Monday’s Long Song

I don’t what’s going on in Stockholm at the moment, whether it’s something in the water or the Scandinavian air but the music coming out of it is top class. Hans Hjelm plays guitar in Kungens Män and is also one of the players in Automatism, a four piece guitar band finding long lasting sweet spots in improvisation. This song, off this year’s Into the Sea album, is a nine minute wonder, the lead lines never getting boring or doing the same thing twice but constantly leading the song into new places. The drums pitter patter softly before becoming more Neu!ish, the bass provides momentum and the guitars twist and turn themselves inside out.

Automatism is the state of being out of control of one’s actions, not conscious of what one is doing- in law it is a legal defence that a person cannot be found guilty for their actions because they did not know what they were doing. In art it refers to creating art without conscious effort, bringing up material from the unconscious mind. On their Bandcamp page the band say they ‘search for the moments where the music plays itself without effort’.

Stockholm Syndrome

Kungens Män played a week long tour of small venues last week, starting in Glasgow and then heading south via Newcastle, Todmorden, Manchester, Bristol and then Chelmsford. On Wednesday I saw them play The Peer Hat in the Northern Quarter in Manchester, on a small stage in the basement of a bar tucked away down a side-street. Seeing such a good band close up in such a small venue was a cosmiche treat. Kungens Män have three guitarists- Mikael, Hans and Gustav-  lined up across the front of the tiny stage, kicking up a storm of FX driven guitars, three different parts, riffs, chords and lead lines complementing each other, circling around and building layers of noise. Drummer Matthias keeps a rocksteady motorik groove throughout and stage right Peter Erikson’s table of synths and effects add texture and a psychey, space rock swirl. The second song is powered by a massive wah wah bass riff with the guitars piling on top, hitting the spot for well over ten minutes. For one song, well into the seventh or eight minute a saxophone is brought out and the skronky, free jazz floats and dives around the room. Finger cymbals announce the arrival of the final song, an ambient start soon overtaken by more dreamy, fired up, repetitive krautrock from Sweden. We get four (maybe five) songs in the hour they play, inventive, melodic and noisy, jams that have become something more focussed. A real joy to watch.

The sax playing guitarist with the shaven head entertains us between songs- he talks of it being a pleasure to be in the UK, ironically informing us that it is ‘where krautrock began’, tells tales of a Swedish radio DJ with a husky voice and later on introduces the band, cabaret style. He is unfailingly polite after the gig, selling merch from the table and ensuring I get my change for my purchase. All the band’s members are friendly and happy to chat to members of the audience before and after the gig. Hopefully they can come back soon and play to slightly larger crowds. In 2016 they released Stockholm Maraton, a seven song space rock album but there are plenty of other albums at their Bandcamp site, any one of which is worth your time and trouble.

Monday’s Long Song

Based on two posts by The Swede I started to check out the back catalogue of Swedish band Kungens Män, six middle aged men from Stockholm who have been exploring the outer limits of psychedelic and drone rock since 2012- there’s a lot of krautrock in their sound and some shoegaze too. They’re playing in town in early December for the princely sum of £8 so I’m going along to that too. There’s plenty of back catalogue to get stuck into, enough to keep me going for some time. But for today, their latest release, an album with not one or two or even three long songs but four long songs.

Kungens Män’s latest album is a four track called CHEF (not a reference to the head cook but a word for the boss or the chief) . Opener Fyrkantig Böjelse (square bend, according to Google Translate, not always the most reliable source of translations) is eleven minute of dark, metronomic space rock with some trippy guitar playing. It’s followed by eight minutes of Öppen För Stangda Dörrar, dubbed out, spacey and wind swept and building slowly in intensity. Track three is the ten minute fuzz bass romp of Män Med Medel (Man With Funds I think), with ensuing guitar freak out, the drumkit taking a right old battering. Album closer is the eleven minute Eftertankens Blanka Krankhet, repeated, cycling guitar parts and a hypnotic groove.