Posts Tagged ‘Swedish Psych’

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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Flowers Must Die – “Oroa Dig Inte”

Swedish psych warriors Flowers Must Die follow up their Rocket Recordings LP, Kompost, from last year with a more abstract set of space rock scrapers. Where the previous record tapped into some Krautrock fueled psych-pop, this time the band stretches for the edges of the mind with a track that’s free floating in a psychedelic haze of feedback, flute and noise. Its a beautiful din, though, and makes the case once again for the band as high-level purveyors of expansion-minded music. The record is released in increasingly limited versions with 20 different covers spread over its run of 300.




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The Skull Defekts

I feel like The Skull Defekts have been a part of RSTB from the beginning. Their early albums floated in and out of the Blogspot years around here and provided a much-needed ragged respite when coverage threatened to get too comfortable. They’ve long been a chasm to shout into and along with, so fuck it, I’m gonna miss ‘em. Once they recruited Lungfish legend Daniel Higgs, it seemed like they were set for permanence among the halls of wrought iron rock – jagged, solid, and corroded beyond the pale of the typical “experimental rock band.” For so many bands who consider themselves under that hood there’s a certain tendency towards pretension, or worse, boredom. The Skull Defekts are a lot of things, but they’re never boring. For that matter they aren’t experimental so much as they’re mercurial. They are the sound of rock’s ideals falling apart, but on their final album, even as they push the elements together into one of their most recognizable shapes, it’s the band itself that splinters under the final blow.

For the last straw LP the band pares down. Higgs and percussionist/electronics bender Jean-Louis Huhta are gone but in their place the band recruits Mariam Wallentin (Wildbirds & Peacedrums). She brings a new energy to the band, a vocal shade that renders their iron hammer approach a little less brutal and a touch less brittle. Whether it’s the lineup change or not, the entire vibe of this eponymous monster feels less armored, less combative. There are moments when the walls crumble for sure, but there are many more that the band seems to be standing in the rubble wondering what’s next. For brutality to meet ennui there has to be a certain amount of defeat, but to channel that defeat into some of the most solid pieces in their long-running discography is worth applauding.

The band’s pinnacle will almost certainly be traced to 2009’s Peer Amid. It’s their crystallizing moment, but they’ve found solace in evolution and, here, a solid sendoff that tempers their rage into something new. If you’ve ever been a fan of the band then it’s a requisite listen and if not, then dive in here and work your way back.




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Bättre Lyss – Till Den Sträng Som Brast Än Att Aldrig Spänna En Båge

Sommor Records digs up a Swedish private press issue that delivers some excellent prog touches with heavy dips into the well of proto metal. The record began with English language focus but evolved into a monster of Swedish sung psych and prog with the band’s evolution to a core trio. They brought in several friends to help out on the record including Anders Nordh on guitar, who would go on to some acclaim in fellow Swedes, LIFE. The spell of Bättre Lyss mostly lasted the year or so that it was created, but even though it only found a few ears at the time, it’s a delightfully expansive record with it’s fair share of nuance that making it an excellent nugget to unearth.

The well of reissues is always threatening to grow barren, but something like this proves there are still boundless corners to explore. The record, with its embrace of flute and sax would certainly prove of interest to fans of Dungen, but its got plenty to love for fans of American and UK prog as well. Huge organ swells and driving riffs put have it exploring similar territory to ELP, ELO and Boston (a year prior to their debut as well) but the record’s lack of commercial ambition allows it to become one of those studio albums that’s more for the players than anything else. Still, as with Sommor’s issue of Swiss rockers Ertlif, they shine an international spotlight on a band that remained for years a homegrown secret.




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