Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Every once in a while a band comes around that no one’s ever heard with a collection of songs that should be called “Greatest Hits,” but can’t considering, well, technically there are no hits. So you can go the “An Introduction to” route, but that seems to work better for Nick Drake and Shuggie Otis. For Stockholm’s cerebral rockers Audionom, Retrospektiv seems like an appropriate album title as nothing this band does can really be explained in one Virgin Megastore-friendly phrase. The songs are a collection of material recorded from 1999 – 2002, ranging from endless Neu!-inspired jams to new wave synth-pop that would cause premature ejaculations for the youth of 1982.

New York's Kemado Records is like an explorer for National Geographic, scouring the corners of the earth for untapped resources to share with rest of us who don’t get out much. A & R meister Keith Abrahamsson stated upon his discovery, “It was just one of those right time, right place instances that ended up working out for us.” The best part is Abrahamsson could’ve heard the beginning of “Horisont,” have his mind blown, proceed to the lobby, make a call back to the States, explain in grave detail how insane this band is, walk back in and catch the rest of the song. You can get a lot done in 15 minutes. The rest of the album is not exactly like that. It starts off with “Ljusets Krigare,” which could almost be Kraftwerk if that damn guitar riff and driving rhythm section didn’t drop in. Its simplicity begs for explanation, but there’s none to give—it just exists and the listener has no choice but to accept it.

Out of nowhere, a band that you could easily assume was an instrumental band, plays a song they must’ve found in a vault in 1978, “And You Said I Was the Only One.” It sounds like Gang of Four—sort of—with a jumpy down-stroke punked-out thud of emotion, imploring you to feel that this guy got really messed up by his lady-friend in some very immoral way. The song ends with a crash, like they literally just stopped and left and forgot to press “stop” in the studio. But it sure leads in perfectly to “Kristall,” a track that once again starts off like Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter made a guest appearance, but were quickly shooed away so the song could truly develop, all the while leaving the robotic synth-operator to do its thing. A Tones on Tail-ish drum beat appears suddenly along with some “serious guitar music,” as Mogwai would put it. A quick vocodered sample pops in for a quick “Hello” and leaves before the door had a chance to shut.

In the batter’s box is “Spindlar,” a synth-driven bombastic journey that is based around perhaps the simplest keyboard riff ever recorded, but is completely surrounded by an army of ninjas ready to protect this pure, rare and unique flower. It’s almost as if it’s taunting you, making you try to get inside and understand what the hell is happening. Good luck. Just stand back and appreciate it like you would the Pyramids of Egypt or a Frosty-maker at Wendy’s.

For the purpose of saving time, we’ll discuss one more song—the aforementioned 15-minute epic monstrosity, “Horisont.” Emerson, Lake and Palmer could’ve easily had a hand in the intro to this song, but of course, they didn’t. No one else but Audionom has a hand in these songs. It’s just them, somewhere totally void of influence, poised with ten band members, original films and who knows what else to get the blood moving? The song is a mile-long staircase that just goes up and up, step by step, until you reach the top. Then you realize it’s not the top, but just another valley inevitably leading to a even larger peak. Once you’re completely engaged in the depth and presence of the song, you begin to settle in and let it guide you along like the People Mover (R.I.P.)—walking through the shadows of the valley of death, and maybe even Star Tours. It’s easy to imagine this song being the encore for any show Audionom might perform, as upon completion there would be nothing left in the tank except Vodka fumes and maybe some delicious Lingonberries.

Retrospektiv feels like falling in love for the first time, where you just want to get it on and head to Vegas to get hitched. There is no rhyme or reason to this record—which perhaps is the beauty of it. The early reports were that Audionom’s existence was in limbo, but the latest findings are that they are in the studio working on another album, a.k.a., masterpiece. If you’re into the evolution of Krautrock, late 70s punk, new wave, experimental rock, prog and a few others that can’t be explained, pick up Retrospektiv. It’s a spectacular collection of work from an unheard-of band, banking on the idea that rock music can be whatever the hell it wants to be.

Retrospektiv is out February 20th, 2007 on Kemado Records.

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