Monolog began as an instrumental solo project of Swedish multi-instrumentalist Tomas Hallonsten influenced by the late art-rock singer-songwriter Mark Hollis (of Talk Talk fame). Gradually it morphed into an altogether different concept, mainly via Hallonsten’s imaginative treatment of drum machine and vintage synths. Eventually, Monolog expanded into the sonic territories of Cameroon-born guitarist-singer-songwriter-poet Francis Bebey, Nigerian synth pioneer Mamman Sani, Ethiopian keyboard player Hailu Mergia and Afro-American spiritual jazz pianist-harpist Alice Coltrane. These innovative musicians found ways to transform modern and new technology into a means for expression.
Hallonsten is known for his work with the Swedish alternative bands Tape and Time is a Mountain with bassist Johan Berthling as well as studio sessions for artists as diverse as Mariam the Believer and Nicolai Dunger. Monolog was conceived during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns and swings into the future and backward into Hallonsten’s seminal influences, slowly accumulating layer by layer of sounds, overdubs and grooves.
The vintage drum machine Roland CR-8000 offered laid-back, pop-ish hooks and Hallonsten jammed over these suggestive hooks. Hallonsten’s journey begins with the elegant melody of «Go Ashram Go», originally written as a piano piece for a different project but never realized until the recording of Monolog. «In Clouds Pt. 1 & 2» drifts back into the early, innocent space-pop atmosphere but later embraces a chant-like infinity inspired by the sound of the George Harrison-produced cult album, The Radha Krsna Temple (Apple, 1971), a personal favorite for Hallonsten.
«Düsseldorf—Doula» bridges the distance between Kraftwerk’s home base to Bebey, Cameroon’s hometown, welcoming the gentle sonic collision between the Kraftwerk motoric pulse and Bebey single-note ideas. The cover of Joe Henderson’s «Earth» (originally from The Elements, Milestone, 1974, with Alice Coltrane) transforms the original groove into a hypnotic snake charmer marvel. This untimely, genre-binding and puzzling -literally – journey ends with «Vals Antifon», echoing Sun Ra’s spacey trips. The artwork of Stockholm-based visual artist Jordana Loeb intensifies the sensual expressiveness of Monolog.
Tomas Hallonsten (p, keys, synth, g, b, Roland CR-8000 dr.machine)