Two Reasons Why Frisk Frugt Is Flipping Brilliant
, February 7th, 2013 04:28
There are two albums by Anders Lauge Meldgaard up in this feature. John Doran is imploring you to buy both of them
Frisk Frugt - Dansktoppen Møder Burkina Faso I Det Himmelblå Rum Hvor Solen Bor, Suite
Dansktoppen Møder Burkina Faso I Det Himmelblå Rum Hvor Solen Bor, Suite starts, to borrow a term, arse about tit. If we look at this astounding album as a meal (and for once there’s a chance I’m not over reaching and we probably are being asked to see it in the terms of food, given that Frisk Frugt is Danish for fresh fruit) then the courses are served in the wrong order.
The 3:13 opening track is a palate cleanser but as designed by clown dazzling charlatan Heston Blumenthal, given that it is full of over ripe, sense assaulting discord. It is purposefully outré and full of counter-intuitive use of flavour and disturbing textures, just to be followed by a main course of nothing but fresh fruit. 'Dyrems Akkompgenment Er Et Ber De Kan' opens with quiet foot fall, a door's electronic key pad being operated before we are treated to a short MIDI gavotte of synthetic harpsichords, electronic pianos and cheap Casio keyboards. There is a brief and energetic exhortation about fresh fruit in Danish - is this the Scandinavian One Pound Fish Man who has been captured here? More research (by someone who can speak Danish) needs to be done. Then the faux baroque fanfare begins to run backwards and real piano keys are picked out over the top and then again in synths, in a manner not unreminiscent of Wendy Carlos’ incidental music from A Clockwork Orange. But unlike Alex the Droog, the listener to this superb album is being deprogrammed not conditioned.
There is a jarring, speaker cone tearing burst of drone metal that lasts all of one second, before a cacophonous and disrhythmic burst of folk marimba captured as field recording. The cheap and the expensive clash, as do the virtuoso and the untrained, the synthetic and the authentic, the digital and the analogue with all noise collapsing into an oscillating synthesiser drone worthy of Hawkwind, which in turn gives way to the echoing sepulchral chords of a church pipe organ. And then hopefully, excitingly, blissfully, temporarily you’re taken outside of your usual frames of reference into a notional international zone. This is a deprogramming technique that allows you to hear the unusual blends of instruments and styles and recording techniques in a way that doesn’t detract from Frisk Frugt (aka Danish experimental pop artist Anders Lauge Meldgaard) and his amazing compositional sense.
Weirdly, almost from the get go (well, from the get go of the second track at least) the weird thing about this weirdly brilliant album is not how weird it is but how weird it is that you don’t notice much of the weirdness, just an intricately woven tapestry of tunefulness and sunny riffs. The fact that African finger pianos are back to back with electric guitars and vintage synths with programmed beats and squalling Fisher Price saxophone with kora doesn’t seem weird at all.
The echoing sepulchral drones of a church organ was the soundtrack to my first encounter with Meldgaard. At a Quietus promoted night in an Oslo Church, Kulturkirken Jakob, during By Larm February 2011, on seeing the building’s prodigious pipe organ he elected to abandon his planned set and just perform improvised ecclesiastical drones instead. The following night I saw him again in a crowded city centre bar sat behind a piano, groaning under the weight of many potted plants (back home he oversees the Plant Orchestra and is currently undertaking some very esoteric research into how flora can create music), playing a skewed, jazz informed mutant pop music with many strands of African and Danish tradition running through it. He was accompanied by a drummer and percussionist as he led the crowd through an idiosyncratic vision that included, at one point, picking up a globe of the Earth lit from within by a light bulb, and playing a solo on it. He had converted it into a synthesizer, with the sound controlled by which direction you span it in and with what forcefulness. He may have had it plugged into a wah wah pedal... although this could be wishful thinking. His set also included some sublime, John Fahey-esque finger picking on an acoustic and some free jazz played on both a saxophone and a child’s toy version of the same instrument.
But the roots of this album go back to 2009, when he took a two month trip to West Africa. At his stay in Burkina Faso he played with street musicians but when he got to Mali, he spent a fortnight staying with the master kora player Toumani Diabaté, with the latter encounter having the most impressive impact on the album. The way that Meldgaard mixes the heavily scored Malian tradition with his own Western background in improvisation is nothing short of breath taking. The peals of chiming sun dappled electric guitar on ‘Dansktoppen Møder Burkina Faso I Det Himmelblå Rum Hvor Solen Bor 1 & 2’ slowly giving way to free jazz is a thing of beauty. Without wanting to state the obvious there is a lot more in the way of imaginative engagement here than you will hear from Vampire Weekend (“The Strokes playing the ‘Um Bongo’ theme tune” Simon Price ©) but just to rub the salt into the wounds a bit more for a second, this is a hell of a lot less po faced and much more fun as well. I guess it really helps to know what you’re doing.
The point is that this is not pretending to be in anyway authentic. ‘Dansktoppen Møder Burkina Faso I Det Himmelblå Rum Hvor Solen Bor 3’ is more comparable to Danish folk music than anything African and ends up sounding like one of Penguin Café Orchestra’s more introspective moments. But also the trip to Africa was clearly also taken in parallel with a trip of the imagination. ‘Biodynamisk Æblejuice Bringer Solen Indenfor Om Vinteren’ sees folk Marimba and warm electric guitar get replaced by the kind of harshly buzzing finger pianos fed through old Tannoy speakers favoured by Konono No. 1. But did Meldgaard’s trip take him to the Democratic Republic Of Congo? No. This music is as inauthentic as it comes and all the better for it. Toy horns are processed to sound like interstellar cosmic MOOGs, electric guitar playing tutored by Toumani Diabate starts to sound like the work of Richard Lloyd, folk marimbas sound like they’ve been arranged by Terry Riley. This is perhaps a distant relative of the work done by Jon Hassell and Holgar Czukay in the 1970s and ‘Hvordan To Halvmåner Bliver Til 4/4’ could easily sit on an African Eno’s Another Green World. A massive but effortless achievement.
Musik For Seks Electriske Guitarer - Musik For Seks Electriske Guitarer
Most of us are lucky to be getting to hear Dansktoppen Møder Burkina Faso… at all. It had a very limited run on the Danish yoyooyoy imprint but after it unexpectedly got nominated for the Nordic Music Prize in 2012, friend of the Quietus Jonny Mugwump licensed it for release in the UK via his Exotic Pylon imprint. As you’ve probably gathered Anders Lauge Meldgaard isn’t the kind of person to sit still and he already has another album out under the banner of Musik For Seks Electriske Guitarer, although it must be said that the two projects are relatively closely intertwined.
While on his bus man’s holiday to West Africa in 2009 Meldgaard used his downtime in the evenings to start writing minimal compositional pieces for six electric guitars to be played by him and his Yoyooyoy mates when he returned to Berlin (where he is based). The piece, quite rightly, invites comparison to Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham but because of where it was written, the African influence is sometimes audible as well.
The piece was first performed at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival in 2010 and this live honing of the music has led to a very visceral set of tracks with howling climaxes that bring to mind Loop, early Spiritualized and Sonic Youth.
Music For Six Electric Guitars is performed, confusingly, by nine guitarists, including Andreas Führer, also a co-member of Yoyooyoy, all of whom are well respected in the avant garde and/or rock scene in Cophenhagen. But essentially it works so well because it succeeds in being all (cool) things to all (cool) people. It is at once a musicianly demonstration of multiple guitar techniques, a joyous ride through sunbursts of tuneful electronic guitar, placed somewhere between African high life, 20th century minimalism and avant rock and an exposition of a brilliant compositional mind at work.
Seek out Dansktoppen Møder Burkina Faso I Det Himmelblå Rum Hvor Solen Bor, Suite. Hell, seek out both albums with extreme prejudice.