There’s a website that I frequent quite a lot called Cabin Porn. It is dedicated to small dwellings, usually in the middle of some stunning scenery, to which you can retreat from the world and… well… just ‘be’.
That notion of just being is one that I find very attractive, and whether it’s my early morning 7km walk up the hill for a coffee, or sitting at home immersed in an album… I like to work my way into situations where I can just be… but those cabins seem to provide another level of introspection and as a result seem somewhat elusive, which is why ‘Cabin Porn’ is exactly the right term to the site.
This, it seems, is a hankering that Stockholm’s Kungens Män have also felt… looking fo something different in terms of the way that they make their music, as the press release for their new album, ‘Trappmusik’, states:
Kungens Män usually record at home, in busy Stockholm, coming directly from the Underground, rolling escalators, the everyday stress latent in the back of the mind. We rumble for about two-three hours, mirroring frustration and built up energy from the working week we just left behind.
Instead they loaded up a couple of cars and headed out to Silence Studios in the deep woods of Värmland to escape the every day and.. well… just be:
This session was different. Silence is a place for contemplation. It was the end of May, the sun was shining, the grass was green and we took walks to the lake in between takes. We recorded 13 hours of music at a quite slow pace over the course of three days.
This must be a very special place indeed because when you see the list of albums associated with it, it tells you pretty much all you need to know. I would love to have the time to just go through this list… I think the vast majority of them would just let me just be…
This then is a much more laid back album from Kungens Män, one on which every track reveals new depths and reflections… which in and of themselves are indicative of the lake walks and community life that the band undertook:
”Trappmusik”… has its peaks, but the overall vibe is calm, introspective and vibing off the fantastic recording room that has hosted so many giants. ”Främmande i tillvaron” is a nod and celebration of one of the masters of Swedish music, Bo Hansson, who was the spark that made Silence happen in the seventies together with Anders Lind who actually rigged the equipment for our session. What’s also interesting from a historical point of view is that the recording engineer we brought with us, our friend Isak Sjöholm, is the son of Jakob Sjöholm from Träd, Gräs och Stenar, who were also really important for the community around Silence.
…and this is something that I really appreciate. The sense of being… the connection with the past… the sense of collectivity through improvisation: an organic bond with tradition, music and each other…
The reason I’ve spent so long on this is that once you understand the circumstances around its inception the more this double album of music really begins to make sense. I was lucky enough to see Kungens Män twice on their recent tour of the UK (see here for my piece on that), and was struck by the understanding they have both on and off the stage. This took place after the Silence Studio sessions, and maybe this experience helped them to come closer as a unit… whatever, seeing them play close up in two quite different settings told me how well they work off each other. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it was such a good tour for them.
This is obvious right from the beginning as you begin to listen to ‘Trappmusik’… you can immediately hear those elements of heritage and togetherness in the music. That is because opening track ‘Fånge i universum’ immediately gives you that 70s folk/ psych/ progg vibe, that feeling of earthiness amidst the the music… which feels very fluid and loose in many ways. You notice the sax which seems to be there in lieu of the vocal element of the song… leading the conversation, yet also somehow locked into the clearly chilled out groove that means that this is really something that you can connect with.
With the scene well and truly set, ‘Senvägen’ somehow hits you hard even though it is arguably even more chilled. From the first few listens this is my favourite track on the album, and I’m delighted that the band have chosen it to be the one for me to Premiere here.
I really could listen to this all day… the laid back vibe is just brilliant… it’s a Sunday morning track… a sitting by a lake starting into the middle distance track… a driving down an open road on a sunny day track; but also a track that I can imagine would be very healing as its luscious tones waft their way over mental and emotional wounds while that bassline acts as a rock to keep you grounded… I imagine that you may well have this on repeat as I move on.
‘Tricksen för transen’ in some ways feels like a bit of a throwback, reminding me of the band’s wonderful ‘Dag & Natt‘ release from 2017; certainly from the vibe it puts out. This is, of course, no bad thing… it is more intense than the previous tracks… the absence of the sax here meaning that the focus of the track is more diffuse with the guitars more naturally coming to the fore… elements of rock and kraut giving it more of an edge.
Next up is ‘Främmande i tillvaron’ which we have already heard is dedicated to Bo Hansson, one of the pioneers of Swedish music in the 70s and 80s, and someone who released a number of records with Silence. Listen to this a few times… get inside it… and realise what a lovely number it is. Here the keyboard takes the focus and delivers a really creamy lead which sees the Kungens Män drift back through time in those same studios… somehow channelling the spirits of the past in an emotional and meaningful way… I can really imagine there being a special atmosphere when this was recorded.
The album then takes a more stripped-back and minimalist direction with ‘Vibbdirektivet’… the beat is down and there is a lot of space created here. This is a track that gives you time to think… to contemplate. However, while there is a relaxed element to it like so much of what has gone before… this is a different sort of serenity in the way that it seems to garner different thoughts. This, I am coming to realise, is what I particularly appreciate from this set of music… that it can all be called chilled and laid-back, but this is by no means uniform… there are many shades here… many emotions… many moods… But as I listen to this quarter hour number the only phrase that really comes to mind is: ‘beautifully empty’.
Nearly an hour into this listening experience now and I can pretty much say that everything about me that can be horizontal pretty much is… this album seems to peel back the layers of stress like an old plaster being taken of a wound and allowing the healing air onto it… ‘Lastkajen’ continues the vibe from ‘Vibbdirektivet’, nicely complementing it and making a coherent third side of the vinyl.
The fourth side is totally taken up by the longest track here, nearly eighteen minutes of title track ‘Trappmusik’. Here we see the return of the sax which almost seems to be in conversation with a guitar which is equally as unbound and flowing… together they take the track forward, but couldn’t do so without the more rigid underpinning from a rhythm section which… like the carol… is deep, crisp and even. As you get deeper into it with every listen you find yourself following different lines of musical enquiry… each with its own part to play… there’s jazz here, there are the blues, a certain Krautrock vibe. Yet, like the whole of this album, there is an openness… an invitation to interact with the music and make it your own, and in the end that is perhaps the biggest joy here.
So, if I had my cabin in the middle of nowhere, this album would be amongst the ‘musical porn’ that I would take with me… I can imagine listening to it many times over and just being. Yet I can also imagine just being in a number of different ways because this is not a mono-reflective album but one that almost celebrates our own inner diversity… that allows us to explore the difference within ourselves… to deconstruct ourselves if you like. That is certainly what I would want from a period of solitude in the middle of somewhere… ‘Trappmusik’ could maybe find me the steps to facilitate that.
I’ll leave the last word, though, to the band themselves:
Use this music however you want. Play it loud or put it on as background music. Lie down on the floor or dance to it. The woods are singing.
RELEASE AND ORDERING INFORMATION!!
‘Trappmusik’ is released by Adansonia Records in two versions (pre-order here):
– 350 x yellow (side A/B), orange (side C/D) vinyl, 180g, hand-numbered, inlay
– 150 x orange/yellow split vinyl, hand-numbered, hand-printed inlay
LP’s come in fully-laminated thick matt sleeves and black padded inner sleeves. Any vinyl purchase includes a high-quality download.
Release date: 10 Feb. 2020
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