Well it’s time for another Kungens Män album, ‘Kungens Ljud & Bild’, and once again I am very pleased to be doing a Premiere of one of the tracks from said release, namely the opening number ’När Piskan Viner’ which, as you can hear below, is yet another angle on the band’s sound.
Whenever I hear something new from Kungens Män I always come to it with an open mind… because you never exactly know what you are going to encounter… and encounter is a good word to use here because the sextet from Sweden never seem to fail to find something new to say through their largely improvised recordings. From this point of view ’När Piskan Viner’ has succeeded in taking me somewhere that I didn’t expect to go… in this case the studio of The Stooges at the turn of the 60s/70s as the band let fly on what can only be described as a filthy start to proceedings… this is gradually refined into something more akin to space rock as the guys stretch out the sound… but, crucially, without losing the heaviness that marked the beginning. As drummer, Indy, says of the track:
“The opening riff suggests we’re teenage heavy metal rebels riding our mopeds, trying to grow
mustaches, failing in every possible way, going half throttle anyway, middle finger raised. Slowly, as we rock, the guitars decide to take different routes, finding that wicked Kungens Män vibe, and we evolve into something beyond our own understanding. Let the freak flag fly! As it was, is and always shall be.”
…and that’s just about it… like often happens, the band get lost in their own sound… totally away from the conscious… and yet manage to maintain this vibe throughout… and you can too if you truly believe, guitarist/ saxophonist Gustav:
“The stubborn energy with which we hold on to the riff shows the band’s total belief in rock music’s transcendental power in a tune that could otherwise be dismissed as a pastiche. It’s calf-like, it’s swaying, it’s on its toes.”
It’s a great start, so enjoy…
After such an energetic beginning there’s an altogether more chilled out vibe to the start of the second number, ’Stora Rummet’, which I already had quite a bit to say about, but then heard from the musicians themselves… and found that it was the same for them… Gustav again “This is a piece I would have thought was written beforehand, had I not known it’s spontaneously
improvised. The way the instruments present themselves one by one, taking their space in the mix, adding layers. A good example of the band’s style of instant composition within the framework of rock’n’roll.”
…and I think that this is one of the key things for me in ’getting’ Kungens Män… when you listen you get the feeling that everything is there for a purpose… carefully arranged… like a sonic Zen garden that has been well tended for years… but while such a garden is an illusion on some level… so is the band’s sound… because that precision comes from improvisation… from a collective trust and understanding between the musicians that rake the musical gravel towards its own patterns… as guitarist Mikael Tuominen explains:
“I think this represents my favorite go to head space with Kungens Män. We’re taking it pretty easy, letting things evolve slowly and with small means, but when you zoom in and out you recognise all these layers that are floating on top of each other in a slightly disjointed way.”
But unlike the detachment of a Zen process there is something that is more inherently unspoken yet present in this music… maybe a sacred space… but certainly an non-rational one, Indy again:
“One of those songs where I’m amazed that we manage to keep it all together. Letting the music guide you not the other way around – is what’s happening here as we’re gently navigating our way down the rabbit hole. Never knowing where we’re going is the real magic.”
But keep it together they do… the chaos masquerading as order and composition… something that is less evident with the third track here, one that takes us even further to the outer edges… and one that does sound more improvised thanks, in no small part, to the beat poetry musings of Mikael… naturally this is in Swedish which my stage 2 Duolingo cannot keep up with but, Can/ Suzuki-wise, I suspect that this does not really matter. The musical part of ’I Hjalles Kök’ has a kind of Sabbath ’Children of the Grave’ vibe going on which is a very good thing as far as I’m concerned… then imagine that with added Can and you get a very heady mix indeed. According to Indy the recording went off like this…
”The words are spoken by Mikael randomly from our long list of possible future song
titles. While the rest of us were playing, he was scrolling through the list and creating lyrics on the spot. Sung in Swedish, here are some rough translations of what he’s yelling about:
“’German ninjas! Watch out! They marry the most beautiful pigs! 800 years of constant change in Hjalle’s kitchen. It’s harder than hard rock in the bargain bin. They’ve got eyes in the nose. Angry dicks.’ If that sounds weird to you, you are probably right and fully functional.”
What it did do was remind me of seeing the band live in London in October 2021 when such a performance was not only de rigour but sufficiently weird to be hugely satisfying… in this world weird is definitely a good place to be…
Mikael adds more context… ”Some of us often end up in our friend Björn Viking Hjalmar’s kitchen after a long night out. That’s where middle aged men with big record collections find their release, their soul mates, their meaning of life and it never stops. Until it does at 5 AM.”
I have this track on repeat on headphones at the moment and it is dragging me out of the everyday into a world that feels like it is occupied by the sort of soft clouds you get in cartoons… the sort that you can sink into… the regularity of the beat is the thing that convinces you that you are not going to fall through, while Mikael’s voice is the siren call that makes you want to stay… it is potentially one of the most psychedelic things that Kungens Män have done… I just love it.
To be honest I didn’t want to leave the world of Hjalmar’s kitchen… I really liked it there… but move on I must and when I do I’m immediately on the autobahn with the motorik sounds of ‘Vaska lyckokaka’ which quickly pick up the quintessential KM guitar sound which, in turn, takes you on a journey that is all too familiar to those who know the band’s music. While the previous track takes you somewhere exciting the first half of this one is like travelling in the back of an expensive Mercedes (or how I imagine that to be)… still and well-upholstered… although there’s a definite change of pace from comfort to sport mode as the band move up through the gears to really take this track, and this album as it turns out, home. Funnily enough I read this comment from Mikael after writing that:
“This is one of those travel songs, where we just tag along something in the middle of the room that leads us forward. The energy is the engine. A whirlwind to get lost in.”
Indy too reflects the sort of vibe that I was also feeling:
“Slow burner. Space traveling begins at 05:43. From then and onwards it’s just free falling through the infinite cosmos that matters. The keyword is free.”
It is a wonderfully chilled and liberating way to finish yet another Kungens Män album which has more than fulfilled it’s minimum purpose of taking me somewhere else… from there it is in some sense about degrees… and this one takes me deep than many… it is an album of four distinct tracks, each of which have their own vibe going on… there’s chaos and there is order… there soft and chilled out relaxation… and there is in your face heavy riffing… there is the young and the older… perhaps mature would be the wrong word… but who wants to be that.
In short this is another cracking set that will have you all over the place… and feeling all the better for it.
Kungens Män are:
Peter Erikson: synth
Hans Hjelm: guitar
Gustav Nygren: guitar (1, 2, 4)
Mattias Indy Pettersson: drums
Mikael Tuominen: guitar, six string bass & vocals
Magnus Öhrn: bass
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