Joakim Forsgren
Joakim Forsgren


A short history of Tonband

Press release by Andreas Hiroui Larsson

In 2019, when artist Gunnel Boman first heard the sextet Tonband – then named Blåkulla – she thought that their music was all right, but the name Blåkulla made no sense to her.(1) After the show, she told the members of the band: ‘You should have a name that clearly describes what you do, which is music!’. When Boman was then asked to give a suggestion for a name, she instantly and straightforwardly replied: ‘Tonband’.(2) 

Tonband began as the mildly idiosyncratic quintet Den magiska fyra (2014-17). The quintet played at such diverse venues as Stocksundstorps gård, Supermarket Art Fair, parking lots of IKEA warehouses, and weddings. To give you more than just an idea of the appearance of the band, I recommend that you watch the video documentation of one of their wedding gigs, which is accessible on YouTube:

Den magiska fyra eventually expanded into the obtuse sextet Blåkulla (2017-19), which I happily assisted by playing percussion one night in 2019 at an Eyes Wide Shut rave at a castle outside of Stockholm. 

Since Boman had pulled off the impressive feat of re-baptising the band, Tonband anticipated her further creative powers and invited her on-board for the recording sessions of their debut album TET.(3) Extending her creative streak, Boman named all of the songs on the album, and sang her own lyrics on the song Skulptur, which ended up providing the title of the album.(4) Isak Sundström and Nicolai Dunger, both musicians and visual artists, were spontaneously also invited to partake in the recordings, and they ended up singing and playing synth-saxophone on the songs Kvadraten and Röst respectively.

TET was improvised and recorded during two half-day sessions in Studio Dubious in Stockholm, 1-2 July 2019. Tonband edited the recordings into compositions together with producer and technician Christoffer Roth; a method inspired by CAN, but which is also reminiscent of collaborations between musicians and producers such as Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble. 

Contrary to Boman’s view, to me, Tonband was throughout all of its incarnations perhaps never primarily a band that played music. Instead, it seemed to be more of a suspect commune that just happened to do something that could be interpreted as music. It could just as easily have been understood as a kind of a secular congregation, one driven neither by religious motives nor by any agenda at all. Rather, it was simply a gathering of people that were together due to some unspoken, unclear, but seemingly very strong convictions, imaginations and values.  

The drums of Gustav Samrelius, the electric bass of Joakim Forsgren, the guitars of Linus Nordensson and Thomas Isacsson, the rudimentary electronics of Mikael Goralski, and typewriter-like keyboards and ominously yawning woodwinds of Henrik Ekesiöö make up a trudging but humorous perpetual motion. On the surface, their collective sound reminds me a little of early Public Image Ltd. However, within the sounds, it is much more like the drowsy atmosphere and friendly intended hit-and-miss conversations had in lunchrooms during working days. In other words, I think that TET, the debut album of Tonband, could make up a reasonable soundtrack for the next general election in Sweden.

Andreas Hiroui Larsson, Stockholm 2020

(1) In Swedish Blå=Blue, and Kulla=[slang for] Hill, thus Blåkulla roughly translates to Blue Hill. The band name referred both to the mythological site to where it was thought that witches flew during Easter to have orgies with the Devil, and to a housing area in Hagalund, Solna, where one of the band members has had his studio since several years. The housing area comprises tall apartment buildings in blue, situated on top of a hill. Next to the buildings – somewhat unnoticeable among the trees – is a tower made of bricks, and with a copper plated roof that looks like a cap. In this tower lives, still to this day, a self-titled witch.

(2) Tonband is originally a German word. In German Ton=Tone, and Band=Tape, thus Tonband translates to [tone] recording tape. In Swedish Ton=Tone, and Band=Tape/Band/Ensemble. Thus, Tonband means approximately the same thing in both German and in Swedish.

(3) Tonband has previously released the self-titled and self-published cassette tape Blåkulla in 2018.(4) The lyrics concern both some etymological and historical remarks on the Hebrew language, the Hebrew letters ב (Bet) and ט (Tet), as well as two of Boman’s sculptures, which can be seen as interpretations of those letters. Boman’s sculpture of the letter ט (Tet) is displayed on the front and back of the album cover.