From Sweden, In The Labryinth combine Folk, Psychedelic and Progressive Rock influences with a passion for Indian/Middle Eastern music. To date they have released three full length albums – Garden Of Mysteries (1996), Walking On Clouds (1999), and Dryad (2002). Having been out of print for several years, Garden Of Mysteries, originally released by APM, has now been reissued by Transubstans Records.
Garden Of Mysteries began life as a 1994 cassette release, the musicians’ initial goal being to explore combining shaman drums with a variety of ethnic music styles. However, the band fell apart the following year and Peter Lindahl, who would go on to be the driving force behind all subsequent In The Labyrinth recordings, added new music with more instrumentation to create what became the 1996 CD release.
In The Labyrinth utilize a stunning array of rock and ethnic instruments and close listening to the music makes clear that they are actually using it all. And just for eye-popping fun I’m going to list it all. On Garden Of Mysteries Peter Lindahl plays mellotron, electric and acoustic guitars, saz, zither, bass, mandolin, samplers, synthesizers, melodion, viola da gamba, flutes, woodwinds, oriental and western percussion (dar- bouka, daf, tambourine, etc), tamboura, sound effects, and vocals. Additional instrumentation is handled by Ulf Hansson on darbouka & Egyptian tabla, Mikael Gejel on flutes, acoustic guitar, bass, synthesizers, samplers, tamboura, percussion, background harmonies and jojk, Karin Langhard-Gejel on djembe, flute and background harmonies, and additional vocals and narration are provided by Helena Selander, Stefan Ottman, and Helena Bringner.
There are 22 tracks on the album, mostly in the 3-4 minute range, though several transition into each other so seamlessly that they play like single song mini-suites. The melodies are beautiful, uplifting and often have a spiritual quality. Indian/Middle Eastern themes are prevalent throughout, though In The Labyrinth never restrict themselves. For example, Gates Of Andorra has a medieval-folk feel. Karakoram Pass is like Celtic-Folk-Prog with a spacey vibe. And Hiram Abiff is an interesting combination of Indian influences and light jazz.
Among my favorites is the trio of Kekova (The Sunken City), Ali Hasan, and Aslan, all of which play like one track. Kekova is a Progressive Rock infused instrumental with Indian/Middle Eastern influences. This sets the stage for the next track, Ali Hasan, one of the few vocal songs on the album. I felt like I was being whisked away to the Arabian desert, and we get a nice acidic guitar solo too. Aslan is like a jamming instrumental coda to Ali Hasan. Then a later track, Andalucy, struck me as being an Ali Hasan refrain. It’s got a cool swingin’ Middle Eastern rhythmic pulse, and I like the searing sitar drone at the end.
Other highlights include Moorish Rhapsody, a rocker which features heavier use of guitar and is another song with vocals I enjoyed. Trans Turkish Express picks up where Moorish Rhapsody left off and is one of the heaviest rockers of the set. On this track the guitar, symphonic rock and Eastern influences really come together nicely. Desert Visions conjures up images of a huge feast and a circle of belly dancers. This segues right into the percussion jamming Ya Qader. And Almeria feels like a Bollywood party song.
After having enjoyed the Walking On Clouds and Dryad albums for years now it was a pleasure to finally get to hear Garden Of Mysteries. While the style is the same on the later albums, the music took on a more overtly Prog-Psych character, and having revisited those albums I’d say they are more compositionally sophisticated. There’s also more vocals on the subsequent albums, which I think goes well with this music. Nonetheless, Garden Of Mysteries is a solid set, showcasing the genesis of a band who so beautifully fuse ethnic music with Folk, Psychedelic and Progressive Rock. For even more background on Peter Lindahl, I recommend also checking out Psychedelic Sweden, Peter’s album that Transubstans released in 2008, featuring recordings he made in the early 1970s (reviewed in AI #37).
For more information you can visit the In The Labyrinth web site at: http://www.inthelabyrinth.com
Peter Lindahl is also an incredibly gifted artist, having done the cover art to Garden Of Mysteries. While on the web site click his name to see a gallery of his paintings.
Visit the Transubstans Records web site at: http://www.transubstans.com
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz