I have those good people at Sky Lantern Records to thank for introducing me to the aural phenomena that is Centralstödet.
As an already confirmed devotee of Kikagaku Moyo, Sky Lantern’s release of Mammatus Clouds earlier this year brought me the added bonus that has been the music of Tolchock and Centralstödet.
Centralstödet are the Swedish instrumental quartet of Ulrik Lindblom and Daniel Johansson on guitar, Joni Huttunen on bass and Jonas Fridlund on drums. The band describe themselves as “Swedish Psych” and “Amplified Madness”, and are described by Sky Lantern as “Garage Proggers”.
Centralstödet’s debut 7 track album, ‘Solkurva, Krök, En Böj’ was released by Sky Lantern in April as a limited edition of 100 hand numbered cassettes, and very quickly sold out.
Album opener, ‘Två Nyktra Veckor Senare’ has a jazz/blues monster riff that has all the hallmarks of an early Black Sabbath. Clocking in at just over a minute, the track seems to serve as an apéritif for the main event to come.
‘Man Över Styr’ follows with an improv, free-form prog jam, it’s purposefully technical meandering, punctuated with soaring highlight motifs.
‘Monokelklåda’ is a ten and a half minute fuzzed out blues expedition, that excels in teasing out Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac coloured accents.
Title track, ‘Solkurva, Krök, En Böj’ kicks off with more of an urgency, and showcases Centralstödet’s ability to take a riff and bend it at will, to take them anywhere they want to go. (Bizarrely, when I typed that line – I had no idea that Böj actually translates to bend!).
‘Tändkulans Sista Suck’ is one of those epic, sprawling, space mantra tracks that makes me feel like I’ve broken free of gravity, and have been channelled through a portal from the great pyramid to the very heart of Orion, aboard a funerary solar ship.
Penultimate track, ‘Medley: Gräva Grav/Två Nyktra Veckor Senare/Som Om Bromsen Var En Gas’ starts out with a real garage vibe not unlike The Stooges in full swing before locking in to a tighter groove then segueing into the album intro. Triptych closer, ‘Som Om Bromsen Var En Gas’ careers off down the road in a speed freak seeded cloud of dust, brake pedal mischievously adding more gas, as the title suggests.
Album finale, ‘En Flack På Visionen’ neatly rounds off the package with a high octane, swamp fuelled blues jam, rock out.
Given that this album was recorded as a by-product of some twenty-odd hours of home recordings, it is a testament to the musicianship and ability of Centralstödet, as well as to the skill of Sky Lantern Records, in identifying and producing what to all intents and purposes, sounds like an intentional and homogenous album.
One of the really fantastic, humbling aspects of this whole, DIY, underground, independent and social media driven music scene, is that you can literally find yourself shooting the breeze with the actual real life musicians. The people in the bands that you have been worshipping from afar, whilst they provide the soundtrack for the movie that is your life.
So it was that my friend Bob Darlington, just happened to mention that he had been talking to Centralstödet guitarist Ulrik Lindblom on Facebook. Introductions were made, and plans for putting together this band profile were hatched.
There was the important business of some gigs in Japan for Centralstödet to take care of first. I had asked Ulrik for some thoughts on the dates in Japan and he confirmed that he would also tell me how the band came about.
Above and beyond the call of duty, between Ulrik and drummer Jonas, below in their very own words is the story of Centralstödet, so far…
“The story of Centralstödet is without a doubt unknown to most people. That statement is of course not huge news since there are probably about a zillion bands out there that are still more or less unknown. The thing is that we are quite confident that the story about Centralstödet still would be completely unheard of if it wasn´t for a few dedicated psych fans around the world. We are simply amazed that some newly found friends on the internet could make such a difference!”
“The truth is that we´re a band that is quite restless and not very well organised. The way we usually go about things could easily be described as whimsical, to say the least. We love to play music but for long periods we haven´t even rehearsed due to lack of focus and motivation. Fortunately we have the ability to get our act together when an opportunity shows up! Over the years we have published some material on different sites but only with minimal expectations that something extraordinary would come out of it. Surprisingly we one day got an e-mail from an American, Nik Rayne of Sky Lantern Records, who wanted to release some of our music on cassette. We must admit that we were totally unaware of the underground scene concerning cassettes at the moment but we decided to get our shit together and give it a try. It´s well worth mentioning that when we were looking for some of the material he asked for online, we realized that our music had been recognized on various blogs in Europe. Heavypsychman, a Swedish blogger named Mik Kay, had been promoting our band without us knowing about it for years! That was inspiring! Anyway, the result was a limited edition release of some early material and eventually a lengthy interview on revoltoftheapes.com by Ryan Muldoon. Soon after that we were actually on a plane on our way to Tokyo for some gigs! More of that later.”
“To slow things down a bit we should probably tell you how the band started out. Even though we´re in a bit of a manic episode at the moment, things haven´t always been like that. The band has surely had it´s ups and downs. What happened about eight or nine years ago was that Daniel and Ulrik shared a garage and they sat around drinking and working on an old motorcycle. What they can recollect from that evening was that they ended up laughing when lifting up a Matchless ´59 on it´s central stand (centralstödet in Swedish) when Daniel said: “Wouldn´t that be a cool name for a band? A drummer friend of mine, Jonas, will be here in an hour, maybe he will join us! “. A few hours later the band had a name and a concept and the confidence was building up. Daniel and Ulrik had loads of old tape-echoes, guitars and amps and played in various bands but Jonas didn´t even have a drumkit at the time. The fact that he hadn´t played the drums for ten years didn’t seem that important that night. It was just great fun! We can´t say that any of us put much thought into the band after that evening but at least a seed was planted.”
“A year later it was time to give it a try. Otherwise it would have been just another thought project that wasn´t going to materialize. After an impulse purchase of an old drumkit we were excited to see if the band was able to deliver something musically. Even though we were pretty sure from the beginning that we were going to be a blues-based, spaced-out, instrumental jam band we really didn´t have a clue how we were going to sound. We didn´t have any songs! So we just started out with no holds barred. We confess that the first jam sounded pretty awful and we nearly ended our efforts right then, but since we had rented a proper rehearsal room we decided to give it another go. It would have been a huge anticlimax to drop everything after talking about it for over a year. The second jam went a bit better and soon we started to feel more relaxed playing the way we did. It kind of started to make sense to us to play without any given directions. In any case we discovered that playing together was a great excuse to drink beer and have a bit of a laugh! Early on Joni joined on bass and his basslines have definitely given our music some extra depth. Quite soon after he joined the band the four of us played live for the first time. We realized that jamming in front of an audience is a completely different thing from playing in a rehearsal room. We eventually had to outline some riffs and themes to start out on. Just to know which direction we were heading. We found out that playing improvisational music without any directions can be quite nerve-wracking. Even though our music has gone through changes over the years this is where we are at today.”
“As mentioned earlier we ended up in Tokyo after a fortunate turn of events. Some of the members of the bands Kikagaku Moyo and Tolchock, also connected to the Skylantern label, had apparently got notice of our music and wanted us to come over to play. To us it felt a bit strange because we hadn´t really done much lately with our music. But we jumped on a plane and met up with them! We just found it stunning to see what a slight push forward from some friends can do! The first gig was on Tokyo Psych Fest housed in a cool club in Shibuya, the party district of Tokyo. A lot of people showed up and we had a great time together with Green Flames and Guevnna. We of course have to thank Go Kurosawa at Tokyo Psych Fest and his friends Tomo and Ryu for organizing the whole thing! The second gig was together with Tolchock and The Floral Tributes and Messages in a rehearsal studio complex in Koenji called Sound Studio Dom operated by Yoshikiyo Shiraishi. The club was called Jumanji and was run by Taku and Shoko of Tolchock. Great fun! On our way back to our hotels we managed to drop Daniel off in an unfamiliar area by accident and we lost contact with him for three days. Other than that we had lot of fun during the week in Tokyo and we met a lot of friendly japanese people who made our stay an entirely pleasant one. They are awesome! We surely hope that we didn’t disturb too many social codes on our visit but we had only good intensions. An explanation for our somewhat erratic behaviour could be that it was caused by lack of sleep during our entire visit. Hopefully we will be back one day to make it up to them!”
“At the moment we´re jamming extensively to prepare for a gig in the Eel Garden Art Gallery in Borås on the 25th of December. It´s sold out and some 300 people will show up. We are certain that we can deliver some entirely fresh material. We´re also recording the progress and shortly we will be able to publish a new video on YouTube. We plan to release an album this spring or possibly as soon as in March. The only problem right now is that a Kebab meat factory has plans to push us out of our rehearsal studio which, by the way, is housed in an old slaughterhouse. Hopefully everything will turn out all right as we feel that we´re on the go now!”
“The story of Centralstödet is surely still in the writing and we are looking forward to seeing what the future holds. Hopefully we will get in touch with some more interesting people along the way and that we will be able to play some more live, either in Sweden or abroad. We want to take the opportunity to thank everybody mentioned above and if someone wants to reach us you can do that on our Facebook page. Some merchandise will be available there as well shortly.”
Having followed the daily photographic updates on Facebook from Centralstödet’s adventures in Tokyo, it certainly looked like a fantastic time was had by all. I’d urge anyone to check those images out, for a genuine insight of what it looks like when a european band plays in Japan.
Not only have I had the honour of the band being prepared to bare it’s soul as openly and earnestly as they have above, but I have the added accolade of the band offering an exclusive new track, ‘Signalfel (Stycke för 2 Jazzmasters i Fuzz due)’ – seeing it’s first public airing right here on Chromaticism.
Centralstödet may well be a band who are still writing their own story, but for my money – it looks like it’s going to have a very happy ending…