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Kim Hiorthøy - My Last Day

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Artist: Kim Hiorthøy

Album: My Last Day

Label: Smalltown Supersound

Review date: Jan. 23, 2008

The closing track on Kim Hiorthøy’s latest release, My Last Day, shares its title with a late-era Moondog tune, and it wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest that the Norwegian has kept his ear to the Viking of Sixth Avenue. Dominated by simple piano melodies and scattered wind/string arrangements, the album makes a virtue of laying it on thin, as if appeals to grandeur would rob its charm. Besides his preternatural gift of arrangement, Moondog understood the grace in the lilt of his songs. Like a wiser, freakier Paul McCartney, he let those late-era melodies fend for themselves, confident that they were strong enough to be the sole focus.

As a songwriter, Hiorthøy plows through similar terrain, but whereas both McCartney and Moondog could connect through lyrics and vocals, Hiorthøy retreats to bedroom IDM. It's a gamble that's only half-successful – one almost wishes that he abandoned the beats and created the mournful mood masterpiece that struggles to escape My Last Day. Hiorthøy proves himself during the album's lengthy beatless passages to be one of the true heirs to Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works releases, doing both Mr. James' Drukqs and much of the Audio Dregs catalog one better by avoiding self-conscious beauty-mongering in favor of sheer melodic appeal. Clichéd as it may sound, I doubt I'll hear warmer or more deeply felt electronica in the upcoming year than Day's "Same old shit." Hiorthøy is unafraid to show the track's seams, and the intimacy pays off.

Alas, the bulk of Day exists in a middle ground between hazy triumph and a half-hearted going through the motions. Tracks like "I thought we could eat friends" or "Album" might fit in with braindancers like D'arcangelo, but Hiorthøy isn't aiming for dancefloor success or a concept defined by and through rigorous execution; as such, the album loses the ability to offer both unhinged pleasure and mechanical mind thrills.

This creates an uphill battle, and it's to Hiorthøy's credit that several tracks manage to break through the drab b-boy beats to define themselves. "Skuggan" is most successful, with the programming actually interacting with the melodies on display, rather than just providing obligatory accompaniment. That the song is over nine minutes long speaks to a greater ambition that the rest of the album doesn't really hint at. At his best, no one can touch Hiorthøy in creating minor epics or epics in miniature, but My Last Day often seems too content to operate on that small scale.

By Brad LaBonte

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