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Album Review

sPacemoNkey: The Karman Line

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sPacemoNkey: The Karman Line
sPacemoNkey is the duo project of Norwegian keyboards player Morten Qvenild, known from other innovative Norwegian bands as In The Country, Susanna and The Magical Orchestra and by his continuous work with vocalist Solveig Slettahjell, and drummer Gard Nilssen, one of the busiest musicians in the vibrant Norwegian scene, who plays in such outfits as Bushman's Revenge, AstroSonic, Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and in the band of vocalist Susanne Sundfør. The two met in the recording of trumpeter Mathias Eick's Skala, ECM, 2011), and enjoyed playing together so much they quickly decided to try playing together as a duo.

The duo debut album is entirely improvisational. It highlights the breadth of the musical vocabulary of both Qvenlid and Nilssen and how the two melt elements from spacey- progressive rock, fusion, experimental sonic textures and free jazz into a cohesive, highly playful set of compositions. It also features their clever understanding of how the studio space can be used for creating a unique sound of their own and the immediate and profound communication between these gifted musicians.

The duo title and the titles of the nine pieces refer to an actual and imaginary journey in space—the rhesus monkey Albert II was the first ever monkey in space that passed the Kármán line of 100 km taken to designate the beginning of space. The music moves in few parallel directions. It is rich in its melodic tones and driving, rhythmic ideas, but at the same time there is always a subversive undercurrent that obscures the melodic theme and progression with electronic noises, fractured beats and adventurous sonic searches. And vice versa, beneath any electronic, noisy storm there bubbles a melodic theme.

"Chopping Wood In My Brand New Moon Boots" and "Blue Baboon and Carpenter" sound as reserved, lyrical pieces and both are if they were played on Qvenild's piano only, but both are embraced by delicate yet disturbing, spacey soundscapes that imbue both with a disquieting tone. The humor of the pieces titles reflects the openness and unconventional employment of sounds—any sounds— that stress the joyful fascination of creating a new sonic language, as the two demonstrate on "Digital Cigarettes," and "Meanwhile In A Galaxy Far Away." The two enjoy the free improvised, intense collisions of sounds, acoustic, processed and electronic, exploring and turning the noisy mayhem into impressive, nuanced textures. "sPacemoNkey" and "Long Distance Call" feature the duo as structuring epic, cinematic stories, almost as prog-rock suites, with dramatic shifts in some tense plots.

Surprising and stimulating music. sPacemoNkey is a unique duo, with a distinct and highly personal sound and interplay of its own.

Track Listing

Aeronautics; Chopping Wood In My Brand New Moon Boots; Digital Cigarettes; Darkness; Blue Baboon and Carpenter; sPacemoNkey; Meanwhile In A Galaxy Far Away; Long Distance Call; Landing Day.

Personnel

Morten Qvenild: hyperpiano, electronics, programming; Gard Nilssen: drums, gongs, bells, vibraphone, electronics; Jørgen Træen: modular synthesizer (3).

Album information

Title: The Karman Line | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Hubro Records


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