Samla/Zamla fans were pleasantly surprised by the release of 1999’s Kaka, the first album by the Swedish avant-proggers in nearly 20 years. The album represented a true reunion, with the quartet of guitarist Coste Apetrea, drummer Hans Bruniusson, keyboardist Lars Hollmer, and bassist Lars Krantz all being Samla Mammas Manna members way back in the ’70s. Then drummer Bruniusson left the fold after Kaka had been released — but the drummer’s chair was soon filled by Tatsuya Yoshida, the manic and riveting drummer of Japanese experimental rock duo Ruins and Hollmer‘s SOLA septet, the latter group having performed and recorded in Japan during 2000-2001. Hollmer, Apetrea, Krantz, and Yoshida are heard on Dear Mamma, a live CD recorded in Uppsala, Sweden, mainly during May 2002. The recording quality suggests placement of a DAT recorder in the audience, but the balance and stereo separation are good and the sound is adequate, somewhat better than a typical bootleg, for example. There are a number of tunes from Kaka here, notably an 11-plus minute of “Frestelsens Café,” nearly a prog epic with its tightly executed heavy themes, rollicking jazz-rock passages, and interjections of vocal zaniness — it’s an effective summary of what this incarnation of the Samlas offered in a live setting. Truth be told, it would be hard to top the stellar version of this tune on Kaka, with its crisp recording and diverse instrumentation (including Hans Bruniusson‘s marimba) — but for anyone who believes that prog rockers are not capable of getting their hands dirty, here is some music that is as pummeling as it is nimble, with the rough-edged recording contributing to the general lack of politeness. And the Samlas travel back to their early days, not only covering additional tunes from Kaka such as the three “Ikariens” (“Första Ikarien,” “Andra Ikarien,” “Tredje Ikarien”), but also “Lång Ner I Ett Kaninhål” and “Ingenting” from the band’s third album, 1974’s Klossa Knapitatet.
This being the Samlas, there are plenty of weird musical juxtapositions, with the bandmembers babbling operatic nonsense one moment and jamming away, navigating tricky unison riffs, or accelerating to a manic tempo the next. The wacky episodes of grunting and guttural growling, yodeling, and falsetto gibberish between the displays of “serious music” are presented here without the benefit of Monty Python-esque “commentator” John Fiske, whose bemused interjections during Kaka added another layer of oddball humor to the mix. Here, the goofiness is presented sans “interpretation,” so be warned: you’re on your own in trying to decipher the madcap goings-on. The CD ends with two tracks recorded by Hollmer, Apetrea, and Ruins (i.e., Yoshida and bassist Hisashi Sasaki) at a different Uppsala venue in November 2001. “Fredmans Session 1” barely has time to get started before it slams to a finish, but the nearly 20-minute “Fredmans Session 2” is something else again, a true marriage of Samlas and Ruins lunacy with intense rock-based free improvisation that seems like a matchup of För Äldre Nybegynnare and Altered States‘ Lithuania and Estonia Live — or (moving a bit closer to a mainstream comparison) Starless and Bible Black-era King Crimson with enthusiastic vocal interjections from Frankenstein’s monster along with some munchkins from The Wizard of Oz. With its many twists and turns and unflagging energy, this is a killer example of hard-driving and dynamic avant-prog improvisation, and Dear Mamma is worth picking up for this track alone. Issued in a limited quantity of 1,000, this CD was the last Samlas release and the band’s only recording from the 21st century.