Bj�rn Torske is the Lord Lucan of electronica: a quirky experimentalist with a habitual disappearing act. Way back in 2001, Norway’s Torske, a stalwart of the ’90s techno/acid-house scene and regular with cult Dutch outfit Djax-Up-Beats, seemed to be on the up. He released his second LP, Tr�bbel, and spent the next year with fellow Bergensere R�yksopp, touring on the back of their seminal Melody A.M. and remixing the then-ubiquitous Eple. But then… silence.
It was six years until the dreamy proto-dubstep of his next full length, Feil Knapp, a wave of Nordic bliss that saw Torske segue from house beats to chilled electronica. The album seemed to land neatly on a burgeoning electro-zeitgeist, and marked his link-up with current label Smalltown Supersound. Yet it also marked the start of another three-year hiatus – a period that Supersound politely, if with some frustration, refer to as Torske being in “his cave”, and one that is only now ending with his new album, Kokning.
Despite the break, Torske’s motif remains intact: a base hewn from soft-struck house and patterned electronica, with eclectic samples and techno fills carved lovingly into the mix. Upbeat and lilting, Kokning bears little resemblance to the pulsing rush of Torske’s ’90s heritage, or indeed the adrenal, space-disco frenetics of label mates Lindstr�m and KXP. It’s an album to fall into, blissed-out and wide-eyed, rather than one ever likely to fill a Scandinavian dance floor.
Indeed, title track Kokning is a lulled, beatific opener that is less thumping house anthem, and more music to be massaged by; it’s the type of lilting ephemera that could slip any second into whale song or chirruping birds (and must be heard while prostrate and kneeded by an oily Swede).
Yet, while a similarly slumbered warmth recurs on Gullfjellet, Torske has only a dalliance with the serene. The remainder seeks a greater effervescence; insistent bass dubs, and trilly synth hooks bubble out of every pore. Bergensere is pure disco, lining its dirty, danceable riffs with hand claps and space-age bleeps; Bruggesjam winds casiotone riffs into a jaunty electro-ditty; and Langt Fra Afrika bounces samples across a bed of jungling bongos.
Kokning is clearly an album of diverse influences – its name, as a clue, means scavenging – and Torske has the knack of infusing them all with an infectious, danceable charisma. But it also has the feel of sculptured scrap, like one of those creations of car parts and chainsaws that hopeful artists occasionally weld together in metallic defiance of the usual media. The samples are solid, the joins are tight, it’s attractive in its engineering – but you wouldn’t want it in your front room. Too often Torske is caught in the crafting of a sound: reworking it until he’s eked every toe-tapping angle from it. It’s a diligence that errs on numbing, that puts in too rigid an order a creativity that would seem much more exciting in its random, exalted expression. As a result, Kokning, sadly, is underwhelming.