Kaada Music For Moviebikers

[Ipecac; 2006]

Styles: trip-hop, sound collage, film music, wop-hop?
Others: Mike Patton, DJ Shadow, RJD2, Prefuse 73, Yann Tiersen, Michael Nyman

Among the most recent wave of Norwegian musical exports, John Erik Kaada may not have the same sex appeal as a naughty nymph like Annie or stealthy dance producers like Royksopp; however, I do find myself falling in love with him. On Music For Moviebikers, his third release made available to North American consumers via Ipecac, he is in definite wooing mode, and vulnerable listeners need be warned: Kaada will charm those pantaloons right off you, if you're not careful.

My cheeky tone here is entirely inappropriate as a proxy for the tone of this album, yet it's completely caused by the giddiness I feel in the wake of its intoxicating beauty. Like Romances, Kaada's collaboration with Mike Patton, Music For Moviebikers offers a variety of tracks that are all evocative of cinema music. Romances traversed the territory of suspense and terror to which Patton so often retreats, much like a less jagged version of his Fantomas' The Director's Cut, and it ironically had little in the way of love or beauty at its core. Here, with Kaada being given sole control over a group of 22 musicians, the results are much more in line with that earlier title (in fact, I would suggest they might be switched for more truth in advertising). These are whimsical, emotional, and above all gorgeous little constructions, showcasing just how powerfully music can create a mood.

This is not to say that each track is a love devotional, as there is definitely a spectrum of mood across the album. "From Here On It Got Rough" is a pensive and mystical track worthy of inclusion in an Elfman/Burton collaboration. "The Mosquito And The Abandoned Old Woman" has a subtle, eerie quality (like Morricone's spaghetti western soundtracks), peppered with a ghostly vocal line and haunting whistling. And for the most part, the human voice is used as an instrument throughout, with almost no words sung, save for "Mainstreaming," which appropriates words written in the 9th century by Sidna Ali the Moslem for a psalm.

Ultimately, this is an album of amour and wonder. The closest comparison I can come to is the work of Yann Tiersen, best known in the U.S. as the composer of the score for the film Amélie. The same bittersweet currents run through this music, and a deceptive semblance of simplicity makes it feel clean and refreshing every time I hear it. Kaada has actually composed music for films in his native Norway, though they haven't found international success (yet). While the compositions on Music For Moviebikers are only for "imagined" film scenes, I can't help but hope that soon a film featuring his work will find its way to our shores.

1. Smiger
2. Mainstreaming
3. From Here On It Got Rough
4. Spindle
5. The Mosquito And The Abandoned Old Woman
6. Julia Pastrana
7. No Man's Land
8. Daily Living
9. The Small Stuff
10. Celibate
11. Retirement Community
12. Birds Of Prey
13. In Hora Mortis