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I Want The Beatles To Play At My Art Center!
Prisma Records

Sonja Henie was the child star who won the Olympic gold medal as a figure skater three times in a row, 1928, 32 and 36, and ten world championships also in a row in the same period. In the latter half of the 1930s and the entire 1940s she starred in severeal Hollywood movies, partly as an ice skater. Though most of them certainly haven't stood the test of time, she was one of the eras best payed artists. Along with her husband Niels Onstad, she funded the Henie Onstad art center that opened in 1968. The double LP we are dealing with here, was recently released in connection with a retrospective exhibition. The contributions are taken from the center's vast sound archives compiled and researched by Lars Mørch Finborud of Plastic Strip Press that we have witnessed some downs and ups of previously. Most of the concerts, performances, installations etc. at the center has been recorded and preserved.

It's an interesting mix of musicians coming from the scholared, serious avant-garde camp and the pop or rock ditto. Though it's not always easy to figure out who came from which camp, meeting here in the quest for innovation. From bubbling early electronic experiments of the late 1960s/early 1970s represented by Norway's no. 1 electronic pioneer Arne Nordheim, Sigurd Berge and Hal Clark, via early 1970s and contemporary avant-jazz, avant-jazz-rock and/or vocal excesses from Soft Machine, Håkon Kornstad, Spontaneous Music Ensemble (including Julie Driscoll, later Tippett, sounding like a Norwegian milkmaid calling for the cows to come home in the evening), Svein Finnerud Trio and John Cage (vocals only), via piano noodling by Bjørn Fongaard and Magne Hegdal to present day sound experiments, some of them closer to the noise scene (Lasse Marhaug and Helge 'Deathprod' Sten). I'm not quite sure what to make of Jim O'Rourke's cut-up contrubution "Aunt Esther". It certainly hasn't a lot to do with the guitarist O'Rourke. Though I suppose it's the closest to The Beatles we get on this album, their cut-up excursion "Revolution 9" that is. For Soft Machine fans it's worth noting that their version of "Teeth" included here, is from the band's first appearance at the Art Center on 27 February 1971, whereas the recording of the Soft Machine album at the same venue is taken from the concert the following evening.

The most normal tracks, so to speak, included are probably the ones by The Aller Værste! and Jenny Hval. TAV!'s version of "Dans Til Musikken" is live from a rock festival at the Center in June 1980 of punk and new wave groups, before the band had recorded their debut album. The scholared experimental scene seemed to be more receptive to the new revitalized rock scene than the national well established music press at the time. And in the following years some of the experiments by unscholared artists of the new wave tradition seemed to close in on academic experimentalists. The contibution from Jenny Hval, aka Rockettothesky, is taken from a sound and light installation of hers at the Center. Only her voice and an electric guitar, a bit reverbed and echoed both of them, hauntingly spinechilling, beautiful and not quite conventional after all.

Sonja Henie's wish of the album title was never fulfilled, of course. The Center succeded in many other ways and the double album gives a tiny idea of the sounds it has housed over the years, always encouraging experimentation. For the visions you need to check out the accompanying DVD. Unfortunately there are no documentation of what was going on between 1983 and 2008. Maybe the Center didn't keep up its recording policy during those years? A pity if that's the case. I remember a concert with trumpeter extraordinaire Jon Hassell a winter evening in the late 1980s with great fondness. And there was the festival in the summer of 1987 headlined by English punk and beyond innovators Wire... But that's another story. Anyway, I Want The Beatles To Play At My Art Center! stands firm!

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You may also want to check out our V/A article/review: I Want the Beatles to Play at My Art Center! (DVD).

© 2012 Luna Kafé