Kungens Män: Track-by-Track Through För samtida djur 1 & Full Album Premiere

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on February 9th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Kungens Män

Today’s the day, kiddos. Swedish jammers Kungens Män release their latest collection, För samtida djur 1 (review here), through Majestic Mountain Records as the first of two chapters with the next to be unveiled later this year. And when I say a phrase like “Swedish jammers” in that prior sentence, rest assured what I mean is that the warm-toned, organic-vibes-only-yes-even-in-the-synth six-piece head ever closer toward the heart of the creative spark itself, endeavoring with the ethic of harnessing a moment of creation as it happens — the proverbial lightning in the bottle. This is an ideology held by a lot of improv-based outfits, some of whom write three-minute pop songs, which even as Kungens Män refine their own approach and dig into crafting material more across this nine-song/45-minute outing, remains open, experimental, righteously weird, and very much its own kind of fun.

The title För samtida djur 1 translates to English as ‘For contemporary animals 1,’ and fair enough. I played it for the dog and she didn’t seem to mind, but I take the ‘animals’ more in the sense of an outsider cast. Maybe that’s you, maybe that’s them, I think it’s probably everybody at some point or another, but as you immerse in the album stream below, maybe something to hold onto in the back of your head while perusing the track-by-track that the band has generally offered, giving insight into their methods, theKungens Män För Samtida Djur 1 circumstances of the album’s making (as well as that of the video for the title-track that premiered here and you can see near the bottom of the post), and revealing some of the little things — a guitar that sounds like a cat, some cellphone interference — that made the experience from the band’s own point of view. I can’t help but feel like for an album that starts off basking in anachronism with the dialing of a rotary phone, the phrase, “Confusion is what we like,” posited below by the band, is a fitting summary. See also, “Perhaps not to reach a goal but to feel alive.”

So jump in and maybe let yourself be confused a bit. För samtida djur 2 will reportedly be more of a stretch-out in terms of longer songs and such, but if maybe you’re new to the band as a result of their being picked up by Majestic Mountain or other happenstance, this initial För samtida djur installment should make for a rousing introduction.

I beg of you, enjoy yourself. Thanks to the band for the time and words. Thanks to the label for letting me host the stream. Thank you for reading.

Here we go:

Kungens Män: För Samtida Djur 1 Track-by-Track

”Framtidens start” (The start of the future)

Mikael: The hotline to Moderskeppet, Aspudden.

Indy: …which is where we hang out to create our stuff.

”För samtida djur” (For contemporary animals)

Mikael: This is from a session without Indy, so Peter brought out the drum machine instead. Everything is steady, but slightly off like it should be. Someone from another timezone in the real world is eager to get in touch while we keep on dreaming about androids getting eaten by ancient fish.

Gustav: When we shot the video for this song, video director Patrik Instedt thought his cat was meowing – three times in a row! “The cat” is me playing the pointy guitar. We also have some classic cell phone disturbances somewhere in all the mess. Confusion is what we like.

”Tycka rakt” (To think straight)

Mikael: Me and Gustav are wearing our Sonic Youth worship on our sleeves in this song, though in a very mellow way. A threatening slow, dark undercurrent is flowing in the bass and synth department giving the song very interesting temperament layers.

Gustav: Micke is 100% right. I still haven’t gotten over Sonic Youth not being an active band, and it’s been a few years now.

”Grovmotorik” (Gross motor skills)

Mikael: The main riff is invented by Gustav, followed by a catchy synth riff, the rest of us chugging away while Hans paints a floating landscape. Then gradually falling apart until the song enters a completely different headspace in the tail end.

Gustav: An example of an occasion when everyone makes their own musical decision, sticking to it while trying to find their place among the rhythms and riffs. The mood shifts by the end, the music falls apart.

”Motarbetaren” (The opposer)

Mikael: This is probably my favorite song on this album. I have never quite heard anything like it. To me it sounds like The Velvet Underground making music for a 1970:s children’s tv show. Distorted steam train awakening.

Gustav: The organ grinder from Rabbalshede market is here and he cranks and he cranks.

”Virvelresan” (The vortex trip)

Mikael: Serenity among the spikes. Once again an interesting conversation full of information, but still the space remains open and open ended.

Gustav: Another mood swing! A conversation, just like Micke says. Things are constantly happening on all fronts, and even if we talk over each other’s mouths sometimes it’s more like we’re filling in each other’s speech.

”Bra moln” (Nice cloud)

Mikael: Meditation music. Watch the thoughts/clouds passing by. Chimes and horns – breath in, breath out.

Gustav: “Thank you, if you appreciated the tuning so much I hope you will enjoy the playing more”. Like the famous quote from Ravi Shankar, it’s more like we are tuning than playing here. Sometimes it’s the most basic things that hit you the hardest.

”Tyska ninjor” (German ninjas)

Mikael: Relentless hi-hat beauty by Indy. Sometimes we have to run with this machinelike state of mind. Perhaps not to reach a goal but to feel alive.

Gustav: Get up! Time to shake your hips! One thing that Micke sometimes does while he’s mixing is to have the “riff guitar” up front in the mix while the “lead guitar” is a little more in the background. This creates a certain atmosphere, and it sharpens your ears.

”Nu eller aldrig” (Now or never)

Mikael: The Pharoah Sanders vibe is strong here, what is there not to love? This was an exciting space to be in, with everyone adding dots, splashes, mirrors and shades, painting a loud whisper.

Gustav: As a completely subjective observer, I can conclude that “För samtida djur 1” is a very diverse and very good album. This track sums it all up very well.

Kungens Män, “För Samtida djur” official video

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Kungens Män Premiere “För Samtida Djur” Video; För Samtida Djur 1 Due in February

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on January 18th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Kungens Män

Next month, Swedish exploratory jammers Kungens Män make their debut on Majestic Mountain Records with the first of at least two full-lengths they’ll release this year. Titled För Samtida Djur 1, the 45-minute eight-songer marks a turn for the instrumentalist unit, whose common modus finds them with longer pieces generally, but is of course only half the story the band will have told by the end of 2024, as both För Samtida Djur 1 and För Samtida Djur 2 — the latter of which will be out in May, last I heard, but I don’t think I’ve come across a solid date for it yet — capture different sides of the Stockholm-based six-piece. A duology!

Ideally, I would stream all the audio. Both records, right now. Does that make any sense when we’re just at the opening of preorders for the first of two records? No, and Majestic Mountain knows that which is why it’s not happening. But this is going to sound obvious and stupid but it’s something anyone who critiques anything will rarely admit: the best way to get immersed in the work of Kungens Män is just to do it. The first single from För Samtida Djur 1 is the drum-machined and titular “För Samtida Djur” — video premiering below; it’s more properly written in Swedish as “För samtida djur” — which sets the tone for the purposefully meandering experiments, psychedelic fluidity and wonko-jazz prog to follow as shimmering guitar at the start of “Tycka Rakt” brings pastoralia to the proceedings. You’ll note in their upcoming live shows below a slot alongside legendary-if-you-know Kungens Män För Samtida Djur 1proggers Träd, Gräs och Stenar, who feel like a touchstone for parts of För Samtida Djur 1, though even that’s just a part of the scope for the eight-song/45-minute outing.

As they make their way through with a casual, organic production that gives the loose and improv-sounding landings of “Motarbetaren” an in-the-room feel after “Grovmotorik” — the title telling you where it’s coming from stylistically — positions its steady cosmic flow outside most boxes. The experimental feel of “För Samtida Djur” at the outset is mirrored throughout, with “Virvelresan” resulting in a mellow jam more dug into guitar than the sax-led “Bra Moln,” which follows immediately and sees the two instruments find a middle-ground in the renewed space rock-derived semi-push of “Tyska Ninjor,” which manages to stuff a freakout into its four minutes — Hawkwind, maybe even Stooges in the strum — before “Nu Eller Aldrig” commences its drone-jazz comedown for a finish that resonates as surprisingly dark. Could be that’s Kungens Män setting up a transition into För Samtida Djur 2, or could just be how that came out and they thought it sounded cool. You don’t always get to know those things. And it’s fine when the music works, which it does here.

The reported difference between För Samtida Djur 1 and its also-upcoming sequel is that För Samtida Djur 2 is focuses more on the longform jams for which Kungens Män have become known, which makes this first part not just a departure from that, but a chance for the band to encapsulate at least part of what they do in a way that might catch ears being introduced for the first time and draw an audience toward digging deeper. Certainly there’s a catalog there. And if direct-engagement is a piece of the goal, the video for “För Samtida Djur” should be weird enough to do the trick. Coming off the paintings and stuff at the beginning is cool and all, but it’s the awkward dancing for the win. No doubter.

Melody and expanse, adventure and dynamic. If you’ve got chemistry, you can go just about anywhere you want if you have the will to do it. I look forward to hearing where För Samtida Djur 2 takes them.

Until then, then:

Kungens Män, “För Samtida djur” video premiere

Preorder link: http://majesticmountainrecords.bigcartel.com/product/kungens-man-for-samtida-djur-1-pre-order

Imagine for a moment if you will, a lush and verdant world where the senses are completely enraptured by vibrations of melody reverberating through the psyche with jubilant, electric pulsation and entrancing bliss uninhibited. A complete soul rapture in the form of literal, rhythmic poetry, a full sonic immersion, exploration and expression of life itself via organic, symphonic, orchestral mastery.

Well Majestic people, we’re about to take you there. It has always been the goal of MMR to release music that has an “otherness” about it, a quality of inimitable magic, sometimes not tangibly quantifiable but instead, felt in the gut; ultimately pulling at the heart. This signing is exactly that philosophy in its essence. For a very long time we have been ecstatically awaiting the time when we could make today’s announcement and that time has finally arrived.

Please ready yourselves for transportation to a completely different star system with Kungens Män joining the Majestic Mountain Records constellation for an incredible release in two parts.

“För samtida djur” (For Contemporary Animals) will come in two lush editions with a limited press of 250 each.

“In February 2024, the first part of “För samtida djur” (For contemporary animals) will be released. It consists of eight songs of Kungens Män in their most condensed form, yet with a great degree of variation and some soundscapes previously unheard in our improvised world. The second part which comes out in May, is a more classic Kungens Män collection, with long, sprawling songs that are invitations to inner and outer space. The music has been recorded over the last two years in between tours of Europe and UK. These twin albums also mark our first cooperation with a Swedish label, Majestic Mountain Records. A label built on love for the music and a supplier of high quality vinyl with an emphasis on psych, doom and stoner.”

Kungens Män have previously released albums on Riot Season, Cardinal Fuzz, Adansonia Records and their own label Kungens Ljud & Bild and Majestic Mountain Records is not only delighted but honored to be bringing you the next chapter in the evolution of their legendarily groovy, deeply trippy and fiercely funky, free form psychedelia.

Please give them a follow if you are not already and do keep an eye out for more regarding these monumental explorations into the art of sound.

The quote from the band:
“After more than a decade in constant motion, Kungens Män are now ready to unleash one of their most ambitious project thus far. In February 2024, the first part of “För samtida djur” (For Contemporary Animals) will be released. It consists of eight songs with Kungens Män in their most condensed form, at the same time with a great degree of variation and some soundscapes previously unheard in the improvised world of the adventurous Swedes. The second part which comes out in May is a more classic Kungens Män collection, with long, sprawling songs that are invitations to inner and outer space. The music has been recorded over the last two years in between tours of Europe and UK.

These twin albums also mark the band’s first cooperation with a Swedish label, Majestic Mountain Records. A label built on love for the music and a supplier of high quality vinyl with an emphasis on psych, doom and stoner, the label has asked about the possibility of releasing Kungens Män for several years. And now the time is right!”

kugens man tour

Kungens Män live:
2024-02-09 Hus 7/Slaktkyrkan, Stockholm (SE) w/ Träd Gräs och Stenar.
2024-02-21 Inkonst, Malmö (SE) w/ VED
2024-02-22 Lygtens Kro, Copenhagen (DK)
2024-02-23 BLO-Ateliers, Berlin (DE)
2024-02-24 KOHI-Kulturraum, Karlsruhe (DE)
2024-02-25 De Onderbroek, Nijmegen (NL)
2024-02-26 TBA
2024-02-27 C.Keller & Galerie Markt 21 e. V., Weimar (DE)
2024-02-28 KuBa, Jena (DE)
2024-02-29 TANKSTATION, Enschede (NL)
2024-03-01 Terminus Saarbrücken, Saarbrücken (DE)
2024-03-02 TBA (Hamburg area?)

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Kungens Män Sign to Majestic Mountain Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Just good news here. I haven’t been so stoked on Majestic Mountain Records picking up a Swedish jam-based heavy psychedelic rock band since… well, probably since they signed CB3 last year. So not all that long, but still. If you’ve kept up on the languid, sometimes-crab-inspired organic psych proffered by Kungens Män, most recently as part of Worst Bassist RecordsInternational Space Station Vol. I (review here) four-way split last Fall, you don’t need me to justify the ‘good news’ designation above. And yes, I hear that in Prof. Farnsworth’s voice. Of course.

I’ll look forward to both parts of För samtida djur The first piece of which will arrive in February, the second in May. Tight schedule. If it’s February and September, I’ll still take it. Time matters way less if the jams are right.

From the label via the PR wire:

Kungens Män

Kungens Män signs to Majestic Mountain

Imagine for a moment if you will, a lush and verdant world where the senses are completely captivated by vibrations of melody. Reverberating through the psyche with intoxicatingly jubilant, electric pulsation and entrancing bliss uninhibited, a complete soul rapture in the form of literal, rhythmic poetry. Well, Majestic people, we’re about to take you there.

It has always been the goal of MMR to release music that has an “otherness” about it, a quality of inimitable magic, sometimes not tangibly quantifiable but instead, felt in the gut; ultimately pulling at the heart. This signing is exactly that philosophy in its essence. For a very long time we have been ecstatically awaiting the time when we could make today’s announcement and that time has finally arrived.

Please ready yourselves for transportation to a completely different star system with Kungens Män joining the Majestic Mountain Records constellation for an incredible release in two parts. A full sonic immersion, exploration, and expression of life itself via organically explorative mastery ✨(#129680#)

“In February 2024, the first part of “För samtida djur” (For Contemporary Animals) will be released. The album consists of eight songs of Kungens Män in our most condensed form, yet with a great degree of variation and some soundscapes previously unheard in our improvised world. The second part which comes out in May, is a more classic Kungens Män collection, with long, sprawling songs that are invitations to inner and outer space. The music has been recorded over the last two years in between tours of Europe and UK. These twin albums also mark our first cooperation with Swedish label, Majestic Mountain Records. A label built on love for the music and a supplier of high-quality vinyl with an emphasis on psych, doom, and stoner.”

Majestic Mountain Records is not only delighted but hounroued to be bringing you the next chapter in the evolution of the Kungens Män saga and their legendarily groovy, deeply trippy, and funky, free-form psychedelia.

Please give them a follow if you are not already. More information will follow soon so keep an eye out regarding these monumental explorations into the art of sound.



Kungens Män, “Keeper of the One Key”

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Friday Full-Length: Kungens Män, Fuzz På Svenska

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 20th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

‘Tesen,’ the 15:35 leadoff track, sets the tone for the proceedings to follow. Every note matters. Even before the sax shows up. Every note has purpose, and while Kungens Män conjure such a sense of mellow-psych drift in that gorgeously echoing initial stretch, there is no mistaking intent. It is not haphazard jamming as a soft synth drone comes to back the guitar, or when after the first six of the total 15 minutes the sax suddenly arrives, and then the drums start a little while later and it turns out you’ve been in a build all along that only grows more lush, jazzy and patient as it plays out toward its deceptively bassy, long-fade finish. The ultra-organic Swedish instrumentalists released Fuzz På Svenska in August 2018 through Adansonia Records, and “Tesen” is one of four songs extending to such aural-temporal reaches; there’s also the title-track (14:18), the penultimate “Tung Dialog” (14:10) and closer “Ljupt Djud” (19:16), with the shorter “Starta Gruff” (6:54), “Centrala Mellanplanet” (7:03) and “Tung Pedagog” (5:12) spread throughout, not so much to offset the longer pieces — if they were, the band might’ve split up the closing duo and had a true back and forth throughout the tracklist — as to provide a complement of more compressed movements. “Starta Gruff,” which immediately follows “Tesen” is a ripper in comparison, with its guitar-vs.-sax-oh-no-wait-they’re-working-together soloing and the persistent snare of Mattias Indy Pettersson, a straightforward beat turned experimental in context.

Whatever role improvisation plays in the work of Kungens Män generally — they released the full-length Kungens Llud & Bild (review here) earlier this year and took part in Worst Bassist RecordsInternational Space Station Vol. 1 four-way split 2LP (review here), and yeah, neither seemed wanting for it — the six-piece of Pettersson on drums, guitarists Hans Hjelm and Mikael Tuominen (also percussion and production/mixing), bassist Magnus Öhrn (who also did the cover art), synthesist Peter Erikson and saxophonist/percussionist Gustav Nygren have always been purposeful in conveying a sense of exploration. Their beginning in 2012 led to a few wildly productive years, putting out minimum-five LP-length outings in 2013 and seven in 2014 before, like a nascent volcano, they cooled off a bit and only did three in 2015. Still, multiple records from them in a year isn’t surprising — it happened in 2017 and 2019 and one wouldn’t mind if it happened again — but Fuzz På Svenska stands out in part because of its title, which translates to ‘fuzz in Swedish.’

That gives some depth to the Endless Boogie-gone-jazz funky smoothness of “Fuzz På Svenska” itself, with its undulations of low end and intertwining currents of sax, hypnotic and begging for comically oversized headphones, like get some duct tape and just attach hi-fi speakers to your head facing inward. Kungens Män excel at this kind of reaches-finding, and their approach is more dynamic and natural in its presentation for the fact that they let the audience in on the process of their getting there, whether it’s “Tesen” gradually coming together, one piece at a time, or “Fuzz På Svenska” easing into the groove it will hold for the duration, through final bouts of low distortion wash, sax, and its last guitar strums before the seemingly aptly-titled centerpiece, “Centrala Mellanplanet” hums out threats of feedback over pastoral guitar lines, drums out for a walk meeting with organ or whatever that is along the way. It too takes its time fading out, and that becomes part of the impression of the album, Kungens Man Fuzz Pa Svenskalike Fuzz På Svenska gives silence its role to play in making Swedish fuzz what it is. And if this is the band’s declaration of what ‘fuzz in Swedish’ means, drawing on the likes of NovemberTräd, Gräs och Stenar, its progressive leanings indeed make it part of a vibe lineage well worthy of the update and interpretation they here give it.

“Tung Pedagog” is barely a sliver at five minutes long — the ‘radio single’ as it were — but its floating-guitar magic trick is reason enough for it to be where it is, if the underlying shuffle wasn’t (it was), and it gives over to “Tung Dialog” as more than an intro but almost like a shove into the final two pieces, which between them are well over half an hour long and especially digitally are a world unto themselves. On the 2LP, the longer and shorter tracks are paired, but where it’s long-short for sides A and B, side C switches to short-long, so that five-minute “Tung Pedagog” gives over to 14-minute “Tung Dialog” with 19-minute “Ljupt Djud” behind it. Like so much of Fuzz På Svenska, this feels like a conscious choice toward listener immersion, and it works. “Tung Dialog” soars in its first-half lead guitar, but evens out in energy as it continues to broaden, the synth cycling through alongside guitar and the flowing, subdued-but-not-inactive rhythm. The last five minutes particularly feel like a drawdown, and that Kungens Män treat the piece with such care and grace is emblematic of their approach to what they do on the whole. They’ve got six players aligned toward a singular idea — you ever try to get six people to agree to anything that wasn’t ice cream? maybe this is their ice cream? — and where so many others would just let “Tung Dialog” fall apart, and even Kungens Män themselves kind of let “Starta Gruff” do the same, the mission there was different and knowing that and being able to change methods is part of what makes them function so effectively as a group.

It’s not surprising they reserve a special kind of heavy psychedelic grace for “Ljupt Djud,” but that doesn’t make the execution any less inviting. The closer is essentially one huge linear build, brought to its crescendo at around 10 minutes in, only to maintain that level of swell for most of the remainder of the song — they bring it there and hold it there, in other words. It’s not quite that simple, of course, but once it gets loud, it never recedes all the way again. A proggy start-stop guitar riff becomes part of the cacophony, and that will end up being the final element to go — they end cold after so many fades, because obviously — but as with the rest of Fuzz På Svenska and the best of jam-based psych as a general style, it’s even more about how you got there than where you ended up. If you can dig it, it can dig you too.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

So, in about two hours — at 7:30AM — I have an appointment with an orthopedist to look at my knee. You might recall I sprained it two weekends ago at Høstsabbat, or at least I’ve been calling it a sprain. The swelling hasn’t gone down, the pain hasn’t really stopped, I inadvertently straightened it while walking in the lawn the other day waiting for the bus and fell down, brace on, Advil, all that shit. On Wednesday, which was also my birthday and turned out to be an otherwise wonderful day full of family time, some good chats with friends, and alt-flour/sugars cookie pie, I started the day at urgent care where they took an x-ray and made the referral. I assume this appointment will be hoop-jumping in the sense of you go, you wait, you go in, doctor says MRI, then you need to make an appointment for that. I’ll be honest, I’ve been hoping this shit would just heal on its own if I ignore it and move on with my life, but like two weeks later that’s a little bit more difficult to see as a reasonable position, particularly when every step hurts.

The Pecan feels feelings when I’m like, “ow!” and so that’s been a thing to deal with, and The Patient Mrs. is supportive in a handle-your-shit-dumbass kind of way that is actually something I need — see implementation of “ignore it,” above — so yeah, it’s been a week. But really the dominant feature of the last few days in my mind was how much joy I felt on my birthday to be with my family, to have my mother and sister and her husband and their two kids come. The Connecticut contingent (The Patient Mrs.’ family) couldn’t make it down because it was the middle of the week and kind of just a laid back, get-pizza thing, but my kid sat on my lap and helped me blow out the candles and how many more times am I going to have that happen? I still sing to him at bedtime. These are moments that I know are fleeting and I know won’t come again. If I don’t stop and appreciate them now, there’s no fucking point to anything.

My family are largely well. Mom is en route to deaf and needs new knees, but systems-wise and cognitively is a go, and my sister’s family are all wonderful people. Her older son just started high school and reminds me so much of her at that age; sleepy, sarcastic, funny, curses like the proverbial sailor, etc. I am lucky to have these people in my life. Everyone’s basically healthy, alive, here. This is worth appreciating.

And I got to talk this week with Walter from Roadburn and Peder from Lowrider, heard from Slevin, watched more Rammstein videos and Star Trek and got to post All Souls and review UWUW on my birthday, so yeah, it was a pretty good one. The Pecan turns five next Tuesday, and then next Saturday is his party with the bounce house, CT family coming down, all that stuff. Cleaning to do, but it’ll be fun.

Next week around here should be pretty solid, one way or the other. I just confirmed — like right now, midsentence — a full stream for Edena Gardens, the new project with Causa Sui and Papir members, and I’ve got a Ruff Majik video premiere on Thursday. Some other stuff is still pending, but I know I want to review The Otolith, and Brant Bjork, and if I have time, Black Math Horseman, but that’s a maybe.

I’ve also got a Creem column due today, because that’s going to be in print now instead of on the internet, which is fine I guess, and need to get to work on Dozer liner notes for Postwax, so yeah, much to do.

But the knee thing this morning is probably first (after this and my next coffee, anyhow), so we’ll see how that goes.

Thanks for reading and have a great and safe weekend. I know it’s cooler now than at high summer, but still, don’t forget to hydrate. And watch your head out there. And your legs, I guess.

Back Monday. FRM.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 93

Posted in Radio on September 16th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

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I don’t know how many of these posts I’ve done by now. Fewer than actual episodes, the number of which I do keep track. But it always feels a little weird. Yeah, guess what? I think it’s a cool show. Of course I fucking do. I made it. What, I’m going to try to suck?

So hey, this is a pretty good show. You should listen.

In all seriousness, I want to express my thanks to Gimme Metal for allowing me to continue to do this. Their platform has gotten huge in the last few years and they need my ass taking up two hours of precious air time like they need a reminder of traditional radio’s downfall, so it really means something to me that I get to weird out and share music for a new show every two weeks. I can’t even turn my playlists in on time. My voice tracks weren’t submitted until Tuesday! Terrible.

Bottom line though is Gimme doesn’t at all have to let me keep doing a show. In my embarrassing number of years, I’ve seen outside-the-genre interest in heavy rock, psych, doom, sludge, and so on wax and wane, and my experience is that if you’re not all the way in it, you’re eventually going to move on to something else that speaks to you. Nothing wrong with that, of course; it’s how life works. It’s why I’m not catholic. But for a company with their hands in so much other shit to allow someone like me to do my thing in my own way and my own time is pretty god damned rare and viscerally appreciated.

That’s all I’ve got to say about it, except that, again, this show is pretty good.

Thanks if you listen and thanks for reading.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at: http://gimmemetal.com.

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 09.16.22 (VT = voice track)

King Buffalo Mammoth Regenerator
Slomosa There is Nothing New Under the Sun Slomosa
Fu Manchu Mongoose California Crossing
Stöner Space Dude & The Burn Totally…
Monolord The Siren of Yirsinia Your Time to Shine
Corrosion of Conformity The Door Wiseblood
Colour Haze Goldmine Sacred
Mythic Sunship Equinox Light/Flux
Blue Rumble Brasas Blue Lightning/Brasas
Solanhum Basti (Falling into the Natural Realm) Rostratum
Fogteeth Delirium Man Headspace
Electric Wizard The Chosen Few Witchcult Today
Alain Johannes If Morning Comes Hum
Red Sky Blues Glowing Red Sky Blues
Kungens Män Keeper of the One Key VA – International Space Station Vol. 1

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Sept. 30 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Album Review: Various Artists, International Space Station Vol. 1 Split 2LP

Posted in Reviews on September 5th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

VA International Space Station Vol i

It’s a pretty clever play on the idea of an International Space Station. The ‘international’ part: four bands, each from a different country. ‘Space’: well yeah, everybody here gets decidedly cosmic, thank you kindly. ‘Station’: there’s enough of it to make either your own radio or land your starship on, however you choose to interpret the word. One likes to think it’s in an optimistic spirit that Worst Bassist Records brings together Nashville, Tennessee’s ElonMusk — who probably regret that moniker by now — Electric Moon from Germany, Swedish jammers Kungens Män and Norway’s Kanaan to pay conceptual homage on the International Space Station Vol. I four-way, all-instrumental, 88-minute split double-vinyl to the most genuine evidence of what humans can achieve when collaborating across their own pretend/tribal borders, reminding us that even as the international order teeters (war in Eastern Europe, pandemic, climate change, on and on) and such cooperation feels ever rarer, the possibility of a better way exists.

Each band gets a side, and uses it for one song. It is something of a surprise to find an American band included here at all — Europsych has a tendency toward insularity; it looks out for its own and in the past I’ve perceived a bit of nose-up as regards many US acts; obviously not the case this time — but ElonMusk not only get a quarter of the ‘station’ to themselves, they go first. Thus “Gods of the Swamp Planet” (22:02) unfurls its synth-laced mellow roll a headphone-ready expanse of tripped-out serenity. Floating guitars, floating synth, subtle flourish on the toms and cymbals (thinking of the ride at about nine minutes in), and it’s an outbound motion that builds from the initial drone of keyboards as the guitar, bass and drums arrive, set and launch the course, setting their own mood and that for the release as a whole. Just as “Gods of the Swamp Planet” seems to hit its comedown, at 13:28, a louder and more uptempo movement starts, still with the synth droning out behind, but the drums hit harder, the guitars soar higher, and a post-Earthless triumph rings out, if only or about two minutes. It feels live if it isn’t, in part because of the residual energy carried over as “Gods of the Swamp Planet” settles down again, but at 18:37, it turns back to its squibbly scorcher lead and more fervent nod, and rides that groove until residual drone carries it out.

Side flip. For pleasant surprises, Electric Moon‘s “Duality” (15:46) is the shortest inclusion, but offers a markedly uptempo take, immediately digging into the space rock purpose hinted at in the split’s title and apparent theme. The band recently shifted lineup, bidding farewell to Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, and I’m not sure whether this is their first song without or their last with him — the lineup is now “Komet Lulu” Neudeck (who also runs Worst Bassist Records) on bass, Johannes “Joe Muff” Schaffer on guitar and Bernhard “Pablo Carneval” Fasching on drums — but the band’s long-established modus of immersive and cosmic instrumental heavy psych is given extra flash through a steady percussive tension and a swath of layered guitar effects, smoke trailing their way through the consciousness as “Duality” careens toward its midpoint. Shortly thereafter, a break to silence and a measure of transitional guitar leaves a blank slate from whence the guitar and keys begin to rebuild a post-rock pastoralia, a serene six-minute contemplation that’s a standout from Electric Moon‘s work to this point, if one that carries a familiar hypnosis forward to new ground. Perhaps that’s the band’s portrayal of cross-cultural fellowship. If so, it should rightly be considered a focus point for the release as a whole.

Record switch. The second platter finds prolific Stockholm collective Kungens Män already in motion by the time the needle hits the platter, bending space, time and their own strings as “Keeper of the One Key” (23:24) unfolds its they’re-already-gone-and-it’s-time-for-you-to-go-too interstellar languidity. Smoothly delivered as ever for the band — class explorers through and through — the guitar turns to an improvised sounding bounce and starts running scales at about nine minutes in, but the truth is if you’re not on board by then, Kungens Män have already left without you. But don’t worry, there’s time to catch up as they dig, dig, dig into the realms of hidden matter and unknowable energies, physics turning into so much lazy-eyed goo in their capable, moderating control. It’s not quite as drastic a second-half departure as that of Electric Moon before them, but “Keeper of the One Key” shifts into a more distorted lead tone after hitting the 20-minute mark and caps with a bit of chug to wash down all the prior noodling, its long fade capturing the moment when the jam probably came apart but still giving a sense of the various infinities surrounding Kungens Män as they elicit deeply entrancing calm out of chaos. It’s also telling that as International Space Station Vol. I plays out, the songs get longer.

On that note, one more side flip — and/or a format switch — to the digital-only-because-it-wouldn’t-fit-on-a-12″-anyway “Beyond” (27:43) from Kanaan, who follow 2021’s Earthbound (review here) and herald the upcoming Diversions Vol. I: Softly Through Sunshine with evocative-of-waves ribboning astral jazz. Never mind that with its runtime it’s an album unto itself, “Beyond” underscores both journey and arrival for this collection, gradually making its way into a slow wash of melody and breadth. Should there be any residual doubt the Oslo-based troupe are as we speak positioning themselves as one of the foremost purveyors of next-generation European heavy psychedelia — not an insignificant crowd from which to distinguish themselves — the apparent ease with which they drift into and through the piece’s midsection and out toward the encompassing and louder finish is marked by patience as well as vigor. The final element to go is a howling guitar — convenient aural analog for the outing as a whole — but by the time they’ve gotten there, Kanaan have asserted their emergent mastery over the expanding omniverse of their sound. “Beyond” reminds that time is a construct and the best thing you can do with your mind is expand it. If you want elevated consciousness, then you need to get on that elevator.

United in purpose and largely in mood, International Space Station Vol. I may be the start of a series, or like so many ‘vol. I’ outings, it may not. I won’t claim to know. For right now — such as it is with that whole “time is a construct” thing — the efforts on the part of Neudeck in bringing these acts together are not to be undervalued, and while splits and compilations are often the realm of tossoffs, leftover recordings, etc., this version of the ISS reminds of the incredible capacity human beings have when willing to set aside largely-imaginary differences of demographic and opinion in favor of unity. It wants nothing for substance, building structure from formlessness. Beautiful in ideology and execution.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 85

Posted in Radio on May 27th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Yeah, there are some longer songs here. Truth be told, I wanted that. I wanted the show to have a flow from one track to the next. A lot of it is a pretty dug-in, trippier vibe. There’s some light and dark, and when you get to Wild Rocket and YOB that’s a kind of blasting point that I acknowledge in the subsequent voice track too, but I get two hours every other week to do this thing and I had a specific idea for how I wanted to use it this time.

Does that matter? I don’t know. I just want you to listen to Moura and Okkoto because those records has been laying waste to my soul of late. Lili Refrain I was put onto last weekend or somewhere thereabouts and I wanted to check out more, so there you go, and I feel punk rock guilt for missing Blackwater Holylight and BleakHeart when they came through — to be fair, I had/kinda-still-have the plague — and I thought that I’d probably be the only person on Gimme to play something like Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, so after having closed out last week with that on the site, the temptating to include it was too much to resist. Everything else was built off that.

I did my best to make a good show. If you listen, I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks if you listen, thanks if you’re reading. Thanks in general.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at: http://gimmemetal.com.

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 05.27.22

Moura Lúa vermella Axexan, Espreitan
Okkoto Where the Meadows Dream Beside the Sea Climb the Antlers & Reach the Stars
Magick Brother & Mystic Sister Utopia Magick Brother & Mystic Sister
Kungens Män Vaska lyckokaka Kungens Ljud & Bild
Blue Heron The Buck Ephemeral
Blackwater Holylight Who the Hell Silence/Motion
BleakHeart The Dead Moon Dream Griever
Lili Refrain Ichor Mana
Wild Rocket Formless Abyss Formless Abyss
Mt. Echo Flummox Electric Empire
YOB Nothing to Win Clearing the Path to Ascend
Wo Fat The Oracle The Singularity

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is June 10 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Album Review: Kungens Män, Kungens Ljud & Bild

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 3rd, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Kungens Män Kungens Ljud & Bild

Hail the kingsmen, as the many triumphant journeys of Swedish heavy psychedelic explorers Kungens Män have led them to the cosmos itself. Kungens Ljud och Bild is both the name of the record and the name of the band’s imprint handling the European side of the release — the US is out through Centripetal Force — and it translates to ‘The King’s Sound and Vision.’ Immediately, the mostly-instrumental but for some rather urgent spoken word in Swedish on “I Hjalles kök” (“In Hjalle’s Kitchen”) long-player sets its synesthetic standard. And the five-song/55-minute offering from the Stockholm six-piece only meets it along the way, melding improv-rooted jamming with mellow space and krautrock, resulting in the multi-tiered hypnosis of a song like the also-appropriately-named, 15-minute “Stora rummet” (“Large Room”), which follows opener “När piskan viner” (“When the Whip Wines”) and layers drifty bounces of synth or guitar or whatever it is behind a sunshiny guitar figure like they’re the string section the band was able to get cheap because they’re from an alternate dimension.

Yes, that’s a compliment. Here’s another: a band of this style — any of them — will fall entirely flat without chemistry. I don’t care how talented the guitarist or the bassist or the keyboardist or the drummer or whoever is. If it doesn’t gel, the band will suck, then die. Kungens Män launch “När piskan viner” like it’s a rocket to Charon with stops on the way for gas, and the space-bound motion of that song — shorter at just 7:44 than everything save the closer “Stora rummet (Edit),” at 5:58 — establishes outright that wherever they’re going on the songs that follow, the listener can be well assured they’ll reach their destination. Comprised of guitarists Hans Hjelm, Gustav Nygren and Mikael Tuominen (the latter also vocals, bass), bassist Magnus Öhrn, synthesist Peter Erikson and drummer Mattias Indy Pettersson, Kungens Män are able to conjure both the haze and the clearest path through it. Maybe that’s the sound and vision. It would make a fitting kind of sense, since on Kungens Ljud & Bild, often it’s both at once.

As straightforward a signal the opening riff of “När piskan viner” is — it’s time to go! — the prevailing vibe throughout Kungens Ljud & Bild is more serene than pushy. That’s not to say that the vinyl-concluding/digitally-penultimate “Vaska lyckokaka” (“Scrap a Fortune Cookie”) doesn’t find its way into a gorgeous outbound progression across its 11-minute span. On the contrary. In what sounds like a piece carved out of a longer exploration as it fades in at the start, what’s captured in the early moments of that song is crucial to understanding how Kungens Män manifest the chemistry noted above. The drums come in locked into a swinging groove over some fuzzier low end and an accompanying casual guitar strum that soon finds a complementary shape. Keys are there, a cleaner guitar tone arrives. Sounds like everybody’s aboard by about 1:10, and they’re underway with an odd note here for good measure, but soon that clean tone is topping the backing swirl with a somehow-dreamy progression that lasts until after three minutes in as a fuzzier guitar arrives to complement, growing more manic for a few seconds, trading off getting back in line, and so on.

Kungens Män

You don’t necessarily realize it yet, but Kungens Män are talking here, and the transition is already under way. There’s a brighter guitar tone in the mix as of 4:59, and that begins to shift the rhythm between the other two strains and over the next minute it pushes the lead clean tone to space out, which it has done by the time they’re at 6:30, though the motion is so smooth it’s hard to pinpoint any more exact time when it happens (they say 5:43, but I’m not sure). And from then on, they’re free to introduce wavelengths of distortion, to let the keyboard go wandering, and to gradually bring the procession to a natural conclusion with a final, somewhat understated, cymbal crash. This isn’t just the kind of thing that not everybody can do. It’s an unspoken communication of creativity between six individuals, and even among heavy psychedelic acts — hell, even among mostly-instrumental, jam-minded heavy psychedelic acts with a penchant for warm tones and classic grooves — that makes Kungens Män stand out.

The prior “I Hjalles kök” works similarly in fading up from what was probably a jam that gradually took this shape, and I don’t know whether Tuominen‘s spoken vocals over it — drawing from a notebook of nonsense songtitles according to the band, arranged and delivered like poetry — happened at the time or were layered in later, but it feels perhaps like a response on the band’s part to the inevitable question of why they don’t have a singer, which in their case is even more ridiculous because the core of their project is so outside the realm of verses and choruses they’d be a completely different band if they did.

But the mad David Byrne-esque Swedish poetics does the job well enough, and emphasizes Kungens Män‘s willingness to experiment as regards the central tenets of their approach, the detail and complexity of the instrumental progression beneath his voice supporting but not at all staid with an uptempo drum progression and tense low-frequency fuzz.  Above all of this, uniting the two sides of the album with their varied takes and even including the edit of “Stora rummet” on the end of the DL, Kungens Ljud & Bild is rife with purpose. Those familiar with the band will find it a more active release on average than 2020’s Trappmusik (review here), but will already know as well that these things are not all one or the other.

Consider though that among the sundry live and studio offerings Kungens Män have made over their 10 years together, this is the closest they’ve ever come to releasing a self-titled album. If one extrapolates from that a kind of representation of the band’s part of who they believe they are, then this material feels all the more definitive. More likely, however — and a negative perhaps for clean narrative but certainly a positive for the actual listening experience — this particular world is one more stop along Kungens Män‘s progressive journey, and there will be more to find as they continue forward.

Kungens Män on Bandcamp

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Centripetal Force Records on Instagram

Centripetal Force Records website

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