Sudakistan – Swedish Cobra

Sudakistan released their debut album, Caballo Negro back in 2015. The album was a perfectly good grab-bag of punk tracks. It blended cultural aspects of the band’s Latin roots, with the influences of their adopted hometown of Stockholm. In the three years since that release the five-piece have opened for Ty Segall, toured extensively, and individual players developed their duties within the band. Their new album is called Swedish Cobra and it’s more fluid, more experimental, and has deeper psych chops than before.

The pleasing griminess of Caballo Negro has been retained. The band have not ejected their past. However, there are moments on Swedish Cobra where producer Daniel Bengston has extracted an unusual shine. The urgency of a Sudakistan live show has been preserved, and the timbre of the collective whole is captured well – but there’s an efficiency that preserves a tonal quality so often lost with this kind of material. Instrumentation often relays a grittiness, but the air around the sound is clean and pure. So, there’s the distinguishing mark of the band – they’re affording us time to think, space to breathe.

Title track, ‘Swedish Cobra’ lands sharply in the sequence. It’s a crisp definition of how the band are carrying themselves. The track is biting, shrill, and speeds through itself with a time-signature of less than a minute and a half. The angular guitar here is heard elsewhere, but never is it as barbed or brilliant. ‘Emma’, the next track in the sequence sounds more like the kind of creation that has an ear on radio play. The balance between bass and rolling toms is beautiful. The vocal work gets close to romanticism – so when the bridge opens there’s a softness that’s better than decent.

Some English-speaking listeners will be dissuaded from spending too long with Swedish Cobra. Foreign language records are sometimes too much to negotiate for the less-imaginative. But the process of experimentation across the nine-track sequence is compelling enough to capture the attention and invite many replays. The landscape that unfolds alternates between heavy depths – where the psych influences really take hold – and lighter, breezier passages that nod toward surf rock and the simpler days of fun.  ‘Two Steps Back’ does offer a moment of English lyricism, and also one of the easiest sing-along passages. Ironically, it’s a whole bunch of ‘OOoh-Whooo-OoooOs’ that relays the fun, the rewards, and creates the sense of inclusion.

‘Åtthundra tjugoett’ is a track that opens the sense of scale. One of the longer tracks on the album carries with it a weightier emotional charge. From a spaced-out opening sequence, prowling with intent – soon the explosive energy of of Sudakistan surges up. The volume, and dynamic range of this kind of track, is the best description of the band’s niche. Meloncholic in tone, yet optimistic in release – this is less delicate than the prettier moments of Sigur Ros, but it does have that depth of vision, and the sense of wonder that removes the need for literal translation.

With Swedish Cobra Sudakistan have offered a clear portrait of their spirit. Deeper in reach than their debut, and more broadly focused, the issues remain personal, but the projections are universal. They rock hard, and they retain esoteric charm, but they also offer invitation to make this stuff easier to get in to.

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