This EP, the third by Svarta Stugan, is pretty good. These keyboard-driven post-rock-styled instrumentals are totally acceptable. And, as a whole, this eighteen-minute-or-so EP is perfectly decent. But it’s not quite amazing.
The drums pound away with expert precision, hitting all the right beats; the keys warp and weave with all the wowing eighties saw-wave charm you’d want them to, and the guitars are loud when they’re meant to be loud and quiet (or even absent entirely) when it’s the right place for them to quieten down. But, even though they seem to be doing exactly the right thing musically at all times, not much of it really hit me in the feels (as the young people say these days). To be clear, there was nothing wrong with any of it, but I wondered if that was exactly the problem: It was maybe a little too right? I just don’t know for sure, but maybe if they’d gone somewhere really wrong, somewhere really strange and risky and made a bunch of irrational unpredictable decisions, I might’ve enjoyed it a bit more. Certainly I enjoyed the wildly chaotic tracks on the EP more than the predictable (although perfectly serviceable) ones.
Like I said, it’s really not bad at all. It’s actually quite good, if you like keys-and-rock proggish-but-groovy instrumental types of bands (like Night Terrors et al). It feels like the Swedish three-piece are aiming for something between Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Add N to X, but they’re never quite as good as either, lacking both the sombre epic majesty of the former and the quirky grooves of the latter. It’s definitely not shit, but it never quite reaches greatness. Even though there are total wig-outs, even these feel restrained like all the band members know it’s just the intro and very soon they’re going to start rock-and-rolling again properly, and so are kind of not really able to dedicate themselves to complete wild abandon because soon it’s back to the four-four and they need to keep their shit together. But it’s not like it’s bad music or performed badly. It’s all very professional. It’s fine.
It’s probably just me.
The middle of the EP hits the mark best, with the track ‘Damn Good Coffee’ delivering an energetic blast of drum-heavy synth-pomp that is almost in the same league as Trans Am or Tortoise. The wildest the EP got was the track ‘Drums in the Light of Christ’, which felt the most energetically exciting, with an almost Last Exit or Mahavishnu Orchestra jazz-rock feel, and really totally went the fuck off, but blasted wildly for less than two minutes and then ended, a brief supernova of excellence that was gone in a moment. But seriously, it was intense, with guest saxophonist Christopher Thorén from Music Is the Weapon adding a great free-jazz skronkiness and balls-out reckless unpredictability to the tracks he was on (the following track, ‘Un-Birth’, was also great, really ragged, sloppy, and frayed at the edges, like the whole thing was balanced on a tightrope of form and formlessness—I loved it). I can’t help but think the chap really should be considered for a permanent role in the band. Not only did he add a lot of textural mess to the songs, but the other players also seemed to become looser and stranger in his presence, and it felt that, as a four-piece, they were really a lot more exciting.
So, yeah: Not a bad band by any means, and I’m absolutely certain that a lot of people will get into them (especially the crowd that dig post-rock and/or synth-driven instrumentals), but apart from a couple of killer tracks, this EP left me wanting to go listen to all the other bands I just mentioned. Give it a whirl: You might really dig it because it’s definitely not shit. It’s not shit at all.
02) Street View
03) Damn Good Coffee
04) Drums in the Light of Christ
06) We Are