Bjørn Torske

Feil Knapp

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In the six years between his 2001 album Trøbbel and this 2007 follow-up, the Norwegian electronica scene that Bjørn Torske helped to pioneer has gone international, thanks mostly to a number of his friends and collaborators, among them Röyksopp, Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas, and Erlend Øye. Given that context, the album has the makings of a major comeback statement, but the reality of it is a good deal more down to earth; Feil Knapp is nothing more or less than ten tracks of thoroughly personable, unassuming electronica encompassing a considerable array of styles -- house, ambient, psychedelic disco, dub reggae, instrumental pop -- while maintaining a distinctly lighthearted, amiable sensibility. In less subtly charismatic hands, this degree of eclecticism could come off as glibly chameleonic, but Torske approaches each track as an opportunity for unconstrained, good-humored exploration -- and often, gentle subversive juxtaposition -- rather than rote genre exercise. Hence, the stately serenity of opener "Hemmelig Orkester," with its warm ambient tones and wash of constantly billowing synths, is slyly undermined (though not disrupted) by a meek, unceremonious harmonica; the breezy disco-funk of "Hatten Passer" finds room for bongos, spry clavinet and vibraphone noodling, and a sprightly, faintly preposterous whistled refrain, as well as a few minor explosions (nobody harmed, evidently). Some of the other tracks may conform somewhat more to the self-contained sets of preconceptions they engage with -- "Loe Bar"'s chilled-out lounge-house; "God Kveld"'s rubbery, percussion-happy cosmic disco; "Kapteinens Skjegg"'s dark, dubbed-out ska -- but they never lose that slight sense of the unexpected, breathing new freshness into the most familiar sounds. Torske's greatest gift here is his lightness of touch; neither his irreverence nor his reverence comes off as forced, and neither seems to exist for its own sake. Though it initially comes off as a novelty, even the album's most overtly humorous moment -- when "Spelunker" sets video game splutters and a snaky, Eastern-tinged eight-bit melody against a slow-cooking dub reggae groove -- ends up feeling surprisingly, unsurprisingly, natural.