You may find yourself idly recalling everything from King Crimson and Hawkwind through to Neu! and Magma during Infernal Machine, the new album from Swedish space lords New Keepers Of The Water Towers, but the resemblances are fleeting and superficial. This band’s evolution from meagre ambition to brain-melting exploration has been one of the most intriguing phenomena the Scandinavian prog world has seen in recent times and at this point they barely even resemble themselves from 2013’s widely lauded Cosmic Child; a devotion to forward motion once again defining them as a hugely enticing prospect.
“We started this band two 17-year-olds wanting to play fuck-it-all style stoner doom and drink beer!” laughs singer and guitarist Rasmus Booberg. “Now I would define us as doomsday jazz and we’ve tripled that amount of members. The entire premise has violently changed. We look forwards at all times.”
A bona fide trip through dark, cosmic realms from ominous start to wild, lysergic finish, Infernal Machine feels and sounds like some mutant descendant of the moment where psychedelia lost its innocence amid the horrors of Vietnam. Although clearly a record made by men who have, at the very least, dallied with notions of altered states of consciousness, Booberg insists that his band’s music is not wholly drawn from nights spent cross-legged and crusty-eyed.
“It is absolutely not necessary to indulge in drugs or alcohol to experience really special things,” he notes, drily. “In my experience being sober works absolutely best when playing music. If you’re drunk or on drugs it’s hard to stay in the moment and to pace yourself to build dynamics and atmosphere. I guess it all depends on the music and surroundings, though. Ketamine with synths is a pretty cool mode to be in!
“Sweden has a long history of progressive music and jazz that might be obscure to the outside world.”
Although less traditional in approach than fellow countrymen and peers Beardfish and Moon Safari, New Keepers share those bands’ significance among a younger generation of Swedish bands that are injecting fresh vitality into modern prog on a global scale. What remains bewildering is how a country as small as Sweden continues to produce so much stunning and original music. Perhaps there really is something in the water over there.
“We have very clean, cold and tasty water!” laughs Booberg. “But I don’t know. I think it might be our long winter nights that give us a lot of time to lock ourselves indoors and jam. In Sweden we have nice, high taxes that fund a lot of places to rehearse and will allow you to work less without starving. We also have a long history of progressive music and jazz that might be obscure to the outside world. The British are amazing at finding new sounds and creating really great music and you have notoriously bad weather too!”
Given the giant, intuitive leap Booberg’s band have made between Cosmic Child and their latest masterwork, it seems probable that New Keepers will continue to veer off on their idiosyncratic tangent, high on the fumes of relentless creativity and hell-bent on perpetual transformation. Or maybe they’ll just stay indoors and jam. Either way, prog’s free spirit seems to be safe in their restless hands.
“I think if we have any direct relationship with genres it would be as genre-phobes!” Rooberg declares. “Are we a prog rock band? I don’t know. I just love music that is free from boundaries and loyalties and that speaks directly from one heart to another.”
Victor Berg (guitar), Rasmus Booberg (vocals/guitar/Moog/bongos), Björn Andersson (bass/vocals), Adam Forsgren (keyboard), Tor Sjödén (drums)
The mind-expanding, ululating rush of 70s acid rock and freeform prog, filtered through 40 years of strange, heavy and fearless music
Infernal Machine is out now via Listenable