Bjørn Torske: Resident Advisor review

Check out this nice Resident Advisor review of Bjørn Torske's wonderful "Kokning" album here.

If Bjørn Torske's notorious of late as the guy hobo disco lover Prins Thomas claimed he'd want to sign if money were no object, it ain't like the dude hadn't already left a long shadow over modern Norwegian pseudo-disco. Torske was, after all, one of the progenitors of so-called "skrangle-house" of the late '90s, a quirky, bastardized brand of Scandinavian dance music that folded in elements of dub, disco, pastoral rock and other fractions of the electronic spectrum. It was a template that led to the rise of acts all along the beardo fringe—people like Todd Terje, Lindstrom, Mungolian Jetset and Prins Thomas himself—and the weirdo hirsute-ism of labels like Smalltown Supersound, Full Pupp and Internasjonal. All of which culminated, perhaps, with Feil Knapp in 2007, his debut for Smalltown and a timely introduction to a new, emergent set of Nordic disco followers that found him extending his skrangle roots into often quieter, more contemplative outings. Now three years later, Torske returns with Kokning. For curious English speakers, the album's title isn't only Scandinavian on the tongue; the underlying concept itself is particular to Norway: the preparation of a traditional meal where the potatoes are put to boil only as the chef heads out to sea to catch the fish that will be served alongside them. It's arguably his coziest and most pensive material to date—a long-form couch daze—exuding at times a sleep-bent ease far better shaped for your coffee hours than your happy ones. The title track opens with guitars clock chiming against airy synthesizers used almost like wallpaper, while the beautiful "Gullfjellet" mines a similarly spacious meander across plucked guitars and wispy, puff-of-smoke synths. Though underpinned by a heftier throb, "Slitte Sko" is a slight, patently pretty take on star-gazer house, with distant wood block sounds clapping through crisp autumnal bell tones. For those worried about Torkse's sonic wanderings though, the floor-minded set needn't fret; he's not resigned just to disco day-tripping here. "Langt Fra Afrika" finds Torkse dabbling in tribal house clatter—though a brief interlude it's one of the record's more frenetic and rhythmic moments—and "Bergensere" melds a funky organ melody to a grubby bass-and-handclap strut. Elsewhere, "Nitten Nitti" forefronts a circus freak bass-line against interlaced synth lines and a wobbly central melody that sounds like Giorgio Moroder soundtracking a Jodorowsky film. Still, on such an otherwise meticulously crafted record—Torske apparently set to work on the material shortly after finishing Feil Knapp and has spent the last several years overdubbing newer ideas over simpler rhythm bases—it's frustrating to hear its cohesiveness teased apart in its finale. "Versjon Wolfenstein" squanders its murky wee hour dub with goofy chainsaw samples and monster-in-the night screech. It's more silly than playful. Meanwhile, closer "Furu" opens with cheesy synth belches before slowly bubbling into an unsatisfying bit of screwy, dizzying house. At almost twelve-and-a-half minutes long, it's Kokning's lengthiest excursion and his most perplexing; it's hard not to wish that time were spent expanding on "Gullfjellet" or "Bergensere." Minor complaints, perhaps, but enough to detract from the rest of Kokning's off-the-beaten path charm.