2019 album. Electronic.
Norwegian composer Øyvind Torvund’s new album ‘The Exotica Album’ is an audaciously playful suite reimagining in collage form the chunky edifice of those Fifties and Sixties popular styles categorised variously as ‘exotica’ or ‘lounge’, together with a wealth of historical reference points, from early electronic composition to cartoon music. Connect festival in May 2017, ‘The Exotica Album’ features the Ensemble conducted by Trond Madsen plus star guests Kjetil Moster on sax and Jorgen Traeen on electronics.
Far from that actually and it contains more exotic notes than anyone would expect from the land of fjords.A chorus of Disney-fied whistling leads into the synthesised sounds of jungle animals, as impossibly lush, sensual strings transport us to the South Seas setting of some corny Hollywood movie or coconut-flavoured TV ad. What might be chirping bird-calls (sounding suspiciously like short-wave radio signals), and an insistent peck on the piano give way to demented percussion, spiritual-sax and an Alpine brass fanfare that’s drowned out by electrical storms of yowling distortion. There’s electronic raindrops, a duet for bongo drums and ring-modulator, plus various versions of nature music in the expansive, widescreen mode where Sibelius meets John Williams. Add weird electronic wig-outs mixed with kon-tiki lounge and it’s suddenly like John Zorn hanging with Karl-Heinz Stockhausen round at Martin Denny’s place. Welcome to ‘The Exotica Album’ by Øyvind Torvund. This is maximal music, where a gallon’s worth of content is squeezed into a pint-pot of recording time, and it’s great.
”The piece grew out of a wish to do something on the exotica genre and link it to early electronic modernism”, Øyvind Torvund says. “I felt a connection to both the world of exotica, to Les Baxter, Martin Denny, etc, and also to early electronic music, to Stockhausen and G.M. Koenig, who made these sonic diamonds where there is so much love in each naive little ‘pling’... So, I started writing tunes that were clearly inspired by the sounds and colours of Fifties exotica, and then added abstract compositions and improvisations that ran parallel to the tunes and sometimes interacted with them. Jorgen Traeen and Kjetil Moster then began to represent the more modernist/abstract part of the material, with synths imitating waves, rain, birds and other natural phenomena. The tunes are inspired by composers like Esquivel, Martin Denny and Les Baxter, and also the collage work of John Zorn, Otomo Yoshihide and Christian Marclay.”
The result, rather than being a dry, academic-sounding rehash of pre-existing sources, provides a continuously diverting listening experience where the rate of change never lets up. And Øyvind Torvund, despite the wealth of references and inspirations, convincingly develops his own musical language, just as The Exotica Album’ attains its own structural integrity by successfully creating a distinctive over-arching form to support the myriad of constantly evolving musical parts. Remaining true to the spirit of its sources, whether low exotica or high electronic modernism, ‘The Exotica Album’ also sounds impressively new, honouring the great tradition of sonic experimentalism by boldly going as far out as it can.