Asta Kask “Med is is Magen” 12”
When you think of Swedish hardcore you think of kang. Swedish hardcore is usually heavy and brutal and raging, however ASTA KASK are anything but. ASTA KASK stands out for how catchy their songs are. Some credit them for helping to develop a genre known as trall. Trall gets its name from the imitation of sing a long songs where one makes a "la la la" reference to a chorus. And when you listen to ASTA KASK long enough the songs will stick in your head regardless of how bad your Swedish is. If you know a little bit about Scandinavian folk music it is very vocal based. Choral music is one of the biggest exports out of Scandinavia into classical music stores. If you go on a tour bus in Tallinn you will hear about the song revolution that launched their independence movement in 1989. I learned many of these folk songs as camp fire songs. As I started to hear the original recordings of these songs they had camp fire elements to them. It is this child like easiness that ASTA KASK songs embody. And yet there is no other band in Sweden that sounds like ASTA KASK, which is strange. Does geography play into this? ASTA KASK are from Töreboda, which is small town found almost directly between Gothenburg and Stockholm. It is a small town of about 4,000 people and the band probably felt the pull from both scenes which would go on to play prominent roles in the development of Swedish hardcore. Maybe their distance from the bigger centers allowed ASTA KASK to develop on their own. Or maybe the recording studio called KAOS that ASTA KASK built and allowed many bands from all over the country to record for free had something to do with it. ASTA KASK would have been exposed to so many bands and that would have an impact on their writing. But this doesn’t seem to answer what ASTA KASK sound like. I went back to compilations from the time period to see if I could hear any clues. Volume 2 of "Vagra Raggarna Benzin" comp sees ASTA KASK in the distinguished position of starting out the collection but it is appropriate because Töreboda was a small town where greaser gangs would meet to settle there scores. Swedish teds were known as raggare. Raggarne means hooligans. Punks were the new hooligans. Who better to start out a comp than a band that had run ins with the raggare. These comps also reflected a transition in sound from punk to hardcore so they capture bands on both sides of the divide and in transition, whereas the "Bloodstains Across Sweden" comps are too early. ASTA KASK started out in 1978, but their first recordings were in 1981. This is when speed became a factor in punk. The melody reflects the band’s punk roots, but the speed reflects the bands hardcore roots. On repeated listens, the combination of pace and melody made me think of GENETIC CONTROL. But most people outside of Canada won’t know this Montreal hardcore sensation from there mere six songs found on their EP and “Primitive Air Raid” comp. If I were to use bands from the "Vagra Raggarna Benzin" comps as a cultural jigsaw for ASTA KASK there are some bits and pieces that you hear in ASTA KASK’s sound. The sing song-ish elements of trall and Scandinavian folk music are exhibited in bands like SVART and BRANDA BARN. The playfulness of bands like MACKT seem to make up a big part of ASTA KASK’s character. And the pace of bands like MISSBRUKARNA would complete the riddle. In fact I would say that MISSBRUKARNA are most like ASTA KASK out of any other Swedish bands that I have heard, but like GENETIC CONTROL – MISSBRUKARNA only ever released four songs on a split with PANIK. There is no denying that Jeff Bale's original assessment in MRR of Micke's vocals is bang on. He sounds like a young Jim Burns from the "Inflammable Material" era with strained screams that have some semblance of melody. It is the catchiness of the gang choruses that capture bits of the TOY DOLLS fun and bits of the BLITZ's roughness. These incredible gang choruses are what set ASTA KASK apart from bands like MISSBRUKARNA and most hardcore bands. There are some other interesting things of note about this release. "Med is I magen" became ASTA KASK's biggest selling record. Up to this point ASTA KASK had only released 7" EPs. EPs were the medium of the underground scene. Most bands that had released LPs at that time wound up becoming shit afterwards. The problem was that ASTA KASK wrote and recorded a lot of songs in 1984. They had too many for two more EPs so they released them on a 12" 45 which made it feel like they were putting out two EPs at one time. One per side. They even called it a Maxi EP. The title "Med is I Magen" loosely translates to mean "Uproar from the Underground". A double EP in a 12" format with this name makes sense in that context. The recording took four days to record and was recorded on an airforce base F6 in Karlsborg, Vastergotland. ASTA KASK had written anti-military songs in the past like "Vietnamn" and on this particularly recording they did a similar song called "Valkommen Heim" which is about a Vietnam vet and the difficulties of coming back from war. The irony was there for the bands. This 12" originally came out on a label called Rosa Honung Records which is a label that put out releases by the BRISTLES and STREBERS. "Med is I Magen" was ASTA KASK's biggest selling record and still it was hard to find in North America. That is until now. ASTA KASK went on to release one more record and then broke up before engaging in the reunions and the releases that accompanied them. But this 12” represents ASTA KASK at their recording and touring peak, which was also one of the factors that lead to their break up. That and their productivity. If you are to listen to any ASTA KASK this is a good place to start. (Prank Records - P.O. Box 410892 / San Francisco, CA / 94141-0892 / USA / www.prankrecords.com).
You can order the Prank Reissue HERE
ASTA KASK website HERE