Träd, Gräs och Stenar
It’s really pretty simple: Träd, Gräs och Stenar was – is, shall remain – the best band in the world. You can get with it and get on this train, or forever live in ignorance, up to you.
They were from Sweden, they were pioneers of DIY culture, they jammed with force and purpose for 40 minutes back when “legendary” SF groups or German kraut rock bands were still struggling to get out of the upper single digits with dignity; they traveled with organic food they grew themselves, and cooked for everyone they played to; they made their own instruments, amplifiers and PAs before there was such a thing as a PA; they released records themselves, y’know back when the Dead were still on a major label. Etc, as it were. Had this band been from the USA rather than some provincial northern European nation… never mind, it’s too depressing to finish this sentence.
There was the occasional complex ingredient like a (home-brewed, natch) tremolo or fuzz pedal, but the way this band worked was incredibly simple: they’d show up, set up on some floor, or field, start up the generators, instruments, then begin to collectively tune themselves into the sphere we now know as TRANSCENDENTAL PSYCHEDELIC ROCK MUSIC. After that first meditative or explosive – or both – lengthy jam, they’d again take off, starting from a cover of Mighty Quinn or perhaps Last Time, or one of their own compositions, often influenced by ancient Swedish folk songs, and leave the melody behind after a few verses and travel to places lazy music journalists today call ‘beyond time and place’. It was a little like Ornette Coleman’s or The Velvet Underground’s live formula: you know the beginning and the end, but what exists between those two points is what makes life worth living: the magical improvised unknown.
The band grew seamlessly from two previous groups; first Persson Sound, then International Harvester (later shortened to the less imperial-sounding Harvester). International Harvester/Harvester released two albums at the time, 1968/69, whereas we-who-weren’t-there had to wait until the 2000s for a published document of what Persson Sound was all about. Let’s take a quick and rough overview:
It begins and ends with Bo Anders Persson, who in ‘65 or so had been making electro-acoustic music in academic settings, for a time, having the pleasure of being tutored by Terry Riley (give it up for social democracy and its zany values: “you want Stockhausen and Riley to come hold some lectures at your free university for a month? No problem, we’ll fly them in for you, oh lovely students”). Then Bo Anders also fell in love with rock and roll, via the Dylans and Stoneses. He realized its communal, participatory potential. It was the beginning of the late 1960s after all, the world could still be changed for the better and everyone could take part. Community and Come Together seemed like possible solutions, not just empty slogans. Bo Anders understood quickly that rock music was less elitist and more democratic than the avant-garde. But you could play rock music in a different way, right? So long as there’s a steady eternal beat, anything should be possible.
Under the name Persson Sound, Bo Anders and cohorts created a few art-circuit musical “happenings”, involving innovative tape-manipulation and drones, but over time, with the addition of bass (Torbjörn Abelli), and drums (Thomas Mera Gartz), something revolutionary happened. This was ‘66/67, before “Dark Star” or “Sister Ray” existed, before Amon Düül, Can, Neu!, or Faust were ever heard from. Persson Sound created a new form of rock music. Persson Sound was not only first, but the best at this game, it’s only unfortunate for our joint musical heritage that this occurred in Scandinavia: we didn’t get to find out and reap the benefits until decades later. Insert all kinds of ‘what ifs’ here.
Add more people to Persson Sound, plus the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of the day, multiply by folk music, and you get International Harvester, whose two albums are classics in a multitude of genres, (remember Freak Folk? – essentially a bland 30-years-later carbon copy of this). Within the two Harvester records lie several clues and hidden hints of what is to come when Träd, Gräs och Stenar is formed in 1969: stripped down riffs, minus tape manipulation, and with the barest boned drones, created not by oscillators, but by the most deadly musical combination known to our kind: guitars, bass and drums.
There were four proper TGS albums released at the time: a self-titled in 1970, Rock För Kropp Och Själ (Rock For Body And Soul) in 1971, then these two live albums, Djungelns Lag (The Law Of The Jungle) and Mors, Mors (hmmm, something like “Hiya” or, why not, “Hi, How Are You?”). These are the albums where you fully experience what the band was like live. They stiffened a little in a studio setting, needing an audience to feed off of, so these albums are much looser, freer, more rocking.
Both albums were released on the band’s own imprint, Tall (Fir). The band’s close friend Per Odeltorp traveled with them around Scandinavia in ‘71 and ’72, recording every minute of the shows they played, using two magical silver microphones and the latest state-of-the-art ½” reel-to-reel. Djungelns Lag was released in 1972, documenting the activities of 1971. Then, money always being scarce, Odeltorp taped over almost all the ‘71 tapes with ‘72 live recordings, the result being 1973’s Mors Mors. And then the band stopped playing. Mostly because some of the members preferred to live far from Stockholm at an organic farm, run by an old man named Anders Björnsson, who was a hippie decades before the invention of the term. But I digress.
Luckily for you, we recently invaded the home of Jakob Sjöholm, the youngest member of the original band (officially joining in ‘71, he was part of the Harvester collective too – see, that’s him and his girlfriend in the photo on the back of Sov Gott Rose-Marie). Going through his attic, we unearthed hours upon hours of unreleased live recordings from the time, from which we’ve selected a trove of truly unreal jams. And this is the material you will find on the third 2xLP, Kom Tillsammans (Come Together), an artifact only available in the deluxe 6LP boxed set, which is also chock full of choice ephemera no one has ever seen before.
Djungelns Lag and Mors, Mors were re-issued on CD back in 2002, but they’ve been out of print for years, were never available digitally, nor reissued on vinyl. The band toured the US briefly in 2004 and 2005. These were spellbinding concerts featuring the same classic line-up from the recordings you’re about to devour: Bo Anders, Jakob, Thomas and Torbjörn. Sadly, Torbjörn and Thomas have since passed away, but the band is actually still active today. And while Bo Anders isn’t part of it anymore, the singular force that is Reine Fiske from DUNGEN, is now a member.
You need to listen to this un-dogmatic and timelessly organic music, and then you need to spread the gospel. This is music that already exists within you, based on simple human truths and chords, grounded in the principle that instinct will always triumph over virtuosity; it is music devoid any of the soul-destroying concepts like ‘lifestyle’, ‘managers’, ‘marketing’ or ‘brand’. It is truly free and open and joyous music, as humble as it is ferocious. Träd, Gräs och Stenar simply is The Answer.