Bjørn Torske is a Norwegian artist who turns his back on received wisdom of underground music from his corner of the world – reductively speaking, it’s either colder-than-ice improvisation or Finnish free folk shenanigans – and creates alternate worlds via electronic means. He’s one of those gadfly characters, a genre-cist whose sense of play leads him down some blind alleys, but also gifts him with an irreverent approach to making electronica with its seams showing.
Torske’s productions appear simple at first glance: he never loads the frame with too much detail, particularly when he’s trying to float the cosmic disco boat, as on the pared-back Metro Area dynamics of “God Kveld.” But he’s not one for predictability, and if you scratch away at the surface long enough, you’ll find the keys to his parallel universe – the same track is made strange by fidgety percussion that’s pure Arthur Russell. The spiraling dub of “Spelunker” and “Kapteinens Skjegg” ricochets off the walls: here, Torske splatters ideas around the room, using delay as a tactic to avoid settling into rote patterns. “Møljekalas” is DIY disco Juju, King Sunny Ade poking away at the laptop.
It doesn’t all work. Torske can be a bit twee, and while his enthusiasm is infectious, sometimes the genre travels come across uncomfortable, all experiment and no pay-off. But it’s hard to deny the lo-fi pleasures of tracks like “Loe Bar”: with protean textures that pop and shudder like light reflecting off disco-balls and blissful, touchy-feely Swingtime drum programming, “Loe Bar” references everything good about eccentric home-made house music. Imagine Matthew Herbert jamming with The Black Dog having only listened to early ‘90s Creation Records acid house.