Stockholm’s Alla Barn create music as a collective, with members supposedly numbering from between eight up to 30. From their website, it appears that there are at least 16 active members, all “siblings” as they share the surname “Barn.” It is difficult for me to give you more detail as I do not speak Swedish and they didn’t seem to understand my pantomiming via e-mail. Most indie bands that approach the octet size don’t really exploit the noise potential for such a large ensemble (probably out of fear of sounding like one of those awards show finales where 20 different guitarists duel it out), each person contributing shyly until the sum is satisfactorily audible. While Alla Barn do not approach the cathartic cacophony embodied by various Glenn Branca orchestras, they do manage to create a wide range of sounds, with a core group of five or six people around which a number of personalities inter-and-counter-act with to create a rich swath of sound. The instruments blend well, but even in those moments when they become indistinguishable, the overall sound is not bloated or muddy. Need a comparative recipe? Think Grandaddy playing in the style of GuruGuru under the influence of the Young Marble Giants.
Alla Barn’s music has a tendency to build up over time, starting with a basic musical framework and often some soft vocals. The textures become more complex as different instruments enter into the mix, sometimes with such subtlety that you are not at first aware of their presence, other times with a jarring entrance that signals to the rest of the band that they need to crank it up a notch to keep up. “Min Blodiga Mustasch” follows this bottom-up construction, albeit from a less sparse departure point than most of their other compositions. The lyrics start out with a verse, sung over a four-chord refrain with a synth (or harmonium?) playing a melody over the top; after a crescendo we reach the chorus where the lyrics become repetitive and anthemic, and the backup singers come in full force. The keyboard begins to play the same four chords that the rest of the band has been repeating and passing around between the instruments, and after going into an elated double-time stomp, the music comes to a raucous and abrupt end.
Alla Barn take their cue from a variety of groups but have established their own sound as a result of their collaboration rather than through the manipulation of a particular group of instruments. The lead male vocals bring to mind Can, although the Kraut-rock comparison may just be a simplification I am making as an American listener. When he reaches the limits of his vocal range, the similarities will be more clear to you. A great little (er, big) band making the most original indie music you are likely to hear come out of Sweden. What at first might sound like a novelty act to you will become more addictive with repeated listening.