Centrum, För Meditation: Like a Mirror

centrum for meditation

The album begins with a field recording of a busy street in India. Horns honk, cars whiz past. People speak. A bike bell chimes. Then the drone of “Vid Floden” begins and the essential message of Centrum‘s debut album, För Meditation, becomes clear in the feeling of leaving the world behind in search of a higher plane of consciousness. Or unconsciousness. Or of those parts of the mind that don’t have a name yet. Released through Rocket Recordings and Svensk Psych Aften, the four-track outing is a quick-enough session at 37 minutes; an unassuming single LP with two longer tracks bookending two shorter ones that unfolds graceful contemplative psychedelia worthy of its title. Across “Vid Floden” (11:02), “Sjön” (8:39), “Stjärnor” (05:14), and “Som En Spegel” (12:12), the lineup-less Swedish outfit whose members reportedly also take part in Weary Nous and rightfully acclaimed jam-lords Hills elicit a vibe that borders on the conceptual in its underlying purpose.

They have backward voices chanting at the outset of “Sjön” and a particularly effective use of strings and a classic wah solo laid overtop in “Stjärnor” and an apex of chanting following the flute-led procession of “Som En Spegel,” but wherever they go or whatever elements a given piece might introduce, the feeling of exploration and mind expansion is never far off. They never lose the serenity that “Vid Floden” seems to find once it floats away from the harsh reality of its outset, or maybe it’s finding the music in that cacophony and unearthing it for the listener. Either way, on the most basic level of setting a mood, Centrum‘s amalgam of ritual bells, drone, percussion and eventual turn to a slow march of drums and an emergent line of guitar or bass is hypnotic in the extreme and designed to be exactly that. The repetitive nature of the material is purposeful, and though there are some jarring moments like the sudden cut at the end of “Vid Floden,” by the time that opener’s 11 minutes are done, the effect of Centrum‘s intent is thoroughly felt. They called it För Meditation. It’s for meditation. This should not be shocking.

There is a subtle ambition in the arrangements, from the aforementioned strings and flutes and drones to the way in which “Sjön” seems to use an effects-laced sitar early in its second half and end with strings and a vague sample once its march is done. But everything in it counts. Nothing is without purpose. And in part because most of För Meditation moves at such a slow tempo, at no point does it sound maximalist or like Centrum just decided to throw something or other together with the guitar and drums. I wouldn’t call it overly careful in a way that detracts from the organic vibe of its sound overall, but there’s clearly care put into when pieces enter and exit, how a movement plays out with the core progression maintained beneath, and even the way in which the bell of the ride cymbal is hit in “Sjön” feels willful. That För Meditation could exist in such a way and still be so outwardly serene in its overarching affect should be a contradiction, but it just isn’t. That’s it.

Nothing that comes or goes, from that sample at the start to the last rising drone of “Som En Spegel” that seems to snap the listener back to reality, interrupts the flow of the material, be it instrument or the vocals that come forward in “Sjön” and “Stjärnor” after being relatively buried in “Vid Floden.” That serves as another example of the gentle manner in which the album unfurls as a whole work, and it’s telling that as Centrum reach their deepest point in “Som En Spegel,” they also wait until more than six and a half of the song’s total 12 minutes have passed in order to start the first verse. It’s a triumph of an alternative vision — the deep-breathing rhythm of a mind not at all clear but that still comes across that way even if just for a little while. Go, peacefully.

centrum

One could sit and debate the merits of escapism endlessly, but För Meditation only shows this kind of running in circles for the folly it is. While the band would hardly be the first psychedelic act to appropriate influences from traditional Indian music in melody, rhythm and arrangement to add spiritual flair to their material, Centrum make this melding a defining aspect and engage a conversation musically that stands well outside the bounds of “we played a rock song and put a sitar on it.” In truth, much of what one needs to know about För Meditation going into it is right there in the title. Like Om or some of Lamp of the Universe‘s work, Centrum‘s purpose is to evoke a state that’s apart from what one might think of as the crunch of modern existence.

Even in “Stjärnor,” which comes through like a brief summation of the greater mass of För Meditation, leaving its verses behind for the already-noted mesh of drone, strings and guitar, there’s the feeling of removing oneself from chaos, and the deeper one engages with the songs, the more that’s the case. It is itself a meditation on meditation, and whether the listener is formulating a personal relationship with the cosmos or just a personal relationship with the self — much as there’s a difference from the human perspective — the discovery feels genuine.

I wondered in listening for the first time if at the end of “Som En Spegel” Centrum might return to that initial sample from the start of “Vid Floden.” The two longer tracks bookend the album in a way that speaks to symmetry, and after departing the jarring realities of day-on-street, it seemed only fair to be redeposited there at the finish. They don’t. There are bells in the final moments of “Som En Spegel” before the drone takes hold, but it’s not from passing bikes, and ultimately, that seems no less purposeful than the initial departure. It’s not about just going back to where you came from, but about doing so with new or at very least changed sight, and clearly the last drone that swells and cuts off works on the part of Centrum to show faith in the listener’s ability to do that on their own. They have, to that point, provided sure direction.

With so little information on who Centrum are or their longterm plans, it’s hard to know in what context För Meditation arrives, whether it’s meant to be a first full-length from an ongoing project or it’s simply a one-off side gig from players otherwise spoken for. Right now, it doesn’t matter. It’s a beautiful expression, and it’s one of the best first albums you’ll hear in 2019. That’s enough.

Centrum, För Meditation (2019)

Centrum on Bandcamp

Rocket Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Rocket Recordings website

Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

Svensk Psych Aften on Thee Facebooks

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