7th June 2016

Title: Culturen
Label: Hubro

This is less a group than a mob. What you’ve got here is a total of 12 musicians with enough instruments to fill a removal van that occupies a brass section, guitars, keyboards, vocals, two drummers, strings and accordion. Knowledgable fans will recognise the band names that the band members have been attached to, from the likes of Broen, Jenny Hval, Susanna, Moskus, Snøskred, the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Skrap and Hullyboo.

Skadedyr was created by Heida Karine Jóhannesdóttir Mobeck and Anja Lauvdal, the prime movers on the debut release but not so much on this LP which sees contributions from a variety of other band members. Although an instrumental piece, in the main, there is one vocal contribution but it’s offered to the ear in the shape of a poem by Ivar Aasenon, the title track.

So what is this music? A lazy label might be jazz and in a rather avant or freeform direction at times although melody does play a strong part in the LP as a whole but the melodic constructions can be challenging while the arrangements are tonally complex. Datavirus, for example, has an intriguing interplay of rhythm: not just in terms of the instruments but the voices too. Yes, this is an instrumental piece but voices are arranged as integral instruments too.

In audiophile terms, the record label has been given quite a task in terms of mastering. This is not only a large group – so there is much to capture on these grooves – but there are many instruments playing all at the same time. Not only that, there is a wealth of variation in terms of what is playing and when. You’ve got to be careful of levels, microphone placement, the subtleties of some instruments compared to the ‘bigness’ of others and more. The label, in short has done a great job. There is clarity and space here that allows every ‘voice’ to have its say. Whether that be brass, piano or more delicate secondary percussion. The result is a richness is terms of the soundstage and a complexity that just adds to the enjoyment.