Bjørn Torske Bjørn TorskeKokning
I’m not sure of the extent to which one can establish a direct relationship between Bjørn Torske and his well-known fellow Norwegians. I mean that Torske, although he is a less famous producer than Röyksopp or Lindstrøm, has a career that started much earlier, and which contains a more notable variety of registers. In fact, to find Torske, one has to go back to the end of the 90’s, and to an area close to deep house. Before Scandinavian electronic music was identified with slower beats and a relaxed sound, labels like Svek (from Sweden) and production teams like Those Norwegians, where the prestigious Rune Lindbaek was already operating, were working on the production of sensual, elegant house music that still raises your heart rate and gets the endorphins flowing. I would even dare to say more, and this might answer the question raised in the first line of this text: all of the cosmic, Balearic sound that has been radiated from the Norwegian scene since Lindstrøm’s miraculous “I Feel Space” owes something to those pioneers, Bjørn Torske among them. They have been sowing the seeds for many years—we could even look further back in time: Torske and Lindbaek formed a part of Volcano, a seminal commercial dance production team in the mid 90’s, and the cause-effect relationship is undeniable, although with certain nuances.
What is the most interesting to me is the process of relaxation that has become increasingly noticeable in Norwegian production. From Torske, it shouldn’t surprise us—he is a veteran, at some point he would have to slow down and step away from the dance floor—but both Prins Thomas and Lindstrøm still have the energy (and I would even say the financial dependence on the dance scene) to keep the tempo upbeat. But if we take a look at their most recent material, especially the album “Prins Thomas” (Full Pupp, 2010), they have distanced themselves more from disco music, and the connection to the more horizontal krautrock is strengthened. Something very similar occurs with “Kokning”: it’s an album full of ups and downs – “Bergensere” would mark the most rhythmic moment of the entire piece, hotly contested by “Nitten Nitti”– but with the calm outweighing the frenzy. It isn’t 100% chill-out material, but it is the type of album that you would choose for a Sunday morning rather than a Friday evening.
It is also an album that you can see owes a great deal to early 70’s krautrock, although not as much as in the case of Prins Thomas: “Kokning” isn’t completely electronic, nor is it radically futuristic or hedonistic, but rather it takes pains to add a human touch to practically every piece. It is as if Torske had intended to voluntarily include a manual touch in each and every one of the songs. This approach isn’t new, but it is completely understandable in him, as it is still truly Scandinavian: in the aforementioned “Nitten Nitti”, as the minutes go by, you can feel some throbbing basses and an organic percussion that could have come—why not?—from any production by the not so prolific of late Studio, and if we listen to “Versjon Wolfenstein”, we can’t help thinking of a domestic, unpretentious version of early Jamaican dub, with analogue echo chambers, a touch of distortion, and the booming of “tactile” instruments like the bass or guitar.
As happens with much Norwegian music, the cold is fought off with an imaginary, idealised heat –the bongos and Latin rattle of “Langt Fra Afrika”– or with a laziness that could only be achieved on a paradisiacal beach, like the one that “Gullfjellet” would like to suggest, along with “Slitte Sko” (although it might be on a beach at the other end of the galaxy). But these aren’t the album’s best moments. The richest sound is when the old synthesisers take up the reins of the sound, intertwining with the organic material of percussion, guitars, and noises made (I think) with the palms of the hand; thus pieces like “Bryggesjau” or the twelve minutes of “Furu” reach the confines of the cosmos, adding a little humanity, humour, and the absence of pretentious nonsense to an album that also doesn’t want to distance itself too much from the status quo. “Kokning” is a 100% Smalltown Supersound product, neither as spectacular as Lindstrøm’s extraterrestrial strolls, nor as close to electronic abstraction as Kim Hiorthøy’s albums (the designer of the album cover, by the way). It is a pleasant album, which gives more than is asked of it, and which should be taken for what it is: an unexpected visit from a good friend.
Bjørn Torske - Nitten Nitti