Batterie Deluxe

Posted: January 25, 2015 in fz related album review, zappa
Batterie Deluxe, Morgan Ågren, disc union, 2015

Batterie Deluxe, Morgan Ågren, disc union, 2015

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In memory of Luciano Mastracci aka Lucky Luciano
(L’Aquila 1948 – Stockholm 2014)

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Luciano Mastracci, september 2012

Luciano Mastracci, september 2012

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Discover, dig, go deep into it. Such acts of hearing/thinking come to my mind after a few listening sessions of Batterie Deluxe, incredibly enough, the first solo effort by Morgan Ågren, sensational drummer and passionate human. To get the inner substance of this album, one should read it as an “evidence of humanity” too, not only as a masterful piece of rhythmic creation by a fine musician and sound researcher.

The album is available in streaming at bandcamp.com as well as well as the liner notes, that are a first clue of how intimate the project is.

The same approach to the recent 2-hour documentary Conundrum: A Percussive Misadventure, a must see.

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You may get hooked, if you will, there’s another 3 hour and half: Conundrum: UNDONE (The Deleted Scenes).

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Back to the album, track 8 is entitled Lucky Luciano #2 and that is why more then ever this post could be – and sure it is – a strongly biased personal view. I knew Lucky Luciano in fact, as a long distance friend and as another passionate human. He was a folk singer from one of the coldest (little) cities of southern Europe (shattered in 2009 by a terrible earthquake), that found his way trough the northern lights of Scandinavia early in his life. I had a sad but at the same time lively evidence of his humanity during his last months between us, when we had some (Stockholm-Rome) skype conversations: he did not want to talk about his illness (now I know he knew very well), instead he wanted to talk life, music, people, as usual. Master Kurt Vonnegut helps: “We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different”. We also talked about his friend Morgan projects, and of the drummer idea of a piece of music entitled after him. He was truly happy of it, a warm happiness, the warmth of life.

Morgan Ågren’s Batterie Deluxe trailer

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Lucky Luciano #2 is the center piece of Battery Deluxe (and opens the video trailer above), and after a while I realized that it is life, times, struggle and end of a human being. The piece is strictly divided in two parts, a lively first 1:30 precedes a dark and heavy struggling section, with Morgan at building and destroying the rhythmic environment under a dramatic guitar solo by Jimmy Ågren, jet another Luciano’s friend. At the very end, the crying bass sound deteriorates and eventually stops.

The emotional gravitational field of this piece of music is a lot strong to me, but after a while I started to hear the rest of the album with the same approach. It took a little while tough, I needed to realize – convince myself, I mean – that all the power that Morgan knows how to deliver is brought down all around the album. When you start listening you may ask yourself where is all the force, sometimes apparently brute, that Morgan delivered for the Mats/Morgan Band (especially live) and for projects such as BLIXT (Cuneiform) or Box (Rune Grammofon).

Morgan Ågren chose to bring his instrument somewhat on the background of the music to concentrate to his rhythmic ideas and to every sonic details, somehow his inner self. In the liner notes he asks:

How much time is reasonable to spend filtering a bass drum sound? Fifteen minutes or maybe 10 hours all in total?

Right after the first minute of the album you know what is he talking about, and the more your audio source is a quality one, the more you realize it, beware of mp3s!

The result is in the mood of Shack Tati, the last Mats/Morgan Band effort, but much more intimate, with a lot of references to world music (India, Senegal, eastern Europe) and with a taste for jazz from hell.

Drums grooves are often light albeit complex, sometimes they have a “fake drum machine feel”, a few times the drums shortly go sort of solo (NH1, Alap Clav and F Files), and in one case you get a submerged drum solo near to the finale (deliberately far away in the mix of Elka Deep Phase). Morgan knows his drumming can be overwhelming and it seems he did not want the power of drums to dominate the music.

Grooves and loops are the substance of Batterie Deluxe and the Zappa maniac daydreams and wonders: what if Morgan could xenosynchronize some Frank unreleased solos into some new music created on purpose? ZFT think about it!

The album closes with a snippet from Rubber Sky from Shack Tati, hidden a few moments after the end of the last song. More or less the same used for the following video (mind the Zappa poster!):

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This song appeared also as Over the Rubber Sky in Välling & Fotogen, a 1998 orchestral album by Mats Öberg & G.U.B.B.. Mats is his lifetime friend and complement musician, I would say. Morgan uses this melody for the closing in a way that appears as an homage to Mats and to their companionship as Mats & Morgan.

As a final note, it is important to mention that Batterie Deluxe “features great guest spots by MATS ÖBERG, JIMMY ÅGREN, DEVIN TOWNSEND, FREDRIK THORDENDAL, NEYVELI RADHAKRISHNA, TINA AHLIN, MAMADOU SENE and SIMON STEENSLAND” (from the liner notes). The following YouTube video includes a collaboration with Devin Townsend, later to became F Files (mind the Zappa photo!).

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Batterie Deluxe, Morgan Ågren, disc union, 2015 (back cover)

Batterie Deluxe, Morgan Ågren, disc union, 2015 (back cover)

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for LUCKY LUCIANO !

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