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Blod Missvaxt

2nd July 2021

Michael's Pick

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Finally managed to score some copies of this as its long sold out.

Blod is the work and preoccupations of Enhet For Fri Musik’s Gustaf Dicksson, one of the important cogs of the seemingly boundless and exciting Gothenburg music scene, alongside chosen fellow travellers. Released on Simon Joyner’s Grapefruit imprint over in Nebrasksa, Missvaxt is by far the most developed, bewitching and enjoyable output under the Blod banner.

Unlike, say, Dicksson’s parent group of free flowing improvised avant weirdoids, Missvaxt is a collection of structured, mutant folk musics that delve deep into Swedish mythology and traditions or, perhaps, in a unique interpretation of it. Blod uses some fellow Gothenburg luminaries on this recording; Elin Engström of Monokultur and Loopsel on some pretty thunderous Moe Tucker minimalist drums and Astrid Øster Mortensen is all over this too with vocals and haunting flute cameos.

In circling this music as a listener you’re constantly shown, or at least we are shown, the paucity of knowledge you have of seemingly hermetically-sealed music traditions from other places. Blod, on this outing, sounds strange in an uncanny valley way, perhaps hinting at the strange, uptight weirdness that underlays most north European culture. It’s lazy, of course, but one can’t help thinking of the aesthetic of epic poems like Beowulf or the way contemporary culture fetishizes and re-interprets the almost unknowable paganism of pre-Christian Scandanavia (I’m thinking specifically of Ari Aster’s Midsommar). What I’m saying is the tonalities and melodies of this music now strike us as alien yet oddly familiar, definitely beautiful and touching, but there’s an unknowability to the music, a mystique that adds to its appeal.

There are threads through-out Missvaxt which you can tease out as having links to traditions closer to home. The title song stomps with a distorted guitar playing imperious, garagey-chord changes but its upended by a twanging spring and jamming flute that detours it to the end. Arbejdet MåsteFlyde På is full on folk-rock, paganista death ballad (though of course with our sparse Swedish we don’t know exactly what it’s about) helmed by Mortensen’s multi-tracked, circular harmonious vocal pinning down a death march pounding rhythm. The drums/guitar/flute and guiro combo surfaces frequently and it’s the sharpness of the compositions that bring out the real flavour, peppered with alternate Garagey and folk tropes.

Blod’s music always seems unknowable, versions of music we vaguely recognise – creepy nursery rhymes, Garage rock plunderings, warped and warbling guitar passages – and its this elusive quality that brings us back to it continually. When you have moments of clear Beauty as on the penultimate track a ghostly vocal choir of one sings fairly straight-faced the refrain “Hallelujah” in a circular fashion it feels genuinely haunting rather than twee. Having said all that, the closing song Danmark Frit is just straight up gorgeous reminding us of After Hours VU but maybe in some lightless drinking hole in a place very far north, somewhere pretty far away and beguiling.

Other Releases by Blod