Spunk: En Aldeles Forferdelig Sykdom (2006)
The third studio disc by the Norwegian all-female quartet Spunk suggests a new perspective on free collective improvisation. Free improv does not have to be cerebral and dead serious. Spunk likes to push the music into absurdist extremes, to load the music with eccentric ideas, almost to the brink of anarchy, but always with a quirky humor and subtlety and an emphasis on how individual voices can become one.
En Aldeles Forferdelig Sykdom ("An Absolutely Terrible Disease") is another quote from the great Swedish author of children's books, Astrid Lindgren, whose heroine was the free-spirited and anti-authoritarian character Pippi Longstocking. This release celebrates the tenth anniversary of this quartet; for the first time Spunk used a producer, J''rgen Tr''en, who has worked before with the Norwegian elecro-jazz outfit Jaga Jazzist.
This quite short disc (under forty minutes) throws you to Spunk's ever-inventive musical whirlpool from the first seconds with dreamy child-like voices, cartoonish voicing, romantic whistling that might have come from an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, sawing of cello strings, distant trumpet calls, echoes of metallic mbira, and noise. Noise is a constant component of Spunk's music, but it is a a funny and nonsensical kind of noise, unlike the more radical and aggressive bursts that two members of Spunk, Maja Ratkje and Hild Sofie Tafjord, use in their Fe-Mail duo, and more a sober perspective on the playfulness of their process of immediate improvisation.
Sometimes Spunk may sound like an updated version of the Spontaneous Musical Ensemble augmented by Diamanda Galas, but these musicians are more about finding their own original voiceand En Aldeles Forferdelig Sykdom is a very gratifying attempt at achieving such a voice. A beautiful celebration of this unique quartet's anniversary.
Track Listing: Marbles; M??renh??r; Dead Man Watching; Lunleik; Twinkle Wrinkle; Sans; Hvis en Kantklipper Fikk Lov Til ?? Synge; Kameleon.
Personnel: Kristin Andersen: trumpet, violin, flutes; Lene Grenager: cello; Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje: vocals, theremin, electronics; Hild Sofie Tafjord: French horn, flutes, electronics.