Music for Moviebikers – L.A S. (Review)
L.A S. REVIEW
There are many elements that separate music made for movies and regular music. Norwegian producer/artist Kaada – whose full name is John Erik Kaada – is not a John Williams or Danny Elfman type, but he is an accomplished young composer who has to his credit musical scores for Norwegian films Mongoland, Journey, and Hawaii, Oslo. Kaada has also played music alongside Mike Patton as well as in a band called Cloroform, so he knows both sides of the cinema music/regular music coin.
When it comes to a CD project for Kaada, there are new decisions to be made. Some would expect a hybrid style to immerge – part sparse scoresound, part nod to pop music. The fact that his second album is entitled Music For Moviebikers might be a slight indication as to the direction that it leans. In slight Music For Moviebikers does abide to pop principles. The 13 compositions are tailored to more briefly captured track-by-track listening instead of a straight-up movie score feel, which the album format makes clear in its listing of tracks as Take 01: Smiger, Take 02: Mainstreaming, and so on.
But largely this album feels as if it is accompanying an imaginary film. Consider tracks composed for an album likened to short stories in a volume edition, and movie music is a novel. In the collection of short stories there doesn’t have to be an overwhelming overall theme holding the segments together. For a novel, although there are breaks for each chapter, the flow of the narrative is being developed, twisted, and climaxed throughout.
This album lives on moods, eccentricity, and instrumental color. Unlike a pop album where words often are the focal point, Kaada specifically created the album to have few lyrics, and the ones that were present to be either nonsensical or fantasy-like. Like a fidgety smoker trying to quit, one might wonder: What do you do without…lyrics?! Instead, words might be better put to use in describing the album’s texture, with the initial syllables falling under the headings of “beautiful” and “powerful.” Others that also apply: expressive, quasi-melancholic/quasi-uplifting, European, theme- oriented, hymn-esqe, unique, surreal, orchestrated, modern, cinematic [I think I just turned into the All Music Guide].
Music For Moviebikers is performed by a broad range of orchestral musicians. There are standard orchestra instruments – violin, cello, viola, percussion, clarinets, mallets, glockenspiel – and then there are the non-typical instruments which give Kaada’s sound an eclectic feel – electric guitar (often clean channeled), tannerin [used by Radiohead, gives off howling ghostly keyboard sound], Dulcitone (organ that strikes tuning forks), kalimba (an African thumb piano), Stoessel-laute (part-lute, part-zither…a German folk instrument), glass harmonica [I am NOT making this up], and many others. Although an untrained ear usually can’t pick these sounds out from the deep bunch, the ensemble sounds gorgeously cultured.
Listening to this album one might feel a journey taking place. The first two tracks (“Smiger” and “Mainstreaming”) have choruses that are striking in their catchiness and also sound a bit like hymns sung in a church, archaic and majestic. Around tracks six, seven and eight (“Julia Pastrana,” “No Man’s Land,” and “Daily Living”) it feels like melodic themes of the first few songs are being brushed on again, but this time with furthered sounds and in a different emotional and instrumental place. The déjà vu feeling is beautiful. The result is an overall feeling of one work through many pieces and it shows that Kaada was able to effectively dance that line between pop music and orchestrated movie music.
Music For Moviebikers is an amazing piece of work, and although it caters to fans of orchestrated collectives, anyone looking to be impressed by surreal sounds will love it. Fans of Rachel’s should be first to the plate.
Reviewed by Josh Zanger