Pitchfork Review

[Smalltown Supersound; 2010]

Kokning, the title of Bjørn Torske's fourth full-length LP, is a Nordic word that sounds ineffably lewd to American ears. It has no English equivalent, unless there's an obscure English word that means "putting potatoes on to boil, going fishing, and then preparing the fish with the potatoes." The uniquely Scandinavian concept suits the uniquely Scandinavian music. Torske's blend of playful austerity and wistful wonderment can also be found in his Smalltown Supersound compatriots, from diskJokke to Lindstrøm to Kim Hiorthøy. The title also evokes the relaxed, patiently simmering quality of the album, which boils down Torske's long-running fixations upon dub, cosmic disco, house, and Balearic sounds into a highly refined personal style. Sophisticatedly minimal, Kokning improves upon 2007's excellent Feil Knapp by retaining yet streamlining Torske's idiosyncrasies.

To create the album, Torske recorded instrumental parts in various places and then edited them together with rhythm tracks. His sensitivity as a producer makes the album, for all the styles it lightly flits through, an organic room-tone odyssey at heart: alive with inventive sounds and warm with feeling. It opens with three wonderful, ultra-mellow cuts that slide you into Torske's sound-world with zero friction. On the title track, liquidly hypnotic phrases for clean electric guitar weave through shining ambiance, with just a couple of alternating plucks coolly marking time. "Bryggesjau" is a clip-clopping set piece for acid-bright guitar riffs in taut counterpoint, and "Gullfjellet" features rich nylon strings and watery synths, rooted by the calm thump of a kick drum. Besides their appealing sound palettes, the great thing about these tracks is how deliberately they take on definition. By the time the dancier middle run of songs come around, you're deeply immersed.

This middle run is marked by lots of intricate hand percussion, funk progressions, and proggy keyboard swirls, though it retains the light touch and hint of critical distance that characterize the opening tracks. "Slitte Sko" is the sort of casual, chiming beat workout that Arthur Russell liked to cook up, and "Bergensere" calls Prins Thomas to mind with its arch yet passionate funk. As the album progresses, Torske gets more unleashed, slathering "Nitten Nitti" with a goofy-fun vocal synth arpeggio and framing stylized dub reggae with monster-party samples on "Versjon Wolfenstein". After the more focused songs preceding it, the 12-minute closing epic "Furu" is a bit long-winded for my tastes, but at least it feels earned. It also makes me feel Torske is naturally inclined to stretching out-- even his short pieces here have a sense of endless range-- which makes his restraint elsewhere all the more admirable. His shorter tracks have a diorama-like sense of compact but vivid detail, and the merest gestures make big impacts. Unflashy and muted, Torske gets less props than some of his peers. With any justice, Kokning will correct this slight.

— Brian Howe, December 7, 2010


Yellow Green Red review

Bjørn Torske Kokning CD (Smalltown Supersound)

Has the grey cloud of fearful discontent not yet reached Norway? I thought that’s where black metal started? While most of the rest of the electronic music population is either wallowing in a dark, gothy pessimism or too heavily medicated to be depressed, some of these Smalltown Supersound acts, like Lindstrøm and Bjørn Torske, seem to live in a world where everyone gets along, no one is sick, and Michael Jackson never died. I don’t understand it, but I’m not complaining, either - Kokning is a fun escape to a soft and squishy world of clear skies littered with rainbows, as if Katamari Damacy’s landscapes were real. Something like “Gullfjellet” is perfect for watching morning dew drip from your petunias, or holding a cup of hot chocolate under your nose, thanks to its repetitive guitar arpeggios and persistent groove. Think Jim O’Rourke on an Ambien trip inspired by Yo Gabba Gabba and Richard Schneider Jr’s Dream-like Land. “Langt Fra Afrika” changes the pace, adding a little Macarena to your daily dance routine, and “Bergensere” is an adorable cut of modern disco. Probably too happy and G-rated of a krauty dance record to garner many frequent spins in my household, but that might change after the arrival of my first child gets me thinking about my own mortality.


Friendship Bracelet Blog post

Here's "Bergensere," a total sweaty disco rager from Norway's Bjørn Torske. His new album Kokning dropped yesterday on Smalltown Supersound. It's already sold out at their online store, which is a bummer, but you can check that download and another below. Go find the record in shops.

P.S. Feel sort of terrible I hadn't heard of Torske before this album. He's been putting out records since 1998 so I have some backtracking to do.


Metromix "Bands We Like Profile"

Who: Hailing from Tromso, the small Norwegian city that also gave the world Röyksopp, Bjørn Torske started out as a house DJ and producer who helped create an eclectic style called “skranglehouse” (which sounds way less cool in its rough translation, “rattle house”). His albums, of which this is his fourth, have increasingly taken his sound in a mellower but more expansive direction, with fewer four-on-the-floor beats and more acoustic instrumentation.

What they’re saying: “…boils down Torske's long-running fixations upon dub, cosmic disco, house, and Balearic sounds into a highly refined personal style.” – Pitchfork

What we’re saying: Torske still knows how to get feet shuffling, but on “Kokning,” danceable tracks like the very Itali disco “Bergensere” are the payoffs to more meditative moments like “Gullfjellet,” seven minutes of gorgeously interwoven guitar strums, bass throbs and synth blips. Don’t let the unpronounceable Norwegian names of Torske’s tunes scare you off—his blissed-out soundscapes work in any language.