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.
“I became a sort of prog-psych-folk nerd pretty early on, or let us say from 1989 and onward,” explains Fiske as he expands on how the album came into his life. “I met and befriended Stefan Dimle of store and later label Mellotronen in Stockholm, and through him I got introduced to that whole universe of obscure and unique music. It was like opening a box of hidden treasures with all these rare and exotic albums. Just by looking at the covers alone, you knew that this album is probably gonna take you places. All these mystical and unique albums like Comus First Utterance for instance – or Darius on Chartmaker; those records changed my whole perception on music in a way.”
“Finding Alrune Rod is directly connected with my sort of angst-driven late teens and the sudden connection to all the Scandinavian records. That scene in the late 1960´s and early 70´s is still sort of an obsession for me, and I sort of collect them still. Many of the albums are extremely rare nowadays and cost a lot of money to purchase as originals, so I have to be very selective. My most recent big purchase within that scene was a copy of Charlies Buttocks on Love Records. I got it as a present from my friend and as obsessive collector Samantha Swig – bless her.”
Expounding on what makes the album such a lost treasure, Reine notes, “Of course it’s known, but still sort of overlooked in a way. It’s more and more regarded as one of the big records from the psychedelic era in Denmark, but among collectors or aficionados of this kind of music it’s rarely mentioned. Maybe this is because of the kind of output the record has. It’s so powerful that it’s almost scary in a way. The atmosphere of the album is so intense, and the whole ambience of the album is extremely beautiful, but at the same time it’s almost menacing and aggressive – totally spellbinding. It could also be because the songs are sung entirely in Danish which is a pretty harsh sounding language. The singer and bassist Leif Rodén, who just passed actually, is really putting every piece of his soul into the vocals and the vocals are at times almost conquering the music.”
“I know the vocals were recorded after the ground takes were done and there is luckily an amazing sequence of them recording it in the studio with Franz Beckerlee on YouTube,” he continues. “In the film Leif is also talking about the whole concept behind making this album, about catching the mood and honesty and theme of the music. There’s been nights when I’ve been listening to this record and I have been so touched that I’ve come close to burst out in tears. I connect with it so much. There is also a lot of aggression in this record so you always get kicked around.”
“The thing is that the record is thematically built up as a kind of story with the lyrics written by Danish poet Laus Bengtsson (1937 – 2012) and even though they obviously have a strong sort of universal love message they’re are also about conquering oppression as well as dealing with the ”square” mind and the ego death of it, this is what I read into it at least, and obviously there are also hallucinogenic drug references in here. I see the album as a direct link to a heavy psychedelic experience, sort of a life-changer. In the opening title track and theme of “Alrune Rod” the actual Mandrake Root itself is put on as a metaphor for the self-searching person as being the root itself wanting to be seen – found then taken and loved, making a mutual confession and seeing life with new eyes. Revolutionizing the inner self as well as being as menacing as the drug, or the myth of the root itself, being both an aphrodisiac and a drug taken during battle in ancient times. The battle of love and death. The battle inside of a person.”
Naturally, the question arises on how this has seeped into his own music. Fiske reflects, “I think me and Gustav Ejstes in Dungen have been extremely influenced by this record. The mood of it has seeped in here and there too I think. He was one of the first people I know who ”got” the record immediately. Maybe because it’s so spiritual. Flemming ”Giese” Rasmussen’s guitar-playing has also been an influence. He was so young when they did the record, perhaps 19-years old or something, and his tone and melodic playing is immensely beautiful. His fuzz-sound is just amazing.”
True to form, Reine is onto something here, the record is a blistering example of apocalyptic psych from the ‘60s and worth tracking down. The originals will set you back a touch, but there are still some more modestly priced reissues that Shadoks put out in 2016 that includes a bonus 7”. As for the upcoming Träden record, it’s a scorcher that upholds a long tradition of Swedish psychedelia, besting even their reformed vision from last year. My suggestion would be to get both and pair them up for a day of deep listening.
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