[Please note: Click play above to hear the full album stream of Förnekaren by Kungens Män. Album is out Dec. 1 on Adansonia Records. Thanks to the label and band for letting me host the premiere.]
It is the first to be pressed to vinyl, but Förnekaren is upwards of the 15th or 16th full-length release by Stockholm-based jammers Kungens Män. If they’d been around for 20 years, that would still be impressive, but the band got together in 2012. Between Oct. 2013 and Sept. 2014, they released an album every month, and Förnekaren (released through Adansonia Records) is their third of 2015 behind April’s four-song Diskbänksockultism and January’s Kungens Män Spelar I Evighet. Amen.. It is a 2LP, mostly instrumental, comprised mostly of extended psychedelic jams, improvised at least in part and culminating in seven tracks/85 minutes of neo-krautrock immersion, rich in texture and almost universally hypnotic. Its lead-in with opener “Järnvägsdröm” transitions the listener between the waking world and Kungens Män‘s jammy realm, the vocals of guitarist Mikael Tuominen adding a Doors-style flair to what sets up the rest of the work’s mostly instrumental breadth.
Somewhere between Electric Moon or the Øresund Space Collective‘s jammy modus and the more plotted desert-prog style of Causa Sui, Kungens Män stake a claim in their own little slice of the cosmos, Tuominen joined throughout by guitarists Hans Hjelm and Björn Eriksson, bassist/graphic artist Magnus Öhrn, synthesist Peter Erikson and drummer Mattias Indy Pettersson as the band weaves their way through “Järnvägsdröm” and the title-track’s relative earthiness en route to the wholly-spaced fare of the 22-minute “Sista Ordets Krigsdans Genom Snickeriet,” which follows.
Pettersson‘s drumming is a foundational element throughout, as both the opener and quick-popping snare of the title-cut demonstrate, but on “Sista Ordets Krigsdans Genom Snickeriet,” it becomes even more apparent just how much is built on top of the laid back, steady percussion line. The song is not without movement between the interweavings of guitars and synth, and the bass, though deeper down in the mix, is pivotal as well, but it’s the drums that push the rest through the dreamy soundscape they’re creating as they go. A chugging undertone emerges as they pass the halfway point that becomes the bed for the fuzzy apex, but in the song’s fading finish, it’s only over when the drums stop. Kungens Män follow with “Krautespark,” which at 6:37 feels like an interlude in comparison, but no doubt that’s the idea. Öhrn‘s bass is more forward and more insistent and jazzy, as one might expect given the title, and the guitars add a touch of foreboding in their spacious overlaid noodling, a jazzy dissonance taking hold before they bring it together in the midsection only to have it turn jagged again by the finish, time more or less dissipating along the way.
“Krautespark” is the shortest track on Förnekaren and the only one under 10 minutes other than “Järnvägsdröm,” which comes close at 9:47, but though instrumental, it serves a similar function as the opener, launching the second LP with a relatively grounded offering leading to more extended kosmiche fare. The bass makes the transition to “Kringströdda Silverbestick” particularly smooth, but it’s the lead guitar that gradually comes to the fore on the 13-minute jam riding a funky rhythm to a first-half crescendo before the vibe breaks — the drums holding steady — and things get quiet and spacious, building up again somewhat before some obscure speech echoes and effects noise bring the piece to a close.
Side D finishes out Förnekaren with a pair of cuts both over 10 minutes, “Förensligandet I Det Egentliga Aspudden” and “Hur Ska Vi Stå?,” the former of which starts out slow and contemplative before introducing a more active rhythm shortly before the two-minute mark that sets it on its building, ethereal course. Both the drums and the guitar sound noticeably bigger, more open, but it’s the guitar which slowly comes to swallow up the rest of the elements, a wah-drenched buzzsaw lead arriving at 6:41 and carrying through to the end, a patient swirl behind full of motion that seems to send ripples upward to the surface of the song itself.
The jam fades, presumably before it comes apart, and “Hur Ska Vi Stå?” comes in with a sleek guitar line over steady marching snare, jabbing proggy rhythms intertwined and fits of synth that arrive early and don’t come again, but continue to loom as a threat among the more peaceful noodling and frenetic but not abrasive manipulations of what may or may not be bass. A quiet guitar solo kicks in after halfway through, but the drum beat (maybe electronic or programmed?) and the other noise refuse to give ground and ultimately the jam unfolds, the kick drum run through echoing effects and manipulated as the final piece to go. It’s a fair enough ending to a record that has for the most part avoided showing its audience what it sounds like when the wheels come off an instrumental conversation, but the simple truth is that if you’re listening and you’re not already entranced by what Kungens Män have done in the prior 83 minutes, the last two of “Hur Ska Vi Stå?” aren’t likely to make a difference one way or another. A subdued, moody undertone can be felt throughout the album, but the prevailing spirit is nonetheless calm, and while one doubts they’ll wait around too long to let it sink in, Förnekaren has a wide enough scope that, if they were so inclined, Kungens Män could easily rest on its laurels for a while.