Published on August 9th, 2017 | by The Beige Baron0
REVIEW: Kungens Män | Dag & Natt
It’s ironic that in the age of Spotify, when you can play “any music under the sun”, how quickly it is you become overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed with so much choice. Take a punt with something new, and it’s fine, but then six more albums that look even better are waved under your nose, and whatever it is you were listening to is abandoned for greener pastures. Patience is thrown out the window. There is no emotional investment. The desire for instant gratification can never be sated by convenience, it only feeds it.
And so you move locust-like from record to record, snatching bites of this and that, hearing only flaws, joyless, dissatisfied, and empty. The frustrated listener retreats to the comfort of the familiar, to music they feel they own rather than something that feels cheap or stolen.
The two guitars, bass, synth, and drums seem to melt into songs that take a life of their own…
For a new record to find its way onto your list of trusted fallbacks—those albums routinely relied upon to deliver should a certain mood arise—is kind of miraculous.
It’s a paradoxical twist that so often, that first taste needed to make stars align and an album to make a vital connection so often comes from the same streaming services that have poisoned music for a lot of people. But the fact remains that a whole lot of music drains through the net before something gets caught: the album has to really be something special to go from “should probably give that a proper spin” to “I just bought it and now it’s part of my life”.
I love psychedelic music, whether it’s the twisted kosmische of a modular synth, the earthy dervishes of bands like The Myrrors, Bitchin’ Bajas, Hills, or Eternal Tapestry; spacey pulsations and relentless motorik grooves from bands such as Follakzoid, Lumerians, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, and Pinkunoizu; or the intoxicating and cataclysmic drone of FRANCE or Folke Rabe. I dig the repetition, the aural tactility, the explosions of color that these bands summon by a lengthy processes of hypnosis. I like cranking it up loud on the cans while I work.
One band that has joined these artists on routine rotation when I need a failsafe spaceout is Sweden’s Kungens Män. It quickly becomes apparent when listening to the band’s latest double LP Dag & Natt that they do indeed possess a special magic. There is no one element in the music, or aspect of individual musicianship, that overwhelms the other; the core four-piece and their frequent guests seem to harmonize perfectly. What they have that others don’t is difficult to describe precisely: it’s just that the two guitars, bass, synth, and drums seem to melt into songs that take a life of their own.
The album, presented on 2CD and double-gatefold LP via the boutique label Adansonia Records, has a circuit-like pattern on the front and back covers, each side reversed to represent “day” [“Dag”] and “night” [“Natt”]. Although it’s split in two, this album is intended for consumption as a whole, and going the distance is effortless. From refracting sax that intertwines with the sunbeams and smattered birdcalls of Morgonrodnad at dawn to the lush, cascading guitars and birdsong that greeted us the day before—as the last joint passes around to ease the comedown—this album moves fluidly outside time.
The purring synth throughout these jams is sublime: never heavy-handed or swallowing the other elements of the music…
With a few exceptions, each song builds from sketched bass figures or guitar licks picked up by the drums, carried along until the groove is good and solid, and then sprouting into hallucinatory swirls of guitar, looping, curling in fractals like some exotic fern unfolding on a time-lapsed camera.
The purring synth throughout these jams is sublime: never heavy-handed or swallowing the other elements of the music, just carrying things along in a tide of analog tone, sometimes providing a rhythmical motif for lengthy cosmic excursions like Samtidigt. Come to think of it, it’s the discipline of these musicians, and their ability to let the songs grow in directions the band probably didn’t expect, that’s key to why these songs succeed. Their excitement is palpable. And then, to land the compositions deftly, winding them down for a subtle fade-out and into the next idea.
Ornamented throughout with contributions from guest musicians — the unlikely lead of saxophone borders on virtuosity on the opening number and its ecstatic freak-jazz climax — you get the sense that band is deliberately trying to avoid formula by trying new elements out and looking for new ways into songs. Sometimes the pre-groove calibrations are clunky as the band works in and around an idea, but uneven ground is quickly subsumed as the members flock around and under the idea, lifting and transforming it into something unexpected and wholly mesmerizing.
I love the drumming on this record. It’s sparing, it swings, and it’s totally in service to the music. Guitarists Mikael and Hans must be complimented for the astonishing range of colors they calls into existence, trading from rhythm and lead parts seamlessly and with admirable restraint. The solos that grow from funk patterns work around the root chords playfully, lovingly, like fingers exploring a body at leisure to find and caress the notes that please. They loop in whorls of delay, warped rainbow-like over the warm, simple figures of bass, thrumming synth, and cruising ride cymbal.
Kungens Män are prolific, and not all of their output is as consistent throughout as Dag & Natt. As a follow-up to Stockholm Maraton, a solid outing with genuine moments of transcendence, it shows a progression in confidence and maturity; a band that’s found their voice, arranged different ideas carefully into a concept, and gone for it. Musical points of reference that spring to mind are all welcome — being reminded of Neu!’s Hallo Gallo is not unfair to one or two of these tracks — but these signposts fade as the song develops into something else entirely. The music is not in the slightest derivative, not is it interested in mining old ground for new gems. In the players’ excitement comes a sense of motion, and it’s liberating to travel with this music for a time.
If improvised, jazzy, motorik rock with a good dash of acid-folk and a hint of krautrock flamboyancy sounds good to you — and you’re unafraid to go with freeform ideas without feeling cheated out of the grooves you came for — then buy this album. It’s the kind of music that leads to 10-minute zone-outs. The track fades down, eyeless gaze refocuses back on your Excel document, and you ask yourself with genuine bafflement, “Where the fuck did I just go?”
Partner your purchase with Stockholm Maraton, save on some shipping, and you’ll have two new faithfuls to call upon when Spotify has you fleeing back to the comfort of your own record collection.