ovelty is no small ingredient to electronic albums that can crossover. From the classical-on-moogs-maaaan Switched on Bach to the flashing green skulls of Dan Deacon, there’s always been as much of an emphasis on “the shtick” as the hooks. It runs the risk of slighting the music, but it definitely makes it harder to ignore these merry jokesters than it is to hum their otherworldly delights. For Bjørn Torske, this fact is a blessing and a curse. With his new album, Feil Knapp, Torske isn’t afraid to use classic 8-bit Transylvania sound effects and grade-school whistle-alongs in his brew of Beardo-Disco. But here’s the problem—Torske doesn’t revel in the cartoonish role of man-machine or robot (gone human). So while Feil Knapp should soundtrack your summer’s road trip, Torske doesn’t sound willing to be your next Daffy Duck or Crazy Frog.
What we get on Feil Knapp and the album cover is a clean-shaven Turske: he might be the godfather of Beardo-disco, but he’s also unwilling to be pigeonholed into styles or sounds. His stubbornness saves tracks like the Dr. Rockit concrète-shake of “Tur I Maskinparken” from turning rote—he dabs the track with the fuzzy smears of backward chimes and hollowed out breeze. Like your favorite Saturday morning cartoons, every song sets up just enough of a plot to meander in any direction it pleases. One of the best setups has Torske pushing “Møljekalas” beyond just another navel-gazing chill-out number into the widescreen pop usually traversed by Caribou.
But Feil Knapp never sounds merely meta or self-satisfied. Torske doesn’t settle for regurgitating the calm Music for Airports hums and sighs on the opener "Hemmelig Orkester”—he teases the calm ambience with a wheezing harmonica. The same goes for the beardo-disco workout, “God Kveld.” Torske might have the genre’s billowing synths to a T, but he can’t help himself to add a live-drum breakdown for the last half. As each track unfolds, it becomes obvious that Torske isn’t content to wear genres like a chameleon—he digests dub, disco, pop, and video game music into all his own. With all the album’s twists, “Loe Bar” sticks out for its naiveté—wide-eyed and sweet but still a little straightforward and dumb.
Which isn’t to say that the rest of the album is too smart or intellectual to catch the ear. It just feels more lived in and liveable than “Loe Bar.” If anything, Torske doesn’t get marred by the trappings of musical prowess—despite his range of instruments, textures, and tone. There’s not an excess drum fill in sight for Feil Knapp to announce its virtuosity. Bjørn Torske just sounds too efficient—too interested in his music to worry about the fact that he might have made the crossover album of the year.
Reviewed by: Nate De Young
Reviewed on: 2007-07-02