International relevance: ***
The very idea of a 'progg purist' is contradictive as progg is so very multifaceted to its very nature, but I suppose some wouldn't count Kräldjursanstalten as progg enough, perhaps suggesting they were basically a punk band with odd time signatures. This ambiguity only makes Kräldjursanstalten even more interesting, suggesting a nebulous border area genre of sorts along with bands like Unos Kanoner, Fiendens Musik, and the Älgarnas Trädgård/Anna Själv Tredje related Cosmic Overdose.
UK magazine The Wire probably came closest to the truth when they claimed that Kräldjursanstalten is the band best conjuring up the spirit of Captain Beefheart. Or, in the words of Beefheart biographer Mike Barnes: "Few have been able to harness the forces he unleashed and decontextualize them into a new, individual take on his legacy – into a new art-form. Sweden's astonishing Kräldjursanstalten [...] were an exception." Kräldjursanstalten's notion of rhythm was similar to Beefheart's, like tossing the music into the air, capturing it on record just before the pieces hit the ground and fell into their 'proper' place. But make no mistake: They were one tight outfit and they knew exactly what they were doing. (Other contemporary bands tried but failed, like Mögel and Boojwah Kids.)
Early 80's radio show Ny Våg (”new wave”) dedicated to punk and whatever music grew out of it occasionally warped the airwaves with Kräldjursanstalten. Most listeners couldn't stand them, except one who wrote a letter to the show praising the band, saying ”they're so tight the drummer can't keep up with them” (quoted from memory). A perfectly impossible and impossibly perfect description of the band's sound.
The drummer in question was Michael Maksymenko who later – appropriately enough – teamed up with John French and Henry Kaiser in shortlived outfit Crazy Backwards Alphabet. Maksymenko was also involved in different radio and television productions, including the provocative mid 80's radio show Studio Korrekt. Completing the Kräldjursanstalten line-up were Agaton twin brothers Stefan (bass) and Thomas (guitar).
Their 1980 five track 12” debut ”Nu är det allvar!!!” (subtitled ”Som ett fyllo i ett minfält”, ”like a drunk in a mine field”) is good, but fulfills their potential only partly, as in standout tracks ”Det löser sig atematiskt” and ”Fet och feg”. An unreleased Tonkraft show, recorded in July 1980 six months after ”Nu är det allvar!!!” confirms that Kräldjursanstalten got better fast. A further six months on, their spastic, deconstructed/reconstructed music came into full bloom with ”Voodoo Boogie”. ”Breda räfflade gummidäck”, ”Minst värst” and the title track squirt and jerk and skimp and thump, chasing Captain Beefheart through the outskirts of rhythm, occasionally even catching up with him in terms of energy and complexity. It's easily one of the best Swedish albums of its era, and one of the most intriguing. There's no other album quite like it, i.e. unless you count ”Trout Mask Replica” and ”Lick My Decals Off, Baby”.
Kräldjursanstalten even had the coolest band name ever – ”The Reptile Asylum”. It sounds better in Swedish but still, you just can't beat that.Ta över (from "Nu är det allvar!!!")
Voodoo Boogie (full album)
Voodoo Boogie (full album)