When you think of the quintessential organ rock song, The Doors ‘Light My Fire’ (or really any song where Ray Manzarek whips into a massive solo ) comes to mind. We can add Procol Harum‘s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ or The Animal‘s ‘House of the Rising Sun’ to the list of many, many great songs and artists from the’ 60s and ’70s that used the organ with tremendous success. The organ is indeed a mysterious instrument in more recent times. With a simple flick of a ‘C’ chord and some groovy rhythms, the rather large and cumbersome instrument has the power to move dance floors all the while turning the clock back 30 years for that retro vibe. The synth has turned out to be the organ killer in many respects as it can replicate its sound quite closely all the while easily adding a dimension of depth and warmth not previously present. Baltimore’s Beach House have taken the foundations of organ music and transformed it into glorious, transcendent pop with sweeping vocals complementing their unique backdrop. Theirs is a beautiful formula. It is quite bold, though, for a band to feature the organ’s compact and stubby timbre as the main draw.
Enter Mackaper, the quintet from Stockholm. Mackaper attempt to invite the organ back into modernity with their second instrumental album titled Mot Ljusare Tider. The album presents a bit of a quandary; on it there exist fleeting moments of post rock and prog rock while everything else sounds like it belongs more to a jazz aesthetic. Part of the issue rests with the overconfidence with which Mackaper present the lead instrument. On Mot Ljusare Tider, the duelling organs act like lead vocals. For brief moments the effect is mesmerising, but at times its cathedral pop is just a bit too much.
‘Dimma’ starts interestingly enough with a series of ambient strings and a slow, seductive surf guitar, but it all somewhat dissipates when the dual organs take over. It’s as if the opening seconds of the record move in one direction then come to a screaming halt with the sudden intrusion of structured sound. The ending is rather reminiscent of Tindersticks, though Mackaper keep everything fairly clean cut, even with their attempts at distortion. Without the musical properties of delay and sustain, the organ feels like it is lacking somet intimacy in its delivery. One can’t help but hope for some incredibly fat and wet synth to take over and blend the entire affair into an ambient stew.
The hands-down highlight of the album begins at the 3:00 minute mark of ‘Under Stjärnhimlen’. The organs are in quite a depressed mood and they wail about, evoking some real emotion for the first (and last) time on the 43 minute affair. Alas, it is the realisation on the following track that we are still dealing with organs in the lead role that leaves an appetite for something else.
When Moog synths invaded the musical landscape in the ’70s, their sounds were so original that many records were made using the instrument as the lead rather than a vocalist. Indeed, many albums even featured the name “Moog” in the title. The same sort of spirit is captured with Mackaper’s Mot Ljusare Tider, except without the presence of the synth monster. If you enjoy the sound of the organ, and I mean really enjoy it, then the smart, jazzy, musical arrangements and dabbles of post rock or prog rock might pique your interest. For the rest of us, the album is best served as background music.
Listen to Mot Ljusare Tider