The Swedish duo Svarta Stugen calls its sound “post-rock/twee noise, a cuter form of noise”. The definition sounds daft until one listens ~ then it fits. Their self-titled debut EP begins in typical post-rock fashion, then mutates into something unrecognizable, as if infected by an experimental virus.
First come the bells, melodic and pretty, like something on Oxide Tones. The listener begins to settle in for a peaceful journey. Ah, here are the rising synths, and right on cue, a pleasantly repetitive bass line. Nothing new going on here – right? Just another day at the post-rock office. Yes, there’s some drone-like thing rising at the end of the third minute, but that’s just a humble aberration – or is it? Now the drums, keeping an even beat, joined by louder distortion on the electric guitar. The synths grow a little wonkier, the drums more hyperactive. And finally, back to the bells. But this “Main Theme” is only a control group; the experiment is about to begin.
“Dance of the dream monkey” is short and odd, marked by a dark, groovy bass and slightly sinister electronic vocal warbles. The jazzy nature of this selection is developed further on the avant-garde “Birth”, which erupts from static in a burst of improvised drum crashes, giving way to laser shots and harsh keyboard slams. It’s the standout cut, not post-rock at all but the equivalent of a backroom brawl. Frequent forays into near-silence cement the deal; this is not a hit single. But neither is it twee; that element comes back into play on “End Titles”, which begins as innocuously as “Main Title”, but adds a greater number of unusual turns. Those who purchase the digital EP will also receive an ambient version of the same song: less appealing to experimentalists, but a welcome diagram of a song without any integrated wildness.
It’s highly unlikely that “twee noise” will become a popular musical sub-genre, but Svarta Stugan may create their own market. This EP proves that the duo could sound like others if they wanted to – but they prefer originality, even if it doesn’t make them popular. We think that’s the right choice. (Richard Allen)