Posts Tagged ‘Swedish Psych’

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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HOLY

For his second album as HOLY, Sweden’s Hannes Ferm uprooted his life and slowly began to dismantle the sound he’d built on his previous album. The band’s debut was rooted in a brand of garage-pop that’s not out of line with many of his labelmates on local hub PNKSLM. As he shifted to his new home of Stockholm and his new digs at Studio Cobra, however, he looked to lush works for inspiration and began a journey to a double LP concept record about deep personal change, alienation, and the nighttime. It’s a subject that would seem to inspire quiet introspection and the soft pluck of strings, but not so in Ferm’s world. He envisions the night as glimpsed through the kaleidoscopic swirl of traffic signals, brake lights, and neon signs under the sway of melancholy and psychedelics.

Ferm calls out Todd Rundgren’s classic A Wizard, A True Star as inspiration and that’s a telling germ to cite. All These Worlds Are Yours takes a similar tact of diving into songs that explode with pop colors and softly strung hooks, then clipping them short right when they’ve got you in their sway. He pulls a pop one-eighty on the listener quite a few times over the course of the record’s tenure but rather than knock the listener off track, the technique just adds to the dizzying funhouse that Ferm has constructed. The album is rooted in glam’s opulence, but not it’s rock candy crunch – there are no fuzz-tones or Bolan-sized amp rumblers here. Instead, Ferm has built a velvet-draped dreamland that’s powered by reverb and light.

It’s a huge step forward for the artist, leaving behind his humble rock beginnings to embrace the kind of mini-epics once favored by the members of The Elephant 6 Orchestra. With the help of producer Martin Ehrencrona (Les Big Byrd) he’s captured the heartswell of emotions that accompany youth’s moments of alienation, revelation, and reinvention, then used them as a neon engine for creativity. All These Worlds Are Yours sounds every bit like it could have come down in Dave Fridmann’s heyday of panoramic psych-pop and that it was largely self-done speaks volumes to Ferm’s talent and to his promise for the future.




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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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Träd, Gräs Och Stenar

Last year wrought a long needed box set from Swedish godfathers of improv-rock Träd, Gräs Och Stenar. As luck would have it, this year follows that document up with a new album forged by original members and some newer touring members and it brings the band’s sound tumbling into the 21st Century. The album’s impetus was the passing of original members, Torbjörn Abelli and Thomas Mera Gartz, both of whom passed away very close to one another. The remaining members met for sessions that exorcised grief, celebrated life and found passage through to another level of psychedelic experimentation.

The set isn’t nearly as frayed as their earlier works, rather it sounds like it could be splitting hairs between the dark tension of some of the Constellation catalog, the midnight guitar improvisations of Loren Connors and the toasted tones of High Rise. The resulting album is raw, barren, drone-blues at its finest. Haunted and flayed bare of any pretense, this is a sonic sky burial. The band have already earned their place in the pantheon of psychedelic heroes, but they just drive that stake further into the ground with this collection. If there’s a moment in your life that needs to be exorcised and burned to the bone, then Tack For Kaffet (So Long) has a solution somewhere in its tracklist.

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Ball

Forget the secret society pseudonyms and cryptic backstory on Swedish psych-burners Ball, leave that veil of secrets to Goat and dive into this one on pure sonic salaciousness alone. Ball’s eponymous LP is an ozone-coated burn through biker psych, cocaine face melters, German Progressive freakouts and low-slung pelvic blues that would make yer Grammy blush. The elusive S. Yrék Ball cycles through styles with a deft touch, leaving the album feeling like a concept record built on psychsploitation and powered by pure lust ground to powder.

Ball channels Detroit’s own devil in the flesh Timmy Vulgar on “Speeding,” chewing the psychedelic scenery with guttural howls, but he pins it down to a firmly polished and explosive set of ’70s power trio slash n’ burn workouts that make Vulgar’s psych-punk flinch in the corners. The hits don’t stop there, either. Immediately launching into the horror-synth laden “Satanas” he holds seance into a level of ’70s lock-stop excess that feels like it could only be orchestrated by Andy Votel waiting in the wings. Then, smiling like Baphomet on a psilocybin rant, Ball twists the record deeper into the bowels of gutter-psych.

Ball resurrects the ink-black resin that’s caked into the heart of rock with a double shot in the form of “Fyre Balls” and “Fyre”. The former’s short on words but heavy on grunted passion, feeling like it’s played straight out of the puddle of of grease left behind from the burnt ashes of a Hendrix-ian bonfire circa Monterey Pop. Then like a Phoenix from those ashes, the album version of “Fyre” channels the Experience’s smoke-ringed chaos and propels it full speed through Hawkwind’s space-rock vortex. The gods of guitar-burnt psychedelia have smiled on 2017, but Ball proves that perhaps the demons have a say in this as well. If there’s a record that needs to sully your turntable this month, it’s Ball’s occult-vision of hedonistic flame. Maybe just check the needle for cinders after it’s taken a spin.




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Flowers Must Die

UK psych outpost Rocket Recordings roster is full to brimming with Marshall-stacked amp toasters, but Swedish six-piece Flowers Must Die vary the formula by adding a touch of deep bench influences to their sound. Not totally divorced from fellow Swedes Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation, who bend pop instincts through the prism of Krautrock and a fog of psych, Flowers Must Die are cherry picking bits of bottom-down disco dipped in space-rock swirls for a record that’s decked out in psych’s finery but feeling frisky with the notion of pop. The band has a habit of dipping the ends in free jazz squall and haunting Eastern drones as well and blending the styles subtly rather than throwing wholesale styles into a hodgepodge pot.

The extra hands make it possible to flesh the sound out with vintage keys, flourishes of flute and a clattered clutch of percussion. The hard to pin down styles mesh together nicely, not unlike some of the more outre soundtrack work of the ’70s. “Why?” seems like it might hold sway among some of the pieces from The Holy Mountain, with its ecstatic moans and chugging percussion. The band flips from Ash Ra Temple to Lindstrøm and finds space for both to butt against the ozone fry of dry ice riffs that feel like a Logan’s run dreamscape. Its a banner year for the psychedelic folds and Flowers Must Die are pushing things out of heavy riffs and into a heady haze that’s far more than the sum of its parts.

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