So there you are again! It has been two years, you know! Have you been dancing in the woods and skinny-dipping in the lakes all that time? Now bring me back to my happy place, you darn Swedish hippies!
But let’s be serious for a moment: Even though I’ve only been able to see them in person once (and not even with the complete lineup) years ago, Agusa is a band which holds a special place in my heart. Thankfully they have been releasing studio and – in their case just as important – live albums quite regularly since their debut Högtid in 2014. They’ve never radically changed direction, but somehow always improved in some ways, where just staying as great as they were in 2015 on Två would probably have sufficed for most of their fans.
And while their album titles have generally been chosen wisely, I think that the term “Prima Materia” is especially on point, not necessarily for what Agusa’s music actually is, yet rather for how it feels. Technically their sound is build on the three main pillars Prog, Folk and Psychedelic Rock, which naturally didn’t just show up with the big bang, but all have their own history and evolution. So they surely are not the title’s unformed primal matter. Agusa however make me doubt that certitude, because the unworried fluidity in which the band brings these elements together gives the impression that all those funky, bluesy, jazzy, krautrocking pieces have just always somehow been there in this state of oneness. Maybe the band is scooping from a deep hereditary well of universal musical verity within us. Perhaps, only minimally phase-shifted from our perceptible universe, we’re actually constantly embraced by some kind of metaphysical, warm, intuitively familiar uterine goo, and dropping the needle on this record only gives us that final little push to enter that particular plane of reality. Maybe there’s no sound on this recording at all but merely the white noise from before the creation of time, which only springs into its predestined shape in the moment anyone presses Play. Who knows?
Of course I’ll admit that a certain nostalgia for a time before my time might amplify these notions, because as always the spirit of the early 1970’s is undeniably all over Prima Materia. But whatever the true deciding factor may be, the bottom line is that Agusa’s music never fails to instantly fill me with joy.
That doesn’t mean at all their long instrumental tracks are always sweet and fluffy. While they indeed can be light-hearted and playful, there’s also room for eeriness, earnestness and gravity. Agusa’s stories are complex and many-faceted, but they are are told in a deliberately naive, naturally fairytale-like language. Imagine being a child on the lap of a gifted storyteller who sits on an old wing chair; He can never keep his legs quite still, so you’re always bouncing and dancing a little, even while you’re filled with wonder by the words or mesmerised by the narrative tone.
Agusa’s main narrators beside Mikael Ödesjö on the obvious guitar are Roman Andrén on organ and - completely surrogating the role of a vocalist in a similar way trumpet or saxophone players often do it in Jazz groups - Jenny Puertas on flute. All of them thrive to ecstatic highs on top of an incredibly vibrant rhythm section, yet noone takes off too far beyond the fantastic dynamic synergy of the whole. You can tell that this isn’t a project stitched together on a home studio computer screen, but a group which really loves coming together to develop and play their music. These magical forty minutes seem mostly like a pure expression of their joy of music-making, the great compositions just being a welcome side-effect of it.
There are a couple of small gags placed over Prima Materia, like a sneaky Classical reference in the opener “Lust Och Fägring (Sommarvisan)” or a tribute to the 1969 Psychedelic cult classic Pussy Plays by - yes, look the band up! - Pussy at the end of “Så Ock På Jorden”. And then there are also a couple of short, but very convincing instances where the band actually shocked me with not only sung vocals, but at one time even lyrics by Puertas and drummer Nicolás Difonis. And those were not bad! Yet they’re doing it only very briefly as a tease that leaves you just enough time to be pleasantly surprised, but then they’re already moving on fully instrumental like all those years before again. That’s what I call a highly efficient effort/impact ratio.
Not only for that, but for this whole wonderful work I salute you, you sweet frolicking Swedes!