Spökraket is a neo-psychedelic band from Århus, Denmark formed in 2010.
The core band members are Bjørn Vind Abildtrup: 12- and 6-string guitars, organ/synth; occasional glockenspiel, percussion and backing vocals, double bass, Jonathan Højgaard: 12- and 6-string guitars, vocals; occasional keyboards/synth and Sinas Robin Svendsen: drums and percussion; occasional guitar and backing vocals. Guest artists on ‘In A Witch Forest’ are Freja Schaumburg-Müller Pallesen: vocals on ‘Lord Drug My Mind’ and ‘Distant Light’ and Thomas “Dr. Scyde” Mee: bass on ‘Tahrir Square’.
My ever lasting thanks go out to Stephen De Sarasola for introducing me to Spökraket earlier this week, it was love at first listen!
Sit back and press play on the below bandcamp link, and give your ears a treat as you read on…
The further into the labyrinth of writing these reviews I delve, I find myself questioning the very nature of the ability to adequately describe through words, the myriad colours of the surreal or, more often than not, all too real fantastic sonic landscapes. In Patrick Lundborg’s exceptional book Psychedelia: An Ancient Culture, A Modern Way Of Life, he makes the key observations that, “Behind this lurks a notion that the actual experience cannot be adequately described in narrative terms. …There are in fact no accurate descriptions of anything; merely descriptive gestures and socio-linguistic agreements on words and what they refer to. Therefore, any attempt at capturing a profound trip experience made with a serious intent is worth as much as any other, and the psychedelicist is free to put memories into words best he or she can.”
So, here, as far as my memories and experiences will allow is my best take on what the album says to me…
‘In A Witch Forest’ is an eclectic and highly accomplished work of art, the tracks are by turns; an hypnotic pulsating organ underpinned, whirling dervish of an anti-establishment proclamation, in ‘Tahir Square’; a relentlessly pounding, mesmeric drone raga force of nature, in ‘Tandava’; an ecto-induced Madchester swagger, in ‘Lord Drug My Mind’; a blissed out overdrive backwash symphony, in ‘My Mind Is Going’; a Cocteau Twins paean in’Electricity Comes From Other Planets’; sounding baggier than The Stone Roses’ jangle pop, in ‘Enjoying Insanity’; a languid mescaline acoustic trip, somehow channelling Joy Division’s ‘Colony’ by way of a Yaqui medicine man – ‘In A Witch Forest’; a shimmering Slowdive slice of shoegaze, in ‘Distant Light’; and closing track ‘Tribute To Ride Into The Sun’, conjures trip-hop to out-massive, Massive Attack… such is the diverse dexterity of this sensual synaptic serenade – I shit you not!
As the band stated themselves on their Facebook page, “After 14 months of recording in our beloved Cable Hell Studio we’ve finally completed our third album. It’s a hazy, moody and intense journey of psychedelic rock and shoegaze with inspirations from North African and Indian folk music, Madchester and krautrock. This time we’ve tried a different approach with shorter tracks. As always it’s recorded on tape and we had loads of fun in the process.”
Not only does that fun shine through, but the apparent ease with which these guys alight on and cherry-pick from each genre, underlines their multi-instrumental ability and musicianship.
I asked the band for the lowdown on what’s going on in the world of Spökraket, and all 3 of the guys graciously answered, so here we have an individual account from each head of Cerberus in his own words…
1. What’s behind the LP? That’s a very broad question mate, haha. Three geeky hippies working damm hard trying to create an interesting record while having a good time with each other. Do whatever it takes to get it on tape you know, even when it’s getting obsessive and probably not too healthy. Always had a good laugh about these mad stories about the recording of “Loveless” where Kevin Shields supposedly went so nuts he preferred the company of chinchillas to the surrounding world. Like a martyr for music related fundamentalism. None of us keep rat like creatures with a zen-ish attitude (yet) but I entered this odd moody stage where I could switch between loving or hating a song with few minutes notice. And don’t get me started about how I feel about the cheap Fostex mixing desk that will soon be replaced with something better. The songwriting process is a very collabrational (spelling? grammar?) thing. My favourite on the album might be the title track which was a great riff and various ideas about the theme by Bjørn that developed with inputs from Sinas and I and with the assistance of a heavily layered sound and various substances, at least for my part, it became a finished song. We nicked an effect from The Beatles called automatic double tracking where you create a regular tape echo that constantly get it’s tempo and therefore pitch changed slightly.
2. Upcoming shows? Only five booked so far but far more in the making. We only played live four or five times during the last year or so to focus on recording so gigging regularly will be amazing I’m sure. Hopefully we havn’t scared off all by promoters, over the years we had a few incidents including the police interrupting two gigs for being too loud, one stage fight with the manager of our mates’ band and various other incidents that is best left off this interview despite their entertainment value. Looking back it was quite hilarious though we have taken sound advice to heart and will behave. Doesn’t include abandoning excessive loudness though.
3. What are you listening to? My Bloody Valentine, Spacemen 3 and various spin-offs, Happy Mondays, The Velvet Underground, The Electronic Hole, The Orient Express, Cocteau Twins, Jesus and Mary Chain, loads of 60’s and 70’s classic pop and rock music like Simon & Garfunkel, Stones, Beatles, Creedence and such, Erkin Koray, Johnny Cash, Lee Hazlewood, Selda Bagcan, BJM, Goat, Funkadelic, Can, Neu!, Faust, Tangerine Dream, Slowdive, Primal Scream and many others. I also listen to a lot of local contemporary music like Morgan Square, NarcoSatanicos, Snöleoparden, Acid Twin and a new band called Hunger. I’m damm lucky to have recorded with all of the above except Snöleoparden. I think Goat is probably the best band since the early 90’s though there’s lots of great stuff alive and kicking these days. So happy we made it through the dark fucking ages of the late 90’s/early 00’s with ears and minds more or less intact. I also listen to various electronic music though I prefer most of it in a rave enviroment.
4. What’s next? We plan on playing as many gigs as we possibly can while still having time to do other things or just chill out and do so from April and a year from then give or take. Two friends of us, Jacob (guitar) and Tobias (bass) have agreed to join us for gigs and perhaps they’ll be permanent members if they feel like it and they can cope with our strange idiosyncracies. Could be great to be a five-piece for the next album, I’m quite sick of my own voice and Jacob is a fine singer so sharing the vocal duties could be mint. We won’t do serious recording again for a little while which also leaves us with time to improve our studio further. Let’s see what happens, but no matter what we’ll be doing this for a long time with small breaks here and there.
1. What’s behind the LP? After our last record “Darling Adharma” we kind of decided to have a different aproach. We decided to make shorter and more implemented songs, being more sceptical and practise each song more before deciding on a take. Shorter songs, also so they could all fit on one lp, for the sake of the listening experience and also to make it a little more realistic economicly. For some reason this is also the first record (along with the Distan light/Sedated fun Single) with some songs that actually started out from some of my ideas. We have always created the final songs in a very collective manner, but it has usually started out from either a free jam, one of Jonathan’s riffs or a few times some riff from other bandmembers. The album wasn’t meant as a concept album but can be interpreted that way, and that’s a good sign I think. The cover art really punctuates this, you can kind of find the different songs inside the picture, but not in an obvious way. My guess is maybe that the album is: a journey through a “forest”, maybe someone’s inner psyche, mental states over a bit of time or whatever, not neccesarilly the right answer. But hopefully it’s just a good flowing album with catchy songs and a common thread people will like.
2. Upcoming shows? Several gigs with Morgan Square and Acid Twin, the 2 other bands from our rehearsing room Cable Hell. Acid Twin will also be released on Cable Hell records soon and hopefully Morgan Square too, in a little while. Hopefully a lot of other great bands in the future as well.
3. What are you listening to? Very different things depending on mood. It might be disco, madchester, shoegaze (my bloody valentine, flying saucer attack), old garagerock (buzzcocks, Death, The Saints, Stooges), hiphop (a tribe called quest), italidisco(chromatics), 80’s/90’s indie/alternative (stereolap, Smiths, Mccarthy, Pulp, blur), various different comtemporarry danish artists/bands (Vår, Yung, Several things…), ambient, 70’s german progressive rock (popol vuh, can, Harmonia), blues (leadbelly, billie holiday), jazz, classical, maybe even some mainstream radio pop once in a while and a lot of other stuff.
4. What’s next? No-one knows.
1. What is behind the LP? I think of the album as a result of the development we have gone through in the last couple of years. On Darling Adharma we did a lot of experiments in the way we played, with a lot of free jams, going in all kinds of directions. We had an approach of embracing chaos and enjoying the fact that you could start in one place and end up somewhere completely different. The same goes for the engineering and mixing the album, where we tried all kinds of crazy experiments, and got a wide range of different results. Some worked out on that album, and some didn’t. Thereby, we got a chaotic sound and flow and although we are not altogether pleased with the end result, it allowed us to find each other as musicians, and persons. So in a way Darling Adharma was a series of experiments, and In A Witch Forrest is a result of what we as individuals and as a group learned from those experiments. On top of that we discovered that Bjørn, who has not written that many songs on our previous releases, had a treasure chest full of great ideas for new songs, and I see some of those ideas as important parts of giving this album it’s personality.
2. Upcoming shows. Well, Spökraket is still looking for gigs for the summer. On the 17’th of April we will be a part of the Acid Twin backline as support for White Hills. The next day we will play as Spökraket at a gig in support of Kurdistan. After that we have a mini-tour of five concerts, together with Morgan Square and Acid Twin, in order to introduce the new record and label around Denmark in May and July. Except for that we don’t really have anything concrete.
3. What are you listening to? I grew up in the Hare Krishna movement, and although I am not a part of that anymore, having decided that religion is not really my thing, I grew up listening to and playing classical Indian music. So naturally I have a few inspirations from there, Ravi Shankar being the most famous. My personal favorite from back then, was and still is Vrindavan Mellows which is Indian temple music, build on repeating the same song, melody and rhythm, and building it up to a trance-like state getting ever more and more intense. Our song Tandava draws a lot of inspiration from that. When I was seventeen I moved to Spain for a couple of years, and there I started to find interest in the local gypsy music, which led to an absolute fascination with gypsy swing i.e. Django Reinhard, and other related genres. Once I came back to Denmark, I met a guy who introduced me to black metal, death metal and doom, and I actually played in a blackened doom band for a while. From there I moved on to electronic music, and started listening to 90’ies drum and bass and triphop. A friend and I started a band playing a mix between jazz, funk and drum and bass. That ended one day, as my band mate decided to move away, and that is when I bumped in to Jonathan at a demonstration. Before I met Jonathan, I did not know anything about psychedelic rock, accept for Pink Floyd, The Doors and those kind of bands. But I quickly realized that there is a whole genre segment, that make really cool music which I had not known existed before. Now I listen to most of the names listed by Bjørn and Jonathan.
4. What’s next? At the moment we have a music collective, with a studio and a record label. The studio is the brain child of Jonathan, and the label was my idea. My focus in the near future is to make that work, while keeping a job and playing as many concerts as possible. Hopefully somewhere in between all of that I’ll be able to see my friends and family.
It is perhaps also fitting that in a week when we have lost one Spock that another has boldly ventured into our midst.
So there we have it psychonauts, I am smitten – I reckon you will be too…