Necromonkey, the project of ex-Änglagård drummer Mattias Olsson and Gösta Berlings Saga keyboard wizard David Lundberg, are a band I have followed since their crazy debut Necroplex was unleashed on an uncaring world in 2013. This was followed last year by the more considered (A Glimpse Of Possible Endings), and then a live album. This brings us to the here and now and Necromonkey’s fourth album, the puntastic Show Me Where It Hertz.
This album is a sideways step for the Swedish sound manipulators. Inspired after a Stockholm concert in which the duo, joined by Kristian Holmgren, performed as a synthesiser trio in honour of the live venue’s ethos, which concentrated their energies into reimagining their music for that particular format. Not wanting to waste those unleashed creative forces set loose by having to restructure their music without the trademark Rickenbacker bass or Fender Rhodes, or even a traditional drum kit, instead relying on synths and drum machines, the trio retreated to Röth Handle Studios and the end result is this album. Vastly different to anything they have done before, and a brave move of itself, this shows a band with a true progressive raison d’être.
Themes from the earlier tunes are reshaped and remodelled, subtle references in the titles of the first two tracks giving clues to their earlier origins. Otherwise, to this thoroughly unmusical ear at any rate, Show Me Where It Hertz is like a bouncing and over-energetic puppy set loose in Klingklang Studio with the freedom to press as many buttons and twiddle as many knobs as they need.
The opening eleven-minute salvo Entering The Sublevels Of Necroplex does just that, and emerges with an entirely new construct that at the same time has a timeless analogue feel that places it firmly in the lineage started by the Düsseldorf cycling boffins all those decades ago. Thus the template is set for the rest of the album, which at under 45 minutes is a sensible length with more than enough going on to hold the attention for its duration.
The soaring synth coda three minutes into the nonsensically titled Everybody Likes Hornets But Nobody Likes Hornet Egg sounds stunning as it cascades out of my hi-fi speakers at neighbour-annoying levels. The sound quality on this album is top notch, nothing has been lost to the Loudness Wars.
Of course, the biggest change is the complete absence of traditional drums, Mattias Olsson instead playing all manner of rhythm boxes as well as synths. The trio’s individual roles are subservient to the whole, hence the instruments listed inside the CD cover are not individually credited, although it is probably safe to say that Mattias Olsson is largely responsible for those listed under “Rhythms”.
The Rage Within The Clouds marches a stately progress up in the heavens, an elegiac skyscape to get completely lost in. The Electric Rectum Electoral is a contender for track title of the year, and presents a steely glacial edge, replete with guitar-like feedback noises and a glittering and shiny Teutonic synth melody that sets your teeth on edge, deliberately. As the band says themselves on their Bandcamp page, they are “pretty loud”. This is not intended to be easy listening!
It is inevitable that this audio set up will invite comparisons to classic synthesiser-driven Krautrock, and the angular introduction to Like Fun You Are brings to mind early Cluster recordings. Elsewhere the obvious comparison to classic Kraftwerk has already been made, but if you are familiar with Necromonkey’s previous two studio albums you will recognise the Swedish band’s stamp on all this.
The epic striding cinematic conclusion that is The Current Beneath The Squarewave sounds for all the world like Jean Michel Jarre’s evil cousin, and we arrive at the end of a loud and confident record that leaves my ears singing and a smile on my gnarled fizzog.
01. Entering The Sublevels Of Necroplex (11:00)
02. Everybody Likes Hornets But Nobody Likes Hornet Egg (5:00)
03. The Rage Within The Clouds (10:43)
04. The Electric Rectum Electoral (7:06)
05. Like Fun You Are (7:05)
06. The Current Beneath The Squarewave (5:54)
Total time – 45:40
Mattias Olsson and David Lundberg, with Kristian Holmgren play:
Pocket piano, Moog Taurus pedals, Yamaha SK-20, Roland Vocoder Plus VP-330+, Arp Omni 2, Crumar Roadrunner 2, Turntables, Korg MS-10, Vako Orchestron String Ensemble, Chamberlain Solo Female Voice, Mellotron Gino Vanelli Cellos and Basses
Rhythms: Modular synths (808 BD & 909 SD), Dynacord Percuter, Mattel Synsonics, Nord Drum, Roland TR-707, Synare
…and that’s just the first track! You get the picture, I’m sure.
Record Label: Röth Handle Recordings
Catalogue#: RO 016
Year Of Release: 2015