Katrine Amsler – Laslafaria (BoogiePost, 2020)
After four tracks, almost in the middle of your listening journey, you’ll stumble upon the first trails of why Danish composer and sound artist Katrine Amsler called her album Laslafaria, after a popular Swiss Guggenmusig orchestra. There’s not much of the pompous, almost outgrageously Dionisyan, spirit of this folk music, made of riotous brasses and dancing heels here. Quoting the words by Amsler: the term ‘Guggenmusig’ is a reference to an ensemble that includes a group of people playing simple folk tunes, pop and children’s songs on a variety of percussion and brass instruments. In the case of Laslafaria some members were trained musicians while others had never played an instrument before. The songs were played loud, clear and recognisably and (perhaps with intent) not always in perfect pitch. Yet there’s something happening, covered under the snow. A freezin cold tapestry for a lonely trumpet, a tuba echoing some sparse laments, a tumbling brass in the background. Lasfaria is, instead, a revisitation of the guggenmusig, filtered through the lens of dadaism, industrial, electronic, metal and ambient music.
Like when taking a glance from a distance, everything becomes clearer when seeing the bigger picture. Katrine Amsler has modelled sounds for her career with Television Pickpup, acoustic trio Shitney and for Swedish prog rock icons Isildurs Bane. Guitarist Samuel Hällkvist, who shares the duties in the band, is siding her in Laslafaria with the same gang appearing in his previous albums, including drummer Knut Finsrud, singer Qarim Wikström (herself a member of Shitney), guitarist Stephan Sieben. But this album is more like a random collage of sounds, where it is almost impossible to discern who plays what. And here comes the bigger picture. The album title ‘Laslafaria’ is borrowed from the Swiss Guggenmusig orchestra of the same name -says again Amsler. ‘Laslafaria’ (the band) was founded in 1962 by a diverse group of creative young adults that included my uncle, Werner Amsler, and my father, Henri Amsler. My mother, Karin Moos, joined in 1968. Yet this is much more than a testament after her family: they cultivated elements from Dadaism such as initially rejecting the logic, reason, and aestheticism of a modern capitalist society, instead expressing nonsense, irrationality, and anti-bourgeois protest in their works.
The intense dadaistic and iconoclastic spirit that plays behind the humorously lusty version of a 50s-like tune rendered through a 8-bit keyboard in The Niesenbahn Defeat has almost the same perverse provocation as a Marc Ribot tune. The opening Average Speed starts with a scratchy, aggressive and fatty synth that menaces to erupt in an evil hammering. Nothing could be more wrong: the most of the ten minutes track are dedicated to an almost unhearable background of seemingly falling snowflakes. A delicate trumpet-like theme creates a sort of Norwegian scene, that would easily fit in a track by Jan Bang and Arve Henriksen.
Katrine Amsler cleverly manages contrasting elements, like the aforementioned guggenmusig interludes. Take Tuba Dynamite as example, a rambuctious track that eventually paves the road to the field sounds explorations in the closing The sound of very old bones. The hypnotic keyboard pedals are almost perduring until the end of the track, when unexpectedly interrupted by an out of tune brass march filtered through a bit-like processor.
The Danish composer has a playful approach to Dadaism. Yet never surrenders to it for the sake of humour. Inconvenient melody and somebody whistling puts one of the few melodies of the album at show. Wild and distant, unutterable, rhythmically unsteady, yet sensually labirinthine, the theme is played by keyboard and sung in unison with Wikström. Something that reminds me one of the masterpieces of the rock in opposition Belgian band Aksak Maboul, that amazing song entitled Chanter est sain.
Even the most explorative eletronic tracks, like the bunch of collapsing metals in Obwalden, contribute to fuel a sense of ancestral distance that stands behind the work: my idea was to take that energy and channel it into the creation of this album -she says. I wanted to include everything from cheap-keyboards-running-low-on-batteries to the sound of a MIDI fute and a poorly-written, inconvenient melody that was ‘supposed’ to have been previously discarded. I offered these ordinarily outcasts of instruments and sounds my fullest attention, putting each one on a musical pedestal, and blending them with hif recordings of my homemade micro-guitars, a beautiful sounding bridge in the town of Elsinore, a handful of my absolute favourite musicians and much more. All parts follow an hidden track placed under the snow, again, that carefully maps the intention of the artist: throughout the process of sculpting the compositions, all sound-elements were handled with the utmost care (and sometimes calculated carelessness). In some cases, polished to an almost psychopathic extent. In other cases, they were kept untreated as completely raw ingredients. All this, melted together with my blurry childhood memories of our annual trips to Switzerland – the beautiful landscapes, mountains, lakes, and woods. Funicular railways, cowbells and army knives joining forces, weaving a tapestry of my refections on the LASLAFARIA ideology and gradually became the music you can hear on this album.
1. Average Speed
2. Heavy Early Blue
3. Take a Newspaper, shake it gently
5. Rigibahn 798 meters above sea level
6. Inconvenient melody and somebody whistling
7. The Niesenbahn Defeat
8. Nidwalden – Bright sun
9. Transit Wetzikon
10. Tuba Dynamite
11. The Sound of very old Bones
Music by Katrine Amsler
Mixed and produced by Katrine Amsler Additional mix by August Wanngren Post processing by Martin Stig Andersen Master by Morten Bue
Artwork by Jan Oksbøl Callesen
A huge thank you to the musicians on this album : Qarin Wikström
Samuel Hällkvist, Nils Berg, Josef Kallerdahl Knut Finsrud Frederik Hauch Stue Ericson Stephan Sieben Mike Højgaard
And a special thanks to all members of the Laslafaria orchestra !
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