Thursday, July 29, 2010

Roland Kovac New Set: A Blast from the Past

Roland Kovac New Set (early 1970s)

Roland Kovac (piano)
Siegfried Schwab (guitar)
Brian Auger (organ, Love That)
Peter Trunk (bass
, Love That)
Franz Loffler (bass, The Master Said)
Keith Forsey (drums, Love That)
Charly Antolini (drums, The Master Said)

Roland Kovac New Set was an ever-changing collective of European jazz-rock musicians best known for recording far-out production music for the legendary Austrian label Selected Sound. The imprint released 122 library records between 1968 and 1987, ranging from experimental electronic to funky psychedelic to action jazz.

Selections from the Selected Sound catalogue can be heard on the out-of-print, three-volume series Pop Boutique, released by Spinning Wheel in the late ‘90s, and other library comps such as Action Passing from a few years ago.

Having heard and enjoyed some of Roland Kovac’s groovy Selected Sound recordings on various compilations I figured I knew what to expect when I picked up The Master Said and Love That, two full-length albums reissued by Garden of Delights. (By the way, the liner notes indicate that the Austrian musician’s last name is of Slovenian origin and is pronounced “Kovatch”.)

The real surprise, however, is the music. It’s difficult imagining this jazzy psychedelic space rock being used as background filler on radio stations (as the liner notes suggest), but apparently some of it also turned up in movies of the period.

First came The Master Said in ‘71, with Kovac on keys, Charly Antolini on drums, Siegfried Schwab (of Vampyros Lesbos fame) on guitar and bassist Franz Loffler. The centerpiece is the 17-minute title track that fluctuates between funky grooves and spacy jamming. It’s followed by the trippy 10-minute “Birth of a Saint” as well as the much shorter Procol Harum-esque “Eternal Dimension” and mellow closer “David's Dance.” The longer tracks are definitely the attraction, but don't expect tightly constructed library compositions— these are sprawling, episodic, lysergic concoctions.

 A year later Kovac recorded the equally trippy Love That, joined by Brian Auger on organ, Keith Forsey on drums, Peter Trunk on bass and Schwab again on guitar. The tracks are generally shorter, averaging a relatively tidy 5 minutes each, except for the 9-minute “Genesis.” Regardless of duration, these numbers also sprawl out into spacy jamming. Like jazz tracks, they often start with an idea or riff, move out into improvisation and close with a reiteration of the theme. The melodies never linger, but the contact buzz is fairly intense.

Big props to Garden of Delights for putting these albums on CD as the originals tend to sell for astronomical sums. Unfortunately the master tapes weren't available, so the label resorted to vinyl transfers, but the sound quality is certainly clean and acceptable.

The liner notes break down each track into subsections based on solos, etc., and there are decent pics of the band members. No surprise, the booklet also includes a full color catalog of other psychedelic releases on the Garden of Delights label.

Chances are, Roland Kovac New Set is going to be a real break from the ordinary for most JazzWrap readers, but you're an adventurous bunch so you might want to explore them, especially if you enjoy obscure European acts from the '60s and '70s.

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