Album of the week: Bjørn Torske – Byen

There’s a moment in “clear air” where you thought you heard enough, but in true Bjørn Torske style he whists you off to some weird Jazz infusion whirlpool that made you forget why you came here in the first place. That’s the majesty of Bjørn Torske; he’s everywhere and nowhere at the same time. An enigmatic figure in the world of electronic music in Norway, Bjørn Torske’s albums like Nedi Myra and Trøbbel have made a significant impact on music history. His musical legacy played no small part in bringing the Norwegian space Disco sound to world-wide attention, but it’s all based on a sincere musical understanding that can go from upbeat Disco to the obscure margins of Rock n Roll.

Byen is the Disco provocateur doing what he does best. The album plays like a Bjorn Torske DJ set, with elements of hand percussion and cosmic synths tracing a journey through some of the most diverse corners of music. A progressive take on electronic music, Byen bides its time through the seven extensive tracks that make up the album. Building on repetitive loops that Torske manipulates to his whim, Byen looks forward as much as it looks back. There’s that familiar Disco aesthetic, but rather than arranging it around familiar song formats, Torske’s sights are firmly set on the dance floor with tracks aimed specifically for the DJ. 

Tracks like “Night Call” are exquisite exercises in control, plodding along through a single repetition that keeps throwing something new at you just before it gets too mundane. It’s simplistic and eloquent, instantly recognisable, but fleeting and imbedded in the moment. Only Bjørn Torske could essentially play a loop for 11 minutes without it getting boring. The narration of the album is transplanted from something like a seventies concept record for the modern dance floor. There are traces of what Torske and Prins Thomas were doing on Square One together, but as far as comparing it to earlier records like Trøbbel this record stands alone in the Bjørn Torske discography.

Perhaps it’s the distance it occupies from his last record, but Byen shows a new side to Bjørn Torske that also earmarks the future of the Norwegian sound, if such a thing exists. Like the new Prins Thomas and Bugge Wesseltoft record, the music stalwart is taking the cosmic sounds of Space Disco to the very outer edges of electronic music, where it errs on the side of a psychedelica, krautrock and prog. 

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