LIKE ELEPHANTS 1 - The Movements (Crusher Records)
The "art" of review writing (if there is one) is partly about saying something in the first few lines ("the lead") that makes you, the reader, take notice. So let's say The Movements from Sweden are the greatest exponents of psychedelic rock in the world today. Taking notice yet? It's just one person's opinion - but it's true. Read on to find out why.
Over the space of a handful of albums and an EP it's become clear this is a band whose fortunes are worth following. Their latest album "Like Elephants 1" (so called because there's another volume in the can) manages to touch a myriad of bases - folk-rock, acid punk, garage and pop - and cover them so consummately well that the competition just doesn't come close.
There's a deft simplicity to The Movements' sound. Organ is prominent, bits of fuzz guitar jut out and the band switches on The Big Chorus with ease. The songs are well-written (some of them sound like the Doors with the baby fat and poetic excesses trimmed back) and the production is suitably organic and transparent. The songs manage to sound dramatic without being pompous or over-wrought.
Do people listen to whole albums any more? This is what you need to do to appreciate a band like The Movements. Sure, they write songs that stand up on their own, but when it comes to their albums it's far more rewarding to take in the the sum of the parts and enjoy the contrasts, the light and shade. This record has depth - and that's something that evades many other bands these days.
Track 2, "Boogin", shows what makes The Movements truly great. It spans more than seven minutes and it works up into a tight meshing of guitars bouncing off a simple vocal line that's pushed ever upwards by the organ. The instrumental section's the centrepiece and once it's said its piece it almost imperceptibly segues into "Shady Wind", the next song, a sparse and brief postscript. Which in turn leads into "Two Tongues", concise pop with a sinewy guitar figure.
If there's a formula here it's usually involving power and melody in the correct balance. Check the boxes with "All The Lost", which has one of those rise-and-fall lines that defines the song. The title track adds a lilting, elegiac touches, in instrumentation and production, that define many psych bands. "Ingenting Kommer Ur Ingenting" switches the mood to folk-rock with throbbing organ and shuffling drums and guitars.
If you haven't worked it out yet, The Movements are a wonderful band. "Like Elephants 1" is a wonderful album. Recommended without reservation.
- The Barman
FOLLOW - The Movements (Misty Lane/Teen Sound)
It's been said before so it'll be underlined in red pen: In a world of copyists and pretenders Sweden's The Movements are the best purveyors of psyched-out fuzz and Farfisa around. They take the classic '60s acid-punk sound, throw in some '70s space rock and emboss it heavily with their own brand mark. This vinyl compilation marks 10 years of their existence.
It's not a Best Of but a trawl through unreleased and rare sections of the back catalogue. Side A dishes up half-a-dozen tracks recorded in studios with unpronounceable names, five of which have never seen the light of day. Flip it over and you get the "Drag Me Up" 10-inch EP from 2004. Either way it's garage-psych bliss.
The Movements have been amazingly consistent. Part of that story is there's been little, er, movement in the ranks with most members intact throughout. The other factor is that this is a road-hardened band with lots of gigs under its belt. They've also enjoyed the patronage of ex-The Soundtrack Of Our Lives guitarist Bjorn Olsson as producer.
You might conveniently divide this LP into a garage side and a psych side. You'd also nearly be right. The non-"Drag Me Up" songs are a little more expansive but no less focussed. You'll hear that at the get-go: the bustling "My Confession" gets along on a tightly-wound feel and an urgent vocal. The guitar dances with the keyboards, briefly falling into lock-step at the breakdown before a glorious lead-break and a wind-down.
"You Don't Know" is quite primal with droning, backward-masked Eastern guitar toys with keyboards in a free-form mid-section. The song spans seven sublime minutes. "You're Alone" is an out-take from "The World, The Flesh And The Devil" that pits Doorsian keys against phased drums before some barbed guitar scythes its way through.
The EP tracks are rawer with leakage and sound a tad more urgent. There's a classic "last drinks" number in "It's Time To Go" that has some playful bar-room electric piano. Its companion piece (and maybe they're in the wrong order) is the party anthem "I Feel Groovy" where swirling keys again hitch a ride on frenetic drums. Only some handclaps would have improved it. A big thumbs up to Thomas Wildholm's work behind the kit, by the way. It's a stand-out right through these recordings.
In the end, The Movements really are a sum of their parts with no single element dominating. David Henricksson's vocal is as soulful as anyone in this garage space and he has the requisite scream down pat. Kalle Kulenovic was the guitarist in the early days, replaced by Christian Johansson. Their styles contrast without being a million miles away from each other. The engine room and keyboards throb and pulse in all the right places.
Timeless music for the ages. You're missing out if you haven't tracked them down. – The Barman
THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL - The Movements (Alleycat)
Don't you hate those pithy, two-sentence, oh-so-hip sub-headings they put at the top of every music review in Rolling Stone magazine? As if readers of that increasingly vacuous fashion rag trading as an iconic music and culture magazine need a USA Today-style prompter to invest a moment of their sad lives to scan the usually redundant crap that follows.
If we stooped to such levels - and the thought has occurred that we need to be even more lowbrow to compete with spurious shite - then the summary for this CD would read:
Little-known retro psych band from Sweden and little brothers of The Soundtrack Of Our Lives go spacerock.
Which undersells it by a large number of degrees.
In a fair and just world The Movements should be huge - and not just in their homeland. But they're a 60's-derived psych band (for want of a better tag) who play occasionally long, usually complex songs in a time when people want every wish fulfilled in a matter of seconds, not minutes. They're playing to a public that want their music reduced to a commodity, so they can throw it away and move onto the next thrill. This is an album for the rest of us.
The Movements have, er, moved since their first album, the Doors-on-acid "Grains of Oats" (2006), and where that one was firmly planted in the '60s, "The World..." absorbs some a potpourri of '70s sounds. There's still a big reliance on Gustaf Gimstedt's swirling keyboards but the palette's been broadened to pull synths, brass and a string quartet ("Going to Your House") into the mix.
Fears that change equates to pretentiousness are blown away by the strength of "Underdog", "Approximately 24 Hours", "How Long Is Too Long" and the mid-tempo pop "Tranquilizing View". If the 5min42sec "I Am You" takes The Movements into prog rock territory, they don't show any ill-effects.
This is an album recorded amid adversity with singer David Henrickson (successfully) fighting off cancer during its writing. If "The World..." is a bit darker than "Grains" you can understand why.
The Soundtrack Of Our Lives' Bjorn Olsson produced it and that should be another pointer to quality.
If you're looking for a new-ish band with classic soul and garage influences on which to lavish attention, look no further. – The Barman
GRAINS OF OATS - The Movements (Alleycat)
Typical really. One of the cleverest variations on that over-claimed catergory called psych rock drops out of the sky and it takes us half of 2006 to get around to reviewing it. Apologies to all concerned (it was actually released in 2005) but half the reason for tardiness in getting a review live was that "Grains of Oats" got lodged in the car CD player and there wasn't a lot that could be done to remove it...
So you reckon you've heard it all when it comes to '60s punk (or whatever you want to term it) and you're probably right, but then something bright and shiny comes down the chute and lands in your lap. Case in point: "Grains of Oats" where its minor chord simplicity and energetic playing reel you in. You give it a few spins. And a few more and before you realise, you're hooked. The Movements don't as much teach old dogs new tricks as let loose the leash on something that sounds altogether new and fresh. The usual reference points abound but they're re-shaped, almost imperceptibly, to make many others ploughing this field sound like parodies.
The Movements are a five-piece from Sweden and their album is produced by Bjorn Olsson (ex-The Soundtrack of Our Lives). You can take out of that what you will. The first two spins left me wondering because the bottom end was thin in a "non rock" way and the guitar was mixed down low. The penny eventually dropped that understatement was an important part of the charm.
Gustaff Gimstedt's keyboard work is the bedrock on which this grain silo is built, and the often dominance of organ in the melody lines brings to mind Ray Manzarek. Movements singer David Henriksson has a soulful voice with great range but can also get down and dirty to match your typical sneering acid punker or blues shouter. Christian Johansson is the man whose sparing and inspired guitar pushes the music into outer dimensions. He plays with a warm, clear tone rather than cloak himself in layers of fuzz and there's much to like about his work.
Then there are the songs...hooky pop-rockers like the martial "Five Steps Ahead", Eastern-flavoured"It Starts With a Whisper" (the opener) and "Cry For You", the edgy "Looking For a Change" (my fave), the (not unexpectedly) spacey "Space Autopsy" and the airy "Being".
Drummer Thomas Sundberg has his chops down and sits just behind the beat, pushing the band on, but it's The Movements' understanding of knowing when not to play that's as important as what they do play.
And here's where Olsson's production comes into its own: Where others may have put the massed chorus of the wordy but worthy "Instead of Catching a Disease (I Caught a Thing Called Love)" right up front, the backing vocals are buried deep to throw the rest of the band into sharper relief. It's a taught rocker made moreso as Johansson whips out a tortured guitar figure midway through and a building interplay between the singer and one of the backing vocalists leads us through the outro. Simple but effective.
I read someone somewhere likening The Movements to The Strollers, a late and great Scandi band playing in a similar space where organ-driven melodies sat hand-in-glove with neat guitar figures and melodic vocals. No argument here. "Grains Of Oats" is one of the best of '06 and I'll still be playing it in '07. – The Barman