Anna Själv Tredje’s 1977 album Tussilago Fanfara is an exceptionally eerie and mystical electronic progg album that draws from influences of American minimalism, the Berlin School, electronic German cosmic music, and British progressive rock while still remaining distinctly Swedish.
Anna Själv Tredje first formed in 1970 in Göteborg by founding members Mikael Bojén and Ingemar Ljungström. The two friends, who in 1970 were only seventeen, happened to be witnessing the height of the local Göteborg progg scene and came together to work on projects that had an emphasis on electronic music. It is important to note that the term “progg” is actually a different term from that of the traditional genre description of progressive rock, or “prog”, and not a misspelling. The term “progg” pertains to the Scandinavian movement that originated in Sweden in the late sixties, and can best be defined as an underground, anti-commercial, anti-capitalists, and overall left-wing political musical movement. While the movement was primarily a musical one, it also aligned with a large variety of other forms of expression that included theater, art, and new alternative lifestyles that were also exploring similar political ideals. While many progg bands of the thriving Göteborg scene could be characterized as that of other countries traditional progressive rock, there was also a wide range of genres being explored that included jazz, psychedelia, reggae, and soft rock. Even though the majority of the bands who were apart of the progg movement were highly political, not all groups who were apart of the progg scene were aligned with a politics at all. Overall, progg was a heterogeneous movement that incorporated many different forms of new art and ideas. It is believed that the origin of progg in Sweden can be traced back to 1967. Karl-Birger Blomdahl, then director of the Sverige Radio, was the key organizer for legendary American minimalist composer Terry Riley‘s stay in Stockholm during the spring of 1967 where Riley was set to perform interpretations of his new pieces “Olson III” and “In C”. The performances included local musicians which undoubtedly had a profound effect on the culture of the youth and development of progg that soon spread to Göteborg from Stockholm. One of the best examples of this alongside the creation of many great early progg groups such as Pärson Sound, who later became the well-known Träd, Gräs och Stenar, and Arbete och Fritid, was the creation of Älgarnas Trädgård in 1969. Älgarnas Trädgård were primarily an instrumental group who were distinct from other progg groups for having a focus on the simplicity of electronics and using the recording studio as a vital instrument. Influences of the band included King Crimson, Terry Riley, Third Ear Band, and Amon Düül II. The band used electronic organs, mellotrons, the EMS VCS3 synthesizer, and were the first Swedish band to use a Moog Modular synthesizer. Älgarnas Trädgård is regularly regarded as one the great progressive rock bands from Sweden and their influence could be heard among other groups in the seventies progg cultures of Stockholm and Göteborg.
Ingemar Ljungström and Mikael Bojén came together in 1970 to form a new musical project but did not take the name Anna Själv Tredje until 1971. In English, the name directly translates to “Anna Self Third”, and refers to Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary who birthed the child Jesus Christ of apocryphal Christian tradition. The inspiration for the name more than likely came from the Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic painting “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne”. Occasionally, various members would join the group for short periods and performances, but the duo remained the only two consistent members of the group between 1970-1977. In the first half of their career, the duo gradually became well known within the underground progg scene of Göteborg by regularly performing shows, playing protests, and even participated in occasional demonstrations at schools at the request of music teachers who believed the music of the future was being achieved. Anna Själv Tredje begun to gain the attention of Silence Records, the label that would later release Tussilago Fanfara in 1977. Silence was first formed in 1970 by Anders Lind and Joseph Hochhauser. Silence’s catalog included bands like Samla Mammas Manna, Ragnarök, Kebnekajse, and Älgarnas Trädgård. When it came time to record, like many similar underground artists of the time, the two had no access to a professional recording studio and decided to record the entire album in Mikael Bojén’s apartment. The entire album was recorded using only two Revox A77 reel to reel tape recorders and was recorded with assistance from a friend of the band, Lars Engdahl. Due to the limitations of having only two reel to reels, overdubbing was used extensively in the recording of the record. Sections to one part of a song that had been recorded into one Revox was then played into the other while at the same time recording of a new instrument or part would be then added on to the existing recording. In total, recording lasted around three months and ended on April 11, 1977.
Tussilago Fanfara is entirely instrumental with the exception of the occasional processed voice and contains no words or lyrics. Overall, the instrumentation used can best be described as sparse. In total, the group only used an electric guitar, small percussion, a couple of organs, one synthesizer, a clavinet, and a wide array of effects. With this information in mind, it is pretty impressive what the end result of the album with the limited resources. Leading up the recording of the album the duo’s use of electronic organs played a large part in their live performances, which would continue into the recording of Tussilago Fanfara. The three organs on the album were not exactly the newest and innovative. An Italian combo organ made by Farfisa, a Japanese Ace Tone, and a Hammond electric organ was used, surprisingly, there is only one synthesizer, an EMS VCS 3, present on the entire album. The famed British synth (as mentioned earlier in regards to Älgarnas Trädgård’s use) was used for various effects in addition to its individual sound. The album’s spacey and atmospheric feel was created by using delay/flanging and were added to all instruments recorded at different points. A Dynacord Echocord tape Echo was employed in creating effects, however which model was used is unknown. In addition to the overdubbing techniques, the Revox was also used as an effect. Like in the first track of the LP, the Revox’s speed was altered resulting in octave jumps. The LP opens with “Mossen” (Marsh) on side A and is seven minutes and twelve seconds in length. Within the first couple of seconds the distant howls, low oscillating synth, and chord changing organs feel like the opening scene of an old cult horror movie has just come into view. Slowly, the organs continue to change between dissonant, cluster, and minor chords over the looping howls while later adding the clavinet. Towards the end of the track ,the loops become the most repetitive, another prime example of how the Revox’s use of constructing the compositions went beyond that of just recording. “Ankomster Utanför Tiden” (income out of time) is the second and final track of side A, and it is eleven minutes and thirty-eight seconds long. The track opens with layered loops of processed vocal murmurs that stay at a whisper volume level for the entire song. The voices are accompanied by distant wind-like sounds that were produced by using the VCS 3. Simple percussion and organs are added in for the first half of the song. The airy arpeggios recall that of a Terry Riley experiment, as they seem possibly improvised and modal. In the second half of the song Bojén’s guitar with added delay and flanger begins playing a single repetitive line until all instrumentation is taken away, and the vocal murmurs and the wind-like VCS 3 continues until the end. Side B begins the album’s longest track, “Den Barbariska Söndagen” (The Barbarian Sunday), spans fourteen minutes and twenty-six seconds and is undoubtedly the most ambitious track of the album. The track begins with a silence that becomes heavier once the crescendo of organs began to come into full focus. A prevailing melody becomes the center of the track and floats easily on top of various drones and loops, all of which are their own melodic motifs, compliment one another quite well. The motifs disappear and are replaced by a new set of rhythmic pulses and drones that begin to accompany a new organ melody. Building tension, the new and darker melody grows with intensity over a subtle sound effect that oscillates in the background until what sounds like cymbals begin to play rolls that grow louder with each one. Eventually, the organ melody and continuous waves of cymbals taper off once they reach their peak, and a layered organ drone starts while two looping melodies began to counteract one another. At this point, the feeling of a true cosmic journey taking place is at its most realized. For the last minute or so of the piece, the previous section is reduced to a single sequence of one chord organ until fading to the end. The song’s assorted sections are similar that to the experiments of legendary German electronic composer Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. Tussilago Fanfara closes with “Tusen AR & Sju timmar ” (A thousand years and seven hours) and lasts eight minutes and fourteen seconds. Bojén’s guitar work is back in the spotlight throughout “Tusen AR & Sju timmar “, and kicks off the track with an accompanying drum pattern. The repetitive drum pattern serves as the foundation of the piece, alongside various guitar loops that fade in an out through the song’s progression. On top of the sustained percussion and guitar parts, Bojén improvises on one similar lead melody for nearly the entire duration of the piece. The use of overdubbed guitar and long improvisations is reminiscent of the great Ash Ra Temple‘s debut album. The composition, while not as elaborate, as a whole draws heavy inspiration from Ash Ra’s guitar player Manuel Göttsching who used extensive overdubbing and layering of his guitar throughout much of his work.
Tussilago Fanfara’s Gothic, intriguing, and beautiful cover was created by a man from Göteborg named Tom Benson. Benson was an essential member of the art and music communities of the Göteborg progg scenes, as he was both an artist and a musician. His primary mediums, however, were photography and painting. Many of the inspirations that Benson drew form were that of surrealist paintings, narrative driven photography, and symbolism. For Tussilago Fanfara, Benson combined a portrait photo of a young girl and a painting of a mystery landscape. Not only does the musical work itself point to German cosmic influences, but even the the front cover’s subtitle, “Intrask i kosmiska gränsmarker med“, translates to “Entrance into the cosmic confines”. Included on the back of the LP there is an added quote “Enda ursäkten att göra det totalt onödiga är att beundra det gränslöst“, or “The only excuse for doing something totally meaningless is to admire it without limits“. These two quotes written by Ljungström and Bojén provide a little bit more insight into the duo’s mind sight and intentions behind Tussilago Fanfara.
Unfortunately, Anna Själv Tredje’s only full-length LP was Tussilago Fanfara as they two members decided to pursue other projects by around 1980. Anna Själv Tredje did a handful of sessions on the Swedish radio show Tonkraft, and in 1982 the station released the compilation Ton Kraft 1977-78: Levande Musik Från Sverige • Live Music From Sweden which featured the track “Snöfall Och Daggyra Ur Daggfall Och Snöyra” from one of the recorded sessions.
The main reasons for the duo’s dissolution was that Ingemar Ljungström, who began occasionally and later only using the pseudonym Karl Gasleben, met Dan Söderquist of Älgarnas Trädgård around 1977 and formed the trio Cosmic Overdose, adding Ragnarök‘s Kjell Karlgren as the third member. Many have speculated that Anna Själv Tredje’s folding was gradual as the duo would still occasionally perform under the name until Cosmic Overdose took full swing. Cosmic Overdose’s output was best characterized as a unique form of excellent electro-punk or electronic post-punk. In total, the group released two albums, two singles, and one cassette-only album. In 2016 the group played together for the first time in thirty-five years at the Progress 12 festival in Göteborg in celebration of the release of a three-CD box set featuring remastered material, b-sides, and other singles. Cosmic Overdose changed to Twice A Man in 1981 when Karlgren decided to leave the group and a British concert arranger asked the band to change their name for a show.
The group continued to perform under the new name exploring more of the electro-punk sound, dark wave/synth pop, ambient drone compositions, and even began experimenting with techno and house music in the early nineties. During this time period in the nineties Twice a Man began focusing on creating music for films, dance and theater productions, computer games, and audio books. The group is still active today and according to their website as of March 2018, they plan to release two albums soon and announce upcoming concert dates.
After Ljungström’s permanent departure Mikael Bojén played a handful of shows under the Anna Själv Tredje name with the help of a couple other local musicians. Tussilago Fanfara would be his first and only recorded output for the remainder of his life. However, he continued to participate in live local concerts and festivals with other musicians. After falling into obscurity for some time, Bojén began performing occasional small morning and evening shows in Göteborg’s central park in the early nineties. It was once reported by one attendee that the music Bojén was performing at these shows were very similar to that of Klaus Schulze.
By the time Tussilago Fanfara was released in 1977, the flame of the progg scene and its counterculture essence had diminished to at least a noticeable degree. Unlike other local and more well-known progg bands of the time, Anna Själv Tredje were not political and fell much further from traditional guitar driven progressive rock. The end product of Tussilago Fanfara is best summarized as a work of cosmic minimalism. The development of the electronic krautrock of Germany was as equally influenced by American minimalism and could be heard through artists mentioned such as Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, and Ash Ra Temple. Tussilago Fanfara has a somewhat strong resemblance to Schulze’s albums Irrlicht (1972) and Cyborg (1973), as the duo were more than likely personal fans of the records themselves. But differences and similarities between the two artists’ work can be examined beyond the uses of organs. Schulze’s cosmic music leaned more classically influenced with fewer drone chords and used large arrays of synthetic effects. In contrast, Anna Själv Tredje took a slightly freer approach, with a little bit more a folkier- naturalistic ambience, leading to warmer and somewhat imperfect sound. The record has become increasingly harder to find over the years and hopefully be reissued in the near future. Currently, on Discogs, there are two copies for sale for $492.55 and $600.00. In 1980 there was a reissue through Subliminal Records, however, that press has become equally as difficult and expensive to obtain. Silence has already reissued many works from groups of the seventies progg era, but for whatever reason Ljungström has prevented the album from being reissued on any format. Overall, Tussilago Fanfara is a little rough around the edges in certain spots, and sometimes can feel slightly underdeveloped. However, once it is taken into consideration the groups limited resources and means, what Bojén and Ljungström were able to produce is nothing but impressive. Tussilago Fanfara is a hypnotic piece of work that contains some great space jams worthy of any serious fan of the German cosmic sound time and collection.