Bjørn Torkse striking the right note by doing the wrong thing
Originally published: The Stool Pigeon
When Bjørn Torske took his fourth album, Kokning, to Berlin to be mastered, he was asked what kind of sound he wanted. He replied: “Well, it’s dance music.” The engineer turned to him surprised and asked: “People dance to this in Norway?”
“I’m not sure if the music I make now is ideal, if you want to use that word, for a club,” he says. “The places I play in are small, because there aren’t any big clubs in Norway, and people are still very much in touch with each other from the original scene. It’s a small, collective community of people doing the wrong thing.”
That collective began doing the wrong thing in Torske’s birthplace of Tromsø during the early nineties. It’s now seen as ‘the techno capital’ of Norway, due in part to the international successes of homegrown talent like Röyksopp, Biosphere and Mental Overdrive. But little would have come of these acts had it not been for Torske’s work on a local student radio station called Brygga Radio, on which he hosted the hugely influential Beatservice show.
“With regards to the number of people dancing to it, electro music in Tromsø wasn’t very big at the time,” he explains, “but there was a little group of people who started making music because there wasn’t anything else to do. We were inspired by each other and we shared equipment… Stuff just started to happen.”
Kokning finds Torske breaking away from the Chicago and Detroit house that first got Tromsø moving and delving deeper into the roots of club music. It’s like he’s isolating the essential elements of acid house and techno — disco, dub and reggae — then stitching them back together to form what he calls skrangle-house, a term he coined with his late friend and collaborator, Tore Andreas ‘Erot’ Kroknes.
“How do I translate it to English?” Torske muses. “It’s kind of a wobbly, unorganised, semi-electronic, semi-acoustic vibe. It’s our way of using interesting angles and sounds to change something that can very easily get trapped in the four-to-the-floor beat. You have to free yourself from that… make it unique.”
Kokning is certainly unique, and Torske’s most accomplished album to date. Both melodic and melancholic, its undulating Balearic beats and rootsy rhythms are the foundation for an avant-weirdness that’s wonderfully cut and pasted into place. But danceable? In the darkness of the tundra, maybe.