Grand Mal x, a Swedish project of Karl Rydby, Mattias Ivarsson, and “sometimes various in and outs”, have a new release particularly good for getting to know their deep and dark output.
Their 4-track release on Kess Kill, KESS05, is out May 29th on vinyl and bandcamp download, and marks their 6th release: a newly mastered vinyl “retrospective, with one new track”. It’s a great introduction to the project, bridging the diversity of their previous sounds with an alluded forth-coming full length release.
Their music is moody and gloomy, yet also spirited and empowering. Songs are steeped in noir sensibilities, gothic and industrial elements in a rich viscous flow. They are tense and gritty, while somehow calm and wise like a dark wizard. The parallel pessimism and optimism engrosses: The tea is bitter, but energizing.
We had a chat with Karl and a chance to listen to the KESS05 EP ahead of its release this week:
AS IF: Thanks for the chance to send some questions over. As far as I can tell this is your first interview – so how would you introduce yourself? How did the two of you come together?
GMx: We had this urge, we wanted a space where we could catch this thing we knew we wanted to do. A space of freedom. Grand Mal x started there.
Grand Mal x creates in the trenches, under planets and systems which moves in different energies. We observe and take action.
We go way back. Actually we’re both from the outskirts of southern Sweden.
AS IF: Is KESS05 a short release or a long release for you? Your Before Life tape for instance was 7 tracks, but in KESS05, each of the 4 tracks on the record are quite different – is there more depth in the diversity or does the EP provide more of an overview to your music?
GMx: Diversity is always a strength. That is a truth, goes down to the genes. [This release] can be seen as an overview, three tracks coming from different releases and a new one, but in context they work as an own piece.
AS IF: Vinyl is a new format for your music – congratulations on the new frontier! What led to this decision?
GMx: Thank you, Kess Kill is a great label and we wanted to work with them.
AS IF: What’s the most exciting aspect of your own vinyl release?
GMx: Vinyl is always vinyl. Solid documents in time. When it comes to sound, probably the best one.
AS IF: Listening to the KESS05 release start to finish, it has a great flow, and with the intros and outros takes on an almost narrative quality, like an audiobook – on cassette, I can definitely see how the progression of tracks would fit in a linear format. This time, with a vinyl release, the listener has the ability to drop the needle anywhere on the record, play in reverse, change the speed, scratch… how do you think the more tactile relationship between listener and music might change the experience?
GMx: The freedom of choice, what a pleasure and possibility. Do what you please.
AS IF: Late Night Call was released on the Life EP on cassette previously – what led you to put the track out again, this time on vinyl? What’s different about this version?
GMx: Late Night Call describes GMx quite well. ”Operation in trenches, far fetched agenda. How could it belong to us? How could it belong to you?”. Strive.
It is mastered beautifully.
AS IF: Do you hope/expect this release might get more plays in sets (in clubs or radio) in the new format?
GMx: Yes and no. Dancing is one of the essentials to charge the system, to stay alive.
But GMx is really for the chosen few. We appreciate the flame.
AS IF: Your music’s been called dark and brooding… I also find it quite cool, a bit devilish… like an older sibling with a studded leather jacket and a motorbike, or a gruff anti-hero who doesn’t have any morals but saves the day. Rather than being off-putting and aggressive, it’s almost comfortable in its darkness. Is that in line with any kind of feeling you might be trying to get in a listener?
Do you think there’s still a bit of optimism in your music, or is that just coming from me, my vain hope, my inability to deal with total bleakness?
GMx: We don’t mind the picture you’re painting. Marlon Brandon was in a way an interesting bastard. Darkness and light are parts of the same circle. They’re not only knitted together, they need each other. So what does that mean? Makes you think or even better – feel.
If we’re talking darkness as a negation, or even something opposite good, we quote Carl Jung:
”Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Though: We’re not part of any flavour of the day who claims buying Aleister Crowley books, hanging prints of Austin Osman Spare on the wall, etc, got much to do with it. To live is to live.
We’ve done a lot of sacrifice, that being good ones, during many nights. The base is not the exclusively academic way, but to stick to the source.
GMx can be experienced as a bolt of strength for those who find their way into the cluster. All is good.
AS IF: That Carl Jung quote reminds me of the dictum of Baroque times: “Memento Mori”. Consideration of death and darkness might on the surface seem pessimistic, but actually can empower people to value their lives and regard the beauty of existence in context. Do you think it is optimistic to regard the dark and negative?
GMx: We won’t say no to the value of ”Memento Mori”, but it is still dualistic. Death and life can not be separated. We are standing in the constant flow, let’s go.
Presence in constant transformation. Presence is the algorithm.
AS IF: While GMx is alluding to the possibilities of life, encouraging us to choose and to strive, is there also a central tenant for life that GMx would put forward? Or is the diversity you’ve mentioned the true value, i.e. everyone living to themselves? To live is to live – does it need to go further?
GMx: Become more of what you truly are. It is always there. Use the necessary tools, but no need for them really. The rest are just sketches on the surfaces.
Live more and deeper.
What can be said is that forces who try to separate and exclude are working against the possibilities.
AS IF: I think diversity and self-affirmation is evident in your music. Across your releases there are a lot of different rhythms and sounds, influences spanning genres and styles. Particularly The Trip on KESS05 defied my expectations for your sound. What informs your intent in making music? Where does this exploration come from and how is it enacted?
GMx: Thank you.
The will is just there. To express. To live close to the movements.
The full force of it all.
AS IF: What else is lined up and coming soon? What’s further down the road, on the horizon?
GMx: We are extracting certain objects from the pool.
We are recording at the moment, going deeper into the well, higher into the sphere.
The first full length since Life EP, the others beings collections or derivatives from a collapsed project ”Tropical Tapes”, is signed to a label and will see the light late 2017, early 2018.
Working title: Darkness.
It’s worth going through Grand Mal x’s previous releases to experience more facets of their exploration of light and dark:
While you’re going through their discography, note there are also two tracks on a Repartiseraren compilation release:
Personally, I’m stoked to have found dark music that’s not depressing, spooky sounds that aren’t scary, nihilism not about giving up but about giving more.