Spunk
En Aldeles Forferdelig Sykdom Rune Grammofon http://www.tinymixtapes.comsites/default/files/arton928_0.jpg

[Rune Grammofon; 2005]

Rating: 4/5 4 / 5 (0)

Styles: improv, avant garde,
Others: Fe-mail, Naked City, Supersilent


http://media.tinymixtapes.com/


The Norwegian quartet Spunk are four women throwing themselves into the future by hijacking the past. Imagine Les Baxter or Lawrence Welk on acid -- that's not quite what's going on here, but we're getting close. Their third album, En Aldeles Forferdelig Sykdom (translating as An Absolutely Terrible Disease) is also their third title referencing the delightfully mischievous Pippi Longstocking, and it would seem that Spunk identify themselves with Pippi's freewheeling sense of independence. These comparisons are certainly justified when listening to them drift between Busby Berkeley gone evil and harsh freak-outs. Over the course of the album, Spunk play eight short-form improvisations that are stylistically all over the map, but that continually conjure up images of 1960s science fiction and call to mind the world during an era of McCarthyism. With roots based in Norway, their ability to recall the nostalgia of a world's fair, the moon landing, and other Cold War delights may not be deliberate, but they're really fucking good at it.

Maybe it's just their Theremin, or maybe it's that these four women each come from drastically different musical backgrounds and each bring a lot to the table. At their best, Spunk are able to juxtapose fragments of sounds like Mike Patton and John Zorn. Their music is extremely active, continually making threats of an explosion, but seizing the uneasy feeling that comes just before disaster. At the same time, Spunk make good on all their threats and create sonic blasts that amount to much more than uneasiness. Using a wide range of dynamics, they are able to make the smallest noises sound enormous, and their cacophonous rampages are an exciting relief after the tension found in their subtler moments. Producer Jørgen Træen makes them sound eerie as hell by taking after Tom Waits' lo-fi basement approach to sonic ambience (although actually not lo-fi at all). On top of this murky bed are distorted blasts of horns and electronics, with Maja Ratkje spewing out vocal chunks that recall ol' Tom Waits gagging and coughing up blood.

So after all these references to music and eras gone by, putting labels on Spunk is difficult. Calling them a "free-improv" group sounds too closely rooted in jazz, which Spunk have little in common with. Although never clinical in their approach, their music is indebted to European (non-jazz) improvisation as well as early concréte and electro-acoustic music. While not sitting comfortably in any category, each track on En Aldeles Forferdelig Sykdom unfolds with the broken finesse of Carl Stalling's Looney Tunes music and brings its own voice out of the history it's indebted to. It's jarring in the best ways possible, yet full of personality, charm, and a nostalgic wisdom of a time a lot of us weren't alive to see.

1. Marbles
2. Mårenhår
3. Dead Man Watching
4. Lunleik
5. Twinkle Wrinkle
6. Sans
7. Hvis en Kantklipper Fikk Lov Til å Synge
8. Kameleon