By Rob Hughes
Anekdoten are the longest lived and most productive of the “big three” Swedish progressive rock bands that emerged in the early ‘90s (Änglagård and Landberk were the other two). Anekdoten have had the perseverance and/or luck to maintain a steady lineup and develop their style over five studio albums. Each one is a gem, full of humble, melancholic beauty and an overriding reverence for classic, analog-driven progressive rock.
Chapters is a two-disc compilation that does a nice job of introducing the band to new listeners while also appealing to old fans. The first CD collects highlights from their last three studio albums—From Within, Gravity, and A Time of Day—and adds an unreleased track, the Peter Hammillesque “When I Turn.” The band took a more linear, “rock” direction on these albums, and although many fans of the first two records felt let down by this development, it’s still powerful music—pure progressive rock, sonically and compositionally. The highlights include the twisting “From Within” (powered by Jan Erik Lijestrom’s raunched-out Rickenbacker bass), the Canterbury rocking “In For a Ride” and “The War is Over,” a pastoral psych treasure.
Disc two concentrates on Anekdoten’s early years, and as such is a little more epic and wild. The aggressive parts are more aggressive and the gentle parts are more twee. Rarity “Sad Rain,” the first Anekdoten song, is here, as are selections from Vemod (1993) and Nucleus (1995). To me, these songs are by the Anekdoten that sounds like Red-era King Crimson, whereas the Anekdoten on disc one sound, by and large, like themselves. Nevertheless, I’ll take Anekdoten any way I can get them, and this early material is full of enthusiasm—the mellotron is cranked and the band is having some serious fun.
The collection finishes with a couple of demos from A Time of Day, which lack a few details from the final studio recordings, but are otherwise fully fleshed-out. Of course, no “best of” anthology could tell the whole story of this incredible band. There are some essential deep-album tracks missing, so once you’ve got a dose and you’re feeling that bittersweet Anekdoten bliss, you’ll need to check out the albums in full.