Swedish bassist Torbjörn Zetterberg is known as a brilliant musician, improviser and a bandleader and a highly original composer who skillfully layers contrasting and juxtaposing sections with his bands The Torbjörn Zetterberg Hot Five and Torbjörn Zetterberg & Den Stora Frågen (The Big Question). His new solo album Opinions asks totally different questions, and it is not a conventional solo album.
Zetterberg plays myriad instruments, sings, employs samples and multitrack studio composition, recorded himself throughout 2020 and 2022 and did the mixing, and mastering. It is an impossible, episodic mix of minimal electronic, maximal prog-rock, eco-conceptual and experimental song form. Zetterberg’s Chicagoan label Corbett vs. Dempsey (that released Den Stora Frågen’s Live, 2019) calls it «a strange and wondrous personal adventure, a set of landscape miniatures contained in a bottle, each one equally abstract and actual, heady and guttural, melodic and textural, reaching for elements from across the musical map… a splash in icy water after the opium of sauna». The album was devised in Zetterberg’s apartment and in his studio in Stockholm, except for one piece that was recorded at Zengården, the Zen Buddhist monastery where Zetterberg lives.
Zetterberg thinks that Opinions is his best work so far. It is certainly his most experimental and free-spirited work so far and relies on his propensity for contrasting and juxtaposing sections, but in a completely different manner from those presented by his modern jazz bands. Zetterberg let creativity lead his way, all the way, including taking guidance from the smallest kids in the playground. Some pieces like «Sketch of the Path» and «Absorbtion», that play with simple electronic beats, sound exactly like a similar kind of game.
But Zetterberg is a much more resourceful and imaginative composer and musician. On «Upaya» he frames climate activist Greta Thunberg’s admonishing speech in an unsettling, otherworldly drone. He covers late Swedish troubadour Evert Taube’s «Brevet från Lillan» as a solo double bass piece at Zengården. He wonders in «Random Thoughts» about the nature of nothingness – in the Buddhist philosophy – with a fragile, unassuming vocal delivery, gently accompanied by drummer Konard Agnas. «Opinions part 1» suggest a compassionate message about those with different opinions while the following «Opinions part 2», with sax player Anna Högberg, offers a shiny, guitar-based conclusion to this message. The last piece «And Nothing Happened» takes all the contrasting elements of Opinions and builds a dramatic, exotic cinematic story, with a strong optimistic vibe, but it ends suddenly and nothingness reigns again.
Opinions shines with Zetterberg’s totally free mind about music and music making, or, as Corbett vs. Dempsey calls it: a chunk of raw coal buried far below the surface that emerges faceted and glistening.
Torbjörn Zetterberg (elec, keys, p, el.g, ac.g, b, perc, dr), Greta Thunberg (speech), Konrad Agnas (dr), Anna Högberg (as)