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After 30 years, Swedish prog-rockers Träd Gräs och Stenar touch down in the States

Wednesday, Oct 15 2003
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Umlaut alert! A mere three-plus decades after its inception, legendary Swedish group Träd Gräs och Stenar (aka TGS) is finally getting around to its first-ever U.S. tour. The band's name -- meaning "Trees Grass and Stones" -- is actually the final appellation of a series of extraordinary Swede drone-rock bands that included Pärson Sound, Harvester, and International Harvester. While each had a distinctive sound, all shared the same core members and a hypnotic acid-jam aesthetic some have termed "international krautrock."

While rare TGS vinyl has long been the obsession of the collector contingent, popular interest in the shambling, improvisational psychedelia of the band and its precursors has seen a recent resurgence. In late 2002, a New York label called 1/2 Special rereleased two live TGS albums, Djunglens Lag and Mors Mors, which were originally put out on the band's own Tall imprint in 1972-73. Odd amalgams of stoned Velvet Underground minimalism, free-jazz extemporization, trippy, rhythm-centric communalism, and distorted dueling guitar jams, these arcane slices of hippie history still prove engrossing and visionary.

Last year also saw the release of modern studio recordings on the CD Ajn Shvajn Draj via Sweden's Silence label, with a cleaner, more processed update of the group's sound that compares favorably to contemporary Euro-prog/post-rock artists like France's Ulan Bator and Italy's Larsen. The disc includes two covers of the Fugs classic "Nothing" -- in Swedish. TGS has a penchant for blasted renditions of rock classics by the likes of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones: In the current issue of Spin, writer Will Hermes calls the band's 1970 meltdown of the Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" a "quite satisfying" howling 11-minute freakfest, adding that Stephen Malkmus christened TGS "one of the best heavy-psych-improv-folk-blues-rock bands ever. " So if you'd like to see what kind of band the guy from Pavement worships, head on down to the Bottom of the Hill tonight. Hey, it's cheaper than flying to Scandinavia.

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Mike Rowell

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