Record hunting at Sølvberget
Putting on a record is different from any other form of musical listening. We're hearing this one lonely object reveal its purpose to us, and us alone. Putting on a record is putting yourself in front of a creation. In front of something which has been brought to life, and something that has lived a life, both sonically and physically. We consider what we are experiencing, asking why it has been created, and asking whether it is something that appeals to us, whether it makes sense to us, whether we enjoy it, or not. The music coming from the grooves, through the air, to our ears - it gives a rare sense of time, space, and focus which is like being in nature, having a conversation, holding someone's hand. It’s right here, right now, unrepeatable. Putting on a record allows us to feel ourselves balancing on a tightrope of eternity… And if we really focus on the moment then we can reach the other side.
Keith Jarrett: The Mourning of a Star
The best kind of library discovery. I’d never heard of it, though I had vaguely heard of Keith Jarrett. This album has become a soundtrack to daily life in the past weeks: starting in cacophony, explosions, incidents, clattering patterns, vague forms… and then, and then. Energy, life begins to find its way into structure. Is that harmony I hear? Maybe a rhythm? Maybe not. And then the listener begins to drift, float on the beats played against one another. You are suddenly welcomed into a world, and you are the guest, and a range of episodes, images, voices (?!) and experiences begin to pass by your mind, pass by the window, pass by as you walk outside.
This record has familiarity, surprises, delicate emotion, and a narrative that runs through it, and at every moment you feel it is you - and you alone - who was meant to hear it. Three ambitious and innovative musicians attempted something bold and beautiful. I’ve loved listening every time, and I look forward to be playing it many more times.
Tusmørke: Dyrene i Byen
What do you get if you mix prog rock, children singing, and environmental activism? DYRENE I BYEN! My goodness me - this is a real gem of a record! A gem of a project! Just an absolutely wonderful, humbling and inspiring effort in capturing our Anthropocene age in both an accessible and a provocative way. I’d never heard of Tusmørke - the album cover caught my eye - wonderful drawings of animals (I love Kardmomme by, Bagpuss, Muppets, Peter and the Wolf and all that stuff!). The record also had black metal logos, long lists of crazy instruments, and a heavy vinyl disc - it seemed like such a treat!
On opening we find a story of the whole project (I’ll leave that for you to find out!), as well as all lyrics in both English and Norwegian, and the sheet music for the whole lot! Tusmørke WANTS people to engage, to experience, to learn, to think, to do, and they are giving us and our kids the tools for change. I strongly urge any parent interested in their town, climate, future, and their children to grab this - soak it up, and learn together with kids just what is going on around us every moment as the cities grind their urban song, and how nature reminds us what rhythm we ought to dance to! And after listening to this, get hold of other Tusmørke records - mind blowing!
Michael Yonkers: Lovely Gold
I picked up the record. “Who is Michael Yonkers?”
His name, his logo, oh! He wrote everything, played everything, recorded it all, at his own studio, designed the record himself, which also appears to feature ‘Michael Yonkers’?! There are so many WTF moments, and I haven’t even listened to it! Well, the vibe continues, and flows with full force: where to start describing Lovely Gold…? Well, it sounds almost willfully reductive, simple, short pieces of music. It sounds pre-LOFI, pre-virtuoso, like it’s meant to sound badly played, or not really played at all when you start listening to the actual instruments. It’s like a collection of ideas - but saying that raises the question: is that actually enough? Perhaps yes! Perhaps these ideas did not need to be made into big, long, boring albums, but that just a taste was a perfect portion. Everything here is worth being here. Deliberate, sparse, textured, with some patterns that rise and fall. Again - it sounds simple - but have you or I tried writing, playing and recording EVERY instrument in an album's worth of songs, and then released it?
This is a man with strong determination, vision - he’s done everything himself to get this record out, and I must say it commands respect. It’s either VERY psychedelic… or not psychedelic at all. You’ll have to make your own mind up. With the alt-rock crooning AND the yodeling AND the ‘chain gang’ singing AND the choir style AND the chamber music I found myself asking not only WTF is this, but also WHY is this? This is an extremely odd record. Proto Nirvana’s sneering commentary on the present via the past. Proto Pulp Fiction using history to create modern trends. Michael Yonkers and Lovely Gold are honest, efficient, and uncompromising, to say the least. Good luck, brave listener!
John Surman: Upon Reflection
I chose this for the obscure cover - the design. I looked closer: John Surman. No idea who that is... He composed and played everything? And in Oslo - in 1979! Got to try this! ECM label records always look good. They feel good too - heavy vinyl, clear dark green labels. Cover artwork by Dieter Rehm is so clean, ethereal. But how would this sound?! And then it began.
Track 1. Edges of Illusion
Cosmic - fractal - geometric - electric yet emotional dissociative… I’m struck with a sense of sadness that in outer space sound can’t be heard. That means these wonderful sounds can’t be heard anywhere but on earth. How tragic, yet how lucky I am to be hearing this universal effort by this musician.
Track 2. Filigree
A forerunner to Portico Quartet? Arve Henriksen? Even Radiohead’s Amnesiac and Kid A? And more… Episodes of sound, things moving past me, I’m moving past things as the music plays.
Track 3. Caithness to Kerry
It’s Celtic! But Celtic by way of Coltrane - the sharp wild sax notes, fiery like live Zappa records from the late 60’s. Swans honking proudly. This music - this album - transcends the pitfalls of many (perhaps most) records, since it is ‘total’: a fully realised vision in only one instrument, layered ideas of one person, performed once - it innovates constantly, as opposed to being generic or copying or imitating its own patterns.
Track 4. Beyond a Shadow
What song titles too! More scenes - tempo shifts. Twinkling over Darkness - “what is this guy’s background, how did he arrive at these ideas?” I ask myself! It’s quite vocal - like Peter and the Wolf (look it up). A tale in the telling. It’s utterly convincing, without being overpowering. Nuance, tact, surety, restraint, virtuosity. Brave!
Track 1. Prelude and Rustic Dance
Historic - like being in a middle age court of kings. I’m getting lost in the listening, harder to write whilst moving through the middle of a record.
Track 2. The Lamplighter
Modular, scanning for something - like the first scenes of Alien. Synths & wind interplay. The interplay between programmed and performed sounds. Multiplicity, in play, yet a single player, with a plan.
Track 3. Following Behind
At this point it strikes me that sitting down to listen to an entire record goes from feeling like ‘this is a lot’ to ‘this is coming to an end’ - but only if the music is masterful. In the listening focus, we can achieve submersion - we can achieve our own unique authority on this exact record, this music. Mine, yours, our particular grasp on THIS. HERE. NOW.
Track 4. Constellation
Reaching ‘accord’ - alignment - conclusion of the record - of the listening experience - of this entire process. My anxious ‘How? What? Why?’ as I approached this unknown record have been completely assuaged. This record accounts for every unknown. Everything is present. Nothing is missing. A total joy to experience, in every way. It ends with a sense of reset. Atonement. For me, there will always be 'the before and the after' of having listened to this record. This is the hallmark of a great album. Enjoy!