With their 2014 album Aspects of Our Future Selves, Swedish three piece Svarta Stugan (translated as “Black Cottage”) has come up with their third EP release in as many years. One might have thought given the post-rock labeling that this band would make the type of intricate and melodic, typically instrumental music that groups likeMogwai have perfected over the years, but it’s to the band’s credit that they’ve embraced a side of this genre that’s much more experimentally-based and actually reminds me more of Systems and Layers-era Rachels. According to the group themselves, Aspects... was spawned from the imagery seen and soundscapes heard in things like Twin Peaks and Blade Runner, and I can see how that might be true since some of these tunes, earthy as many of them are, have a sort of detached and cold quality to them.
The album starts with the appropriately-titled “neo-futuristic,” a track that initially blends a swaying rhythm and swishing guitar background with trumpet-like but calming main synthesizer line. Halfway through the piece, the drumming gets much more intense and we head into a louder, triumphant section in which the synth continues to soar above the other instrumentation. I suppose the dynamic contrasts here might be one element that would tie this material to that of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and the nice mixing heard on this opening track makes it feel rather cinematic even if there’s relatively few ingredients making up the whole of the composition. The throbbing and squelchy synth parts heard in the beginning of second track “Streetview” remind me quite a bit of older horror movie soundtracks (like those of John Carpenter for instance), and there’s a nice ambiance to the track created through use of subtle background sound effects.
The subsequent “Damn Good Coffee,” which quickly builds to an explosion of gurgling sound effects, pounding drums and lots of crash cymbal, stands as a well-placed, more intense piece after the low-key one that preceded it. “Drums in the light of christ” plays like a free jazz freakout, with blurting saxophone over shredding guitar, a piece that avalanches towards a cacophonous conclusion, while “Un-Birth” operates to the tune of a repeating, see-sawing synthesizer loop and more squawking woodwind instruments. This piece has a jagged and jarring, somewhat sinister feel, with the additional instruments blurting out in rhythmic contrast to the omnipresent synth. Final track “wE Are” features a crisp guitar melody and a more tranquil feel, slowly building momentum towards a nifty conclusion full of buzzing melody and nifty harmonic interjections.
If I could point out that many of these track seem to show a band still in the process of developing their sound and finding their voice, the players in Svarta Stugan pretty clearly know how to develop and craft a solid album that ebbs and flows. There’s a nice sense of progression on this EP as it moves from quieter stretches to thunderous moments of emotional release, and though the individual instrumental performances aren’t mind-blowing, everything is pulled off extremely well and fits in the scheme of the compositions quite nicely. Without a doubt, this is probably one of the more interesting, purely instrumental bands I’ve stumbled upon in a while: some of these groups seem to be in desperate need of a vocalist to take their sound to the next level, but there’s enough going on in the music of Svarta Sugan that a singer would almost be redundant. Aspects of Our Future Selves may be too abstract for some people to really approach, but I think it’s excellent for what it is; definitely worth checking out for those who appreciate non-traditional composition and unique music.
7.5 / 10
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