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Contact! 10.2

Spring 1997

In Review

Experimental Music from Denmark

A CD review by Frank Koustrup

This is a promotional compilation of, as the title says, recent experimental music from Denmark. All but two of the compositions are performed live and many are heavily influenced by post-1940s jazz. The liner notes suggest that this style is typical of Danish experimental music.

Regrettably, and perhaps due to the jazz influence, the liner notes are little more than exercises in name-dropping. The text lists who played what with whom and in what epoch. This kind of useless writing is far too common in jazz releases and has no place in experimental music. Such notes are especially shameful because the disc includes some very compelling recordings. I would like to read more anecdotal background on the artists involved. I would like to know what they are trying to express. I would like to know why the musicians work in such an unpopular and thankless field as experimental music. But the written notes for each piece rarely discuss the compositions or the composers' intentions. They read like curriculum vitae and are intensely boring.

As well, the playing times listed on the inner sleeve are mostly incorrect. The Danish reputation for high quality is tarnished by the packaging of this disc.

Because this disc is a compilation of very different works by different casts of characters, I wrote the rest of this review as a piece-by-piece description in the order the pieces appear.

"La dance sur l'escalier" by Duo Gaia is a syncopated performance by Ko De Regt on Obukano, an African bass-lyra, and Henrik Jespersen on saxophone and effects. Rhythmic, the composition is nevertheless static and minimalist. It is soothing but would probably drive me crazy if it lasted longer than it does.

"Svineryggen" by Kom De Bagfra Orkestret resembles a world-beatish take on circa-1971 Pink Floyd or early 1980s synthi-drone music. All of the sounds are samples of objects such as spruce cones and dried leaves. The composition is generated randomly by "Space Controller" software algorithms.

"Der' Noe Som Spreller I Posen" by Pierre Dørge starts as a noodling electric guitar solo interrupted by someone calling out. It is rather static, dull and only of interest perhaps to guitar buffs. My command of Danish is very poor so I don't know if the spoken text carries any meaning. It sounds like it might. Part two is much more interesting. Mr. Dørge takes to bowing his guitar. This technique allows him to flirt with overtones. The effect is a little like Tuvan singing. He also very effectively contrasts loud and soft, percussive and legato playing.

"Art Break Totale" by Harald Me Viuff starts prettily on electric piano before the third minute brings a squawky saxophone and tense violin outburst. Under a minute later, the mood shifts to percussive with only quiet squawks from the sax. I don't have much else to say about the work.

"Bella Konkyi" by Ghost In The Machine reminds me of John Cage's percussive works. It is a varied and mesmerizing exploration of rhythms and timbres.

Martin Klapper is a Czech composer living in Copenhagen. His "Sonorteque", played live before a small audience, uses a variety of toy and homemade instruments. It is rather cute and pleasant to listen to, kind of like nattering but not-yet annoying munchkins flitting about your ears. I appreciate Mr. Klapper's dadaist approach. Sometimes you just have to turn off the expensive electronics and fart around on some cheap noisemakers to keep yourself sane.

Jørgen Teller's "Shark Mind" with Per Buhl Acs starts with a grandiose and dense descending note pattern broken by a spoken word passage about 'Let me die, sacrify'. At first, I preferred the ending section but later I found it too repetitive. This long ending is based on filtered spoken-word chanting accompanied by varied sample loops and echo feedback. All of the episodes are baroque, dense, distorted and memorable in an industrial kind of way.

"You'll See", a solo on sampler and reverb by Jørgen Teller, is a more spacious work resembling Brian Eno's ambient compositions. Later, it wanders away from this original mood and ends with a jarring tone that is more disruptive than novel. The ending actually sounds like the start of a new section but isn't. Deceptive.

Søren Gorm's "Prisal Spiral" is a ten-minute work for layered synthesizers. It is atmospheric, sweeping, often very beautiful, and resembles some of the music we hear coming from the Canadian universities. This is one of the only compositions on the disc that is not performed live.

"Vari-Cane" by Jakob Draminsky Højmark sounds like a duet between the composer on saxophone and an echo. The saxophone sounds like juicy ship horns, and the echoes create a trance-like stasis.

"Vrangen Ud På Jorden" by Torsten S. Høgh mixes looping samples of Hendrix-like guitar riffs, German marching songs, and other noises with spoken word. Again, my Danish fails me, and I am not sure what all of the shouting is about. I do recognize one swear word. Nonetheless, Danish is sufficiently funny-sounding to be entertaining under almost any circumstances. Mr. Høgh describes himself as an "outer"-tainer, and I don't doubt him. He is a pretty noisy guy. The piece is a collage of sounds, styles and shouts and is rather chaotic and mystifying but a lot of fun. It reminds me of the soundtrack to the 1980s movie, "Liquid Sky", as well as some of the noise I had so much fun making when I was 21.

Lars Fuhr's "Mit Klang Korsæt" is a musique concrète tape work and is supposedly a cassette recording. Most of the sounds come from voice samples. The composition is breathy, flatulent, percussive and moves forward very well. It is chock-full of splices so I don't believe it originated on cassette. Otherwise the composer is crazier than he sounds.

This disc is marked "PROMOTION NOT FOR SALE". I assume this means you can get a copy of it for free or almost for free. If you are interested, contact: Experimental Music Forum

- Frank Koustrup

© CEC 1997

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