Norway - Full Moon 244 - 07/20/16
Kem som kan å leve
Building Instrument is an experimental Norwegian trio counting singer (plus also zither player, percussionist, and sample-maker) Mari Kvien Brunvoll (formerly of Tim
Tygg), drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde (who's also a member of Electric Eye as well as of Strings & Timpani) and keyboard player Åsmund Weltzien (synths and electronics). Their self-titled debut was very good, which makes checking out their second album Kem som kan å leve (Who knows how to live) an exciting mission.
The bands original idea was 'to explore electronic music.' Eventually they ended up 'mixing jazzland sound with adventurous electronica,' creating 'organic pop and something more mystical and fantastic.' Kem som kan å leve sounds like an experimental remix album as is spreads over six long tracks. The experimental tone of the album is understandable as this was recorded at the HOK, or Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (Henie Onstad Arts centre) inspired by the art of The German Dadaism/Expressionism/Surrealism/Constructivism artist Kurt Schwitters. At least some of the material was composed for a concert inspired by the art of the highly innovative Schwitters (1887-1948), whose '...creative diversity is evident in everything from collage, sound poetry, and architecture, to sculpture, painting, and typography.' (HOK). In fact, Schwitters created his own artistic movement Merz:
'For Schwitters, 'to merz' was to abolish boundaries: between artistic disciplines, between the meaningful and the banal, between art and life. As he said himself: "Ideally, Merz creates connections between absolutely everything in this world."
When Building Instrument take on the collage artist, the sound poet and the installation artist Schwitters, they enter a world of Merz collage music. Schwitters' Merzbau (or Merzbow) constructions
is a fascinating and intriguing world of the surreal. Building Instrument also want to 'abolish boundaries between artistic disciplines, between art and life'. Building Instrument want to make the soundtrack to connect 'absolutely everything in this world'. According to Building Instrument themselves, working with this music '...enabled the band to go further in the direction of expanding or erasing the meaning of language, just as Schwitters did with his sound poetry.' Even though some vocal parts are 'without lyrics, or using an invented language,' most of Brunvoll's lyrics are still in her (Molde) dialect. Their label says that their expression is 'deeper and more dreamlike, the soundscape is broader and more substantial, and their music is still extremely addictive and strangely catchy.' Yes, 'strangely catchy' is a fine description. Kem som kan... opens with "Collage", which is a true, organic cut'n'paste piece. Brunvoll's vocals are of the abstract, free-floating kind, her voice used as an instrument. Yet, the song's melody and rhythms are of the linear, structured type. The track has a pleasantly pulsating sound stream with just the right touch of the exotic and the mysterious. "Fall" is one the most enigmatic and exciting tracks of the album, as it slowly sweeps and swerves over/around/above us and passes by. It is a shimmering, stellar song. 'Stellar' as in a bleak and shiny, yet distant star. The psalm or hymn like "Rett ned" (Straight Down) is more of a pale, ghost like track. "Farge tida sakte" (Slowly painting the time) is a modest, fluttering, soaring song, while "Like god å leve" (To Live As Good As) is a more 'present' track with its train-rhythmed beat and its staccato, rhythmic vocals. The closing "Taket" (The Roof) adds a fitting cover to Building Instrument's sound installation called Kem som kan å leve. Which is a fascinating and exciting recording - even though I prefer their first album. Like the band and their label
say, Schwitters' art has 'left some obvious traces in the trio's new music.'
Building Instrument's "tribute to Schwitters" was performed at HOK in September 2015 (as part of the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival) when HOK opened their permanent (expanding...) Kurt Schwitters exhibition, which is the largest Schwitters collection outside Germany. The exhibition is presented at HOK alongside Schwitters' Merz magazines, poetry collections and artist books. Go see! Go hear!
Copyright © 2016 Håvard Oppøyen