After organ/drum duo Sagor & Swing ended, Eric Malmberg released a solo album exploring the human mind, perhaps as part of the process of dealing with his own personality disorder. He’s also been heralded as natural successor to organist Bo Hansson, creator of the 1972 progressive-rock landmark Music Inspired by Lord of the Rings. In 2000, Malmberg drew a comic strip Hansson & Karlsson in outer space for a Swedish newspaper. Hansson subsequently presented Malmberg with the Hammond organ he used on Lord of the Rings and is one of several guests on Verklighet & Beat.
More importantly, Malmberg’s new album brings the genetic antidote to those of us whose hatred of the organ suggests our ancestors fled churches with hands cupped over ears to escape the bombastic assault. Indeed, during the cosmic marches and psychedelic hymns of Verklighet & Beat I actually forgot I was listening to the organ. His compositions sound weirdly familiar, with sections such as the final 20 seconds of “Finalen” aching with déjà vu. While broadening the cast of musicians has resulted in Malmberg’s richest album to date, there is a haunting simplicity to “Leksand, Tidigt Nittiotal”, and “Sondagskonsert” compares with Max Richter or The Dead Texan at their most sublime. The last track, “Styx”, has a wild space-age tone, as if Joe Meek had surreptitiously attached a time-machine to Keith Emerson’s water-skis, and launched him back to Elizabethan times in search of inspiration. All in all then, this fine record is a form of brain salad surgery.