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Party Knüllers: Was Something Lost in Translation?

John Eyles By

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The duo Party Knüllers is a transatlantic collaboration between Chicago's own Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello & electronics and Norway's Ståle Liavik Solberg on drums & percussion. The two played together in a quartet, also including clarinetist Frode Gjerstad and vocalist Stine Janvin Motland, on VC/DC (Hispid, 2011), the inaugural release of the label that now releases two albums by the duo themselves. One of these albums is a vinyl collaboration with Chicagoan Jim Baker on analogue synthesizer, bearing a bizarre title that is surely guaranteed to raise an eyebrow or two as well as the occasional embarrassed giggle or guffaw! Despite that, this pair of albums seems destined to cement the reputations both of Party Knüllers and of the fledgling Hispid label.

Party Knüllers
Gold
Hispid
2014

Gold was recorded live in December 2013 during Blow Out! at Cafe Mir, Oslo, Norway. It consists of two tracks, the first over thirty-three minutes, the second about six. Throughout, both Lonberg-Holm and Solberg play continuously, producing an impressively coherent stream of music that seems to flow out of them with consummate ease. Their individual contributions mesh together well (in a manner similar to that seen in the YouTube clip, below.) As ideas and reactions go back and forth between them, it is obvious that they meet as equals with neither consistently taking the lead.

Each of them employs the full range of sounds at their disposal, creating a varied and ever-shifting soundscape. So, one minute Lonberg-Holm is extracting a series of sumptuously gorgeous low end frequencies from the depths of his cello that are toe-curlingly beautiful and then, not long after, with the aid of electronics, he sounds far more akin to an electric guitarist who is freaking out! Solberg cannot quite match that breadth of sounds, but he does remarkably well with the resources at his disposal, producing a range of responses from all over his kit that perfectly frame, complement and enhance the cellist's. The album leaves us in no doubt that these two were made for each other.

Party Knüllers meets Jim Baker
Four Images of Wank
Hispid
2014

Just to clear up any misunderstandings occasioned by the title of this album, Wank is the name of a mountain in southern Germany, close to the Austrian border, and the sleeve of this record is decorated with four photographs of the locality and its inhabitants. Nonetheless, that is not enough to reassure Jim Baker about the title, as the record sleeve contains a copy of a letter from him to Lonberg-Holm and Solberg expressing his misgivings about the album title. Baker's concerns mainly centre on the notion that the title presents reviewers with the opportunity to equate free improv with wanking or something of the sort...

On the basis of the music (which Baker himself describes as "encouraging, listenable... perhaps I'm delusional but I might even construe some value therein.") Baker need have no fear. Across four tracks, it is as focused and purposeful as that on Gold, with the added ingredient of Baker and his synth as a third strand interwoven with the other two. There is no trace of anyone playing with himself (sorry, cheap gag, couldn't resist it...) but of all three combining together into an integrated entity, characterized by empathy, selflessness and absence of ego. As an album it handsomely repays repeat listening and leads one to hope that this three-way collaboration will be repeated soon. In a nutshell, both these releases elicit the same response: More, soon, please.

Tracks and Personnel

Gold

Tracks: Mein Mädchen Mag Um Party Die Ganze Zeit; Ich Liebe Gefunden Auf In Zwei Richtungen.

Personnel: Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello & electronics; Ståle Liavik Solberg: drums & percussion.

Four Images of Wank

Tracks: Mühldörfl; Wallgau; Krün; Schlattan-Höfle.

Personnel: Jim Baker: analog synthesizer; Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello & electronics; Ståle Liavik Solberg: drums & percussion.

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