Album Review

Popofoni [coll] – [Prisma Records]

Thurston Hunger   11/13/2013   12-inch, Jazz

So first of all, let me say I want Prisma Records to play
Foothill College’s Art Center! The label that brought us
a recent killer collection of songs over the years and past
the boundaries with a strange intersection between celebrity
Sonja Henie and underground artists, returns with another
compelling collection.

The Popofoni-project was initiated after a heated debate on Haagen
Ringnes??? TV-show ??pen Post in autumn 1969, which dealt with the
subject popmusic. Standing on one side you found the defenders of
pop, an actress, a comedian a record producer and record label
owner Arne Bendiksen who defended his 1969 Eurovision winner
“Oj oj oj s?? glad jeg skal bli.”

In the other corner was the ???cultural elite??? represented by a
literature researcher and pianist. Both sides expressed grave
concerns about that their opponent???s music impaired their
listeners abilities. During the broadcast, Grannemann performed
a parody of an avant garde-composition which included throwing
dishes and yelling, with direct reference to composer Arne Nordheims

The eventual response came in the form of this collection, including
Arne Nordheim and five other artists creating compositions to
venture into the wonderworld between pop and avant garde, hence

Five artists, four sides of vinyl, six songs. So you get expansive
slabs of jazz twisted beauty that on length alone surrender any
chance of pop credit. Instead, trading beer commercials for mind
music films.

Gunnar Sonstevold’s “Arnold” walks some private eye bass through
prog rock fire and some free jazz blasts from Jan Garbarek’s tenor.
The detective vibe takes a more chilling horror turn with the
breathy vocalizations of Karin Krog, a complicated and wild ride.

Ms. Krog returns in a reverb glacier of sound on Nordheim’s “Morgenraga”
shivering her voice over icy reeds and skittering strings. Other
worldy weirdness, but mostly a static piece despite Arild
Andersen efforts to warm himself with some bass runs. Next up
Nordheim’s “Solar Plexus” starts like a Nordic nod to Sun Ra,
reverb’d vocals and drums, Krog actually rises to a stellar scream
the bass is gravity heavy, Garbarek’s synth is in a different
galaxy, synth squiggles and carillon chimes come closer in orbit.
A lost radio transmission waltzes in between gunfire and space dust
rushes before the cosmic flush. Wow!

Alfred Janson’s “Valse Triste” is the killer for me, splicing what
I might guess are snippets from the famed defaming talk show
but with this big punchy music, that stops on a beat to let a
different samples that have their own sing-song rhythm to them
(“Wilkommen, Wilkommen” and a guy quoting “To Be or Not To Be”
among them). The song between the comercial breaks is catchy
in its own right, is it an interpolation of the Eurovision hit
or something out of the Burt Bacharach songbook but keeps
pushing boundaries and evolving over the side long piece. Drums
not to be missed, tape manipulation too. Really fascinating.

The double discs conclude with two pieces, Kare Kolberg’s weird
yet wisftul piece, drifting in a haunting voice, some parts sung in
English, others in the high tongue of pain and fleeting flute, finds
it’s way to a hypnotic close. Then Terje Rypdal’s dark, murky bass
seeking into almost baroque slow-mo squonk “Episode.” Another
eruption of drums before the bass walks off the set.

All of the pieces on the album have their evolution, and while
some touch the jazz wire more heavily than others, it’s tough to
call this a jazz album per se. But I’m happy to refer to it as
“pop” music for the KFJC listeners 40+ years after its inception,
while I’m okay with a catchy jingle, it’s Norway or the Highway
when it comes to the work of Jansson, Kolberg and Nordheim here.

To be fair, here’s the Eurovision trigger

But, c’mon…
-Thurston Hunger

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