Posts Tagged ‘Sweden’

Dungen – Live

The live album occupies a lot of facets in a band’s catalog. If it rears its head, it can act as a placeholder, a preview of a new dawn and shift in direction, the requisite a cash grab or fundraiser, or a beacon of a band’s true place beyond the studio. For Dungen, in 2020, it seems to act as a beacon, but not of the band transforming their catalog by padding out or pushing the boundaries of their normal material, rather as a mercurial showcase for their musicianship beyond their established works. If Haxän proved anything, it’s that a band known for psychedelic prowess and studio savvy was also interested in expanding the horizons of genre by injecting an experimental spirit into their catalog that put aside notions of commercial draw . While this is not quite the seismic shift that led to a soundtrack for an obscure Russian silent film, it is imbued with the same experimental impulses. On Live they transform their acument into an album of whirlwind motion, psychic interplay, and virtuoso solos.

The record showcases the band over two nights in November 2015, at Stora Teatern in Gothenburg and Victoriateatern in Malmö. In addition to the consistently searing guitar work of Reine Fiske and the flute of Gustav Ejstes, the set features their Allas Sak collaborator Jonas Kullhammar laying down some fire on the sax. With a turbulent sea of rhythm behind them these three set loose a psychedelic dervish that’s spun sound into a dizzying conjunction of psychedelia, jazz, and acid rock. The band is at their peak on these recordings, not bound by notions of what Dungen has been defined by in the past, but building something that stands as a singular document of instrumental fortitude. It’s Dungen, in as much as the players are all there, but aside from lingering recurrent melodies from their past, this is a powerful document of players pushing themselves to redefine psychedelia in the live setting. This album, paired with the recent live album by Mythic Sunship from their Roskilde appearances sets a new bar for where the live record can reach. If there was a time that Dungen sparked a fire in your soul, then let this rekindle it yet again. The band’s never lost a step, but this some of the soundest evidence how exactly they’ve kept psych vital.



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Laughing Eye

The members of Hills are busy on the side these days, while her bandmates are prying open the Kosmiche window in Centrum, Hanna Östergren is treading equally cosmic territory with her new outing Laughing Eye. As the drummer for both Hills and the recently reformed Träd Gräs och Stenar, the project naturally lends itself to a rhythmic bent, but Östergren proves deft at creating atmospherics as well as a polyrhythmic pound. Travelling down similar territory to Sagor & Swing she weaves organ, strings, and percussion into a trance that recalls folk raga with a chilly Noric bent. The eponymous record pulses with a cold beacon of light but its hard to see if the pulse is coming from the mountaintop of from a low hanging satellite. Östergren’s music is equally at home in the meditative state as it is grappling for the outer edges of the ionosphere.

The first side is built with shorter pieces that all dip into transcendental territory, but it’s on the album’s nearly 17-minute closer where Östergren really shines. The track builds from warbling hums, adds in mournful flutes crying solitary tears to the cosmos. The track reverberates with an uneasy energy, giving off both a calm and a menace all at once. It’s the soundtrack to a resigned fate, paralysis on the precipice of the jaws of death. The whole album shows promise, but its this ending that makes me hope she’s got more of this coming down the line.

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Baby Grandmothers’ Kenny Håkansson on The Shadows – “Apache”

Before there was the current wave of Swedish psychedelia, there was Baby Grandmothers. The trio helped shape the sound that would trickle down to Dungen, Skogen Brinner, The Works and Life on Earth. Much of that was due to the guiding hand of guitarist Kenny Håkansson, who would shift the band’s sound from a more basic rock approach into shades of psychedelia that pushed farther than their peers. A few years back the band’s early recordings were resurrected by Dungen’s Reine Fisk, a collection which surely seemed like the definitive archive of their works. However, the band, not content to be consigned to merely Swedish history, is back with a new album for Subliminal Sounds this year. Before diving into the new sounds, Håkansson takes us back to where he began, with one of the key surf singles of all time from The Shadows.

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CB3

CB3, or less succinctly Charlottas Burnin’ Trio, hail from Stockholm and in the grand tradition of Swedish psych, they echo the the past smoke curls of prog while stoking the fire for a new generation of psych stormers. Heavy, but not dense, the record lays the rhythm section into a black hole pocket and lets the guitars sketch arcs across the listener’s conciousness. They find a balance between their clear pet loves for metal and jazz without wading into the kind of wankery that often bubbles up with bands who fancy themselves scholars of both classes.

Bookended by serene eddies, the band’s tape for UK psych outpost Eggs In Aspic aspires for a prog/space rock permanence and for the most part succeeds, though they could probably push the needle heavier and still retain their sense of agility. That phased pocket that they often suck the bass into could stand a little loosening, letting the rhythm chug whle the storm of drums and guitar unfold. Mid-point highlight “Beware The Wolf” is the band touching the specter of Space Rock with the firmest grasp and the look suits them, though they soon return to the noodling knots that mark their forte. The record shows promise and obvious skill, but also a little greenness that should only ripen on further releases.




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Ball – “Speeding”

Subliminal Sounds cracks open the Earth to let the demon rock of Ball enter our realm. The first track from the Swedish psych/sleeze/proto-metal outfit sounds like someone jump started a time machine to take Timmy Vulgar back in time to front Deep Purple. Which, wait, hold on… can we do that? No, never mind, it’s unnecessary now that Ball are operating on a vomit rock frequency that’s straining its way through the speakers. This track is heavy and haggard, rough and psychotic with the right kind of power trio prog fueling their schtick. It’s a fun, sleazy romp the whole way through. Props to the nailed down ’70s rock simplicity of that album cover too. Can’t wait for the whole burrito of badness to arrive. Dig in!


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Centralstödet / The Myrrors

One of Sky Lantern’s early bits of intrigue came via a tape culled from the home recordings of Swedish psych harbingers Centralstödet. Those begat a live recording and now a split with scorched Earth wizards The Myrrors. The material marks the first new studio offerings from Centralstödet in years and hints at a shift away from simply steamrolled riffs into a bit of a Can/Krautrock bent, albeit one that’s flayed open like hot skin and roiling with the band’s addiction to fuzz. The three tracks on offer show a band knelt at the alter of instrumental prog and finding their footing nicely while paying respects to a long line that preceded them. It is the final submission, “Vega’s Bodega” that really shines here, letting the band really hit into the stuttered angles and let the psychedelic blood spill hot and wild.

On the flip, Arizona’s own Myrrors bring home a suite of high plains drone incantations that live up to anything on their recently released Entranced Earth. The two tracks act as halves of a larger piece and feed into one another seamlessly, skimming the horizon low and lanky on “Rayuela” before opening the full shamanic experience on “Night Flower Codex.” The band has been long lingering at the edges of acclaim, a name whispered among heads who know what’s good for them and now with this split on top of last year’s already convincing statement, they should be primed for plenty more to get on board. The release is nothing if not a showcase for two names that are topping lists of band’s to watch like hawks, as they’re laying down the shattered Earth soundtracks for our own end days to come.




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Goat

Goat’s third album sees the band step away from some of the chaotic fury that’s marked their past two releases, embracing the acoustic, softer side of their psychedelic obsessions. Where 2012’s World Music came out of nowhere, grinding influences from African funk and Krautrock to Brazilian and Swedish psychedelia, their follow-up, Communion seemed like a lateral move. It was a higher profile burn down the same corridors, still impressively raucous and slightly unhinged, but not a big leap in sound from their debut. In the face of this, the band have chosen to focus more on their acoustic side amping up their reliance on Middle Eastern psych, the Bo Hansson class of homegrown musicians in their native Sweden and, as usual, African Highlife, but toning down the volume and pummel.

The band’s actually taken some criticism for their heavy borrowing from others’ traditions to craft a tapestry of their own, which is fair. There are absolutely some great originals that the band borrows from that should be lifted up, not replaced with Goat’s amalgam, but hopefully their digestion of influences causes more digging on the part of others as a result of their elevated status. If Goat act as the doorway to kids stocking their collections with Sublime Frequencies and Awesome Tapes From Africa reissues, then that’s a start for me. As for the record itself, Requiem smolders more than they have in the past, holding back some of their rhythmic outbursts in favor of strums augmented by a slow twisting kaleidoscope of smoke that finds them entering a more nighttime shamanic feeling, than “folk” per se. The best moments still have a touch of that rhythm kick, but get lost in the churning haze, like “Goatband” or the wind chime twinkle of “Psychedelic Lover”

These feel like wandering songs, shared songs that purport an oral tradition. They pull in the tribal elements that Goat has made their bread and butter, but they have a more transient quality to them. Its as if they’ve shifted their eyes from the stage to the roadside, playing with the people, rather than to the people. The record’s tone becomes hushed as it draws to a close on the spare, “Ubuntu,” easily the quietest and calming Goat track to date. This is finally a different side of Goat and one that, as usual, reveals more of what’s on the band’s record shelves than anything. The volume may be lower, but the echo still remains.


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Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation – “Sunny Afternoon”

Good psych doesn’t have to peel your face every time and Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation are proof that the dark chug of drums and a building cloud of menace can be just as effective as amplifier screech. “Sunny Afternoon” appeared on The Liberation’s album from last winter and gets a new life as a single released this month with a proper b-side, “Lucid Sapphire.” For those that missed out on their album, Horse Dance, as it was slinking out last November this is a good intro. Josefin Öhrn culls a bit from the Bat For Lashes and Jane Weaver camps in equal measure, finding a motorik groove to fit her bewitching vocal delivery on this stomper of a single. The video knocks things up a level with some simple, but great psych effects coming off like a Marcus Keef album cover come alive. Its highly recommended you take a listen.


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