Posts Tagged ‘Swedish Psych’

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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Enhet för Fri Musik

Even with the global connective tissue tightening daily in realms of music, its still hard to ferret out some of the best bits from across the globe. Times like these I’m glad that outposts like Grapefruit are looking out for me. In 2017 the LP, Det Finns Ett Hjärta Som För Dig was issued on Omlott, a label run by members of Enhet för Fri Musik and let quietly out into the arms of collectors of psychedelic folk and freeform ephemera. The band’s issued a few others in 2015, but this record shines as a jewel in their catalog. The record seeks to dig into the pastoral folk of their forebears, capturing the winds in their strings like Pärson Sound, Trad Gras Och Stenar, and International Harvester before them. The record is psychedelic in an organic way, not relying on effects or pastiche, but rather rooting itself in the experimental impulses of noise and free folk, spoken word, and concrete ideals. Its not reaching for acceptance, but digging for art in the frostbitten grounds of their homeland — a bracing, barren, yet homespun record.

The band and the accompanying labels run by their members, Förlag För Fri Musik and Omlott, remind me of their Finnish counterparts in Fonal records, a tight-knit collective that pulls light out of frayed and fractured ends of the musical spectrum. The record captures the spirit of a few of their alumni as well, with the intimacy of Islaja coming through alongside the inventive experimentalism of Kemialliset Ystävät and Paavoharju. The band includes members of higher profile Swedes in the mix (Neutral, Makthaverskan, Arv & Miljö, and Blod) but they don’t bleed over too much with these tributaries, giving the record something of a sacred harbor. While there are certainly elements of Neutral’s starkness, the band seems to create its own world nestled among the whispers of the fields. Grapefruit are certainly right that this was a gem that was lost on many on its release and as such the new issue is a welcome addition to a wider Western audience this year. As I sit locked in ice for the last couple of days, the discomfiting warmth of this record has been appreciated. Its like an itchy sweater, just enough comfort to stave off the cold, just enough irritation to keep you from becoming complacent on the couch.



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Hollow Ship – “We Were Kings”

Swedish psych-pop unit Hollow Ship roll out the video for the A-side from their upcoming PNKSLM single “We Were Kings,” a kaleidoscopic collage animated by Freddy Wallin. “We Were Kings” sets the band into a the cradle of psych occupied by Goat, Flamingods, or Khruangbin, bands that find something new while rifling through the overlapping detritus of the past. The song is anchored by rhythm, owing to a studio suggestion to keep the drums high in the mix. The chugging beats keep a heartbeat bop that lays a bedrock for the swirling synths, flutes and funk-laced guitars. The video is as eclectic as the song itself – swirling with cut n’ past aesthetics that play well with the band’s all-inclusive approach.

They note of the Wallin’ led clip, ”In an animated reality, not to different from our own, we are invited to follow a vessel on it’s intergalactic trip through the universe. Along the way we experience colorful encounters with extraterrestrial beings and heavenly bodies. A journey into the unknown making it possible for the traveler to finally find itself” The 7” arrives this Friday from the Swedish outpost and speaks well to what’s on the horizon for the band as we enter 2020.



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Djinn

Formed by members of Hills and Goat, and adopting the latter’s proclivity for obscuring identities, Djinn inhabits a style that’s no less psychedelic than its member’s usual haunts, but winds up more experimental than either. Djinn’s debut embraces the free jazz pyrotechnics of Albert Ayler and Don Cherry while also finding solace in the more meditative and serene end of the freeform universe – echoing the haunted ashram of Alice Coltrane and the metaphysical forces of Sun Ra. The band is named after mythical beings – not quite angels, not quite devils – but rather forces of mystery that confuse the senses and play upon the mystical nature of reality. This gives the spirits a bit more agency than their one-dimensional counterparts with qualities that can work towards evil or good. Its as apt a moniker as any for a band that’s cloaked in mystery and seeking to work through noise and nature alike.

The pair weaves through this blend of abrasion and bliss without finding the poles at odds with one another. They achieve a groove that approaches infectious on “My Bankaccount,” then burn down the buoyancy with the following five minutes of improv float and free-associated mumbling of “Rertrand Bussels.” If anything, that track name might be indicative of the only real downside here, the cheeky nature of the titles is sometimes distracting from the disquieting din. Then again, taking oneself too seriously has just the same off-putting effect, so why not slap “Djinn and Djuice” on the title of a song built on sax skronk, a menacing piano totter, and skittering percussion? The record works well in the abstract styles the band seeks to emulate, and while not necessarily coming close to the masters themselves, it serves as more than just mere distraction from the players’ full-time tenures. I’m hoping this isn’t just a passion piece one-off, because it feels like there’s more to grow on here. For now, fans of the freer end of the psychedelic spectra have something to dig into all the same.



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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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The Spacious Mind

Long running Swedish psych unit The Spacious Mind are still mining the edges of lysergic consciousness after fifteen releases and counting. The band’s been scratching at the surface of the sun since 1993, and their latest on Essence Music sees the band working through longform pieces of aching dread. They rise out of the mists with “The Cinnamon Tree,” a haunted dirge of psych-folk that pairs mournful guitars with the scrape and scuttle of bells and percussion – feeling like Loren Connors rinsing his licks in Ash Ra Temple’s altar. The 13+ min opener builds to a peak of mossy graveyard aura, threatening to burst open with riffs that melt the stones and burn runes along the entry, but the band keeps their restraint, giving the song a tension of dread that lumps in your throat the whole way through.

They throw out form altogether for a mid-point track that amps the clatter up to a din – smacking sticks into a hectic racket – before flipping on the throb of guitar growl to push their pallor of daunting dread even darker than the opener. They resolve into gaunt, bitten guitar works with shades of Evan Caminiti strung throughout the skeletal second offering, before finally lighting that aforementioned torch on the album’s closer “Creekin’ At The Goose.” The band hurtles into the piece, amp-scratched and clawing at the cords. There’s a whiff of ozone and a metallic taste to the formless riffs that squelch from the speakers, before the band settles back into their haunted desert caravan, crawling towards death or transcendence or both. Clock this one alongside that Ulaan Passerine album from earlier in the month for album’s that weave guitar scorch with apocalyptic dread. If this is your first taste of The Spacious Mind, don’t make it the last. Dig deep, but start here.






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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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Dungen / Träden’s Reine Fiske on Alrune Rod – S/T

This one works as a double shot wishlist for Hidden Gems collaborators. Reine Fiske holds down time in perennial RSTB favorites Dungen but has recently been working alongside legend in his own right Jakob Sjöholm in a newly revived Träd, Gräs Och Stenar (now recording as Träden. Normally it’d be great to get some input from either of those bands, but Reine holds together eras of Swedish psychedelic tradition in his role, giving this one that much more heft. Both artists have been fixtures around here since the beginning of the site, so it’s a pleasure to have him involved. Ahead of Träden’s upcoming eponymous album, Reine digs into a Hidden Gem from Danish band Alrune Rod (translation: Mandrake Root), their 1969 debut LP for the Sonet label. Fiske explores what makes this album such a treasure and, as usual, what impact its had on his own music.

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Goat – “Let It Burn”

Music from Goat, recorded and intended for use in a film about burning a giant straw goat? Seems like a perfect excuse to feature the Swedish psych collective to me. “Let It Burn” was recorded for use in the film Killing Gävle, a documentary about the custodians of a straw goat placed in the town square of the titular town of Gävle at Christmastime. The goat is in constant peril of being burned by mischievous pagans which, sure, makes perfect sense. Don’t erect a giant symbol of the old world gods without expecting true believers to get all effigy on it. The track in question is pure Goat, roiling on polyrhythmic drums flanked by flutes and doused in both fuzz and folk guitars. Essentially, if you’ve found joy in Goat’s catalog up to this point then a somewhat meta song about pagans going full Burning Man on a giant wicker likeness of the band’s namesake seems right in order.

The b-side here is a mellow comedown, buzzing with drones and buttered with sax, it’s a different side of the psych warriors that shows them reveling in cosmic jazz without the hectic sweat of their usual rhythmic pummel. The song is a portion of a freeform studio jam, so it almost seems given there’s bound to be a “Friday Pt. 2” at some point down the pike. Unfortunately, the physicals were scant on this one, so either battle the Discogs goblins for a copy or be happy with the digital drop on this. Either way, it’s a prime slice of one of Sweden’s most excellent exports.



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Medistation

Slicing off from one’s longtime band for a solo venture can be a dicey roll, especially when traversing similar ground, but Eric Strand of Swedish psych band The Orange Revival manages to leave his past behind on his debut EP as Medistation. Where the Revival tends towards clouds of reverb, repetition and vocals buried in the murk of their impenetrable haze, Strand uses Medistation as a jump off to explore other indulgences. The guitars slice with a clean edge, still using a rumble of fuzz on a few tracks here but feeling his way further out of the My Bloody Valentine / Black Angels grip.

Further in the 12” boasts a dream-laden country croon, evoking the collective members of Galaxie 500 and Luna picking through Primal Scream’s record collection one minute and stomping on the Spiritualized effect pedal the next. The EP feels like an artist grappling with his influences and finding what works. Heads who are already into the touchstones flashing high on Strand’s radar will no doubt appreciate this EP, but like me probably leave wanting it to stretch just a bit further. What does work here is that unlike The Orange Revival, Medisation doesn’t feel indebted to a sound and the variety gives the release a good flow, working its way down slow at the end from the sunburn psych that starts his record off. For what it’s worth he’s emulating many of his influences quite ably, and with the word that Strand’s fleshing this out from the “one man in a room”-type affair to full band vision, means that more input could form this into some high-octane space rock for sure.


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