themes and traditions out of his toolkit and worked them together to see how they fit.