Drawing on a number of influences and genres, Kungens Män from Stockholm, Sweden have mastered the art of improvisational music you can immerse yourself into. In 2022 the band celebrates their 10th anniversary with their latest LP Kungens Ljud & Bild (The King’s Sound & Vision) that’s been released on Centripetal Force as well as their own label quite fittingly named Kungens Ljud & Bild. A five track (mostly) instrumental journey of sonic outbursts and layers, it’s an album you’ll want to listen to at least a couple of times to catch all the details.
Kungens Ljud & Bild sees a band of musicians in tune with each other, letting the five songs on the album evolve and take a form of their own as everything is improvised on the spot. With guitar and synth drones as the backbone of each cut, layers are added continuously as the songs evolve. There are notes of psychedelia, kraut, and even free jazz, and Kungens Män do a great job of creating atmospheres in a way that you’ll discover something new on each listen.
The album opener När piskan viner is a chaotic and manic psych-rock jam: an upbeat and gritty sounding main riff complemented by noisy and wild leads. It’s very in the moment and sounds like a band doing whatever they feel is right, capturing a raw energy and a certain immediacy. Of course, this is in part thanks to the whole thing being improvised, but the production on the album plays a big part in this as well. It doesn’t sound as ‘produced’ as other albums, which arguably is a preferable choice for an album like this as it helps capture this rawness. The sound is gritty, but in a sense pure, as I imagine it’s what a band like this sounds like in a live setting.
With guitar and synth drones as the backbone of each cut, layers are added continuously as the songs evolve…
Stora rummet slows things down for a change. A hypnotic and dizzying riff serves as a great example of Kungens Män‘s ability to capture a certain vibe as a result of the freeform album approach. There’s a lot going on as layers are added, but over the course of fifteen minutes, it all feels like a natural progression. Stora rummet is also reprised as the closing track in a much shorter form of only six minutes. Here, it’s straight to the point rather than slowly building up. It’s fitting as a closing track as it gives the whole album a sense of continuity.
It’s all incredibly immersive, not least on I Hjalles kök: an intense psych trip featuring spoken word vocals throughout the entire thing which certainly adds a layer of intensity as the words gradually become manic as the track goes on. This track has somewhat of a Pink Floyd feel to it, but instead of leaping into a grand psychedelic chorus, it’s stuck in the hypnotic and droning intro. Vaska lyckokaka is reminiscent of this, but it’s much noisier and kraut-esque, and the circular synth patterns and drones towards the end makes for a hypnotic track to get lost in.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, Kungens Ljud & Bild is an album you can keep listening to and still discover new things. It’s exploratory and enticing, and not least an album you can immersive yourself into. The freeform approach combined with the production makes it a really wholesome experience – it’s almost like you’re there in the middle of it all…
Scribed by: Emil Damgaard Andersen