Review Summary: Hey, remember when we took a bunch of hallucinogenics and woke up two weeks later in a Danish coastal fishing village?! Wait... what?!
I was going to start this review with a brief history of bands and artists who've "pushed the envelope" in terms of experimenting within their own and multiple other genres, but frankly it'd be a stretch to compare Analogik to even the most wilfully weird of genre-benders. They were described by the person who introduced me to them as "polkatronica". On their MySpace profile they are listed as breakbeat/electronica/jazz. They also elaborate slightly by saying that they play "happy sailor music with a twist of Balkan, hip-hop, computer game music, dub, cowboy music, jazz and much more." At this point, it is my duty to inform you, dear reader, that this wild combination of styles and influences makes for a listening experience that is F
The striking thing about Søen's Folk
is the mood it projects throughout. It's easy to identify a song as being upbeat, depressing, angry, epic and such. But none of those adjectives really fit the mood here. Instrumentally, the songs are generally quite... well, playful I suppose would be the best way to describe them; often riding along on bouncy, stripped-down, mid-tempo hip-hop beats, and peppered with a variety of accordions, deep basslines, acoustic guitars, electronic bleeps, brass instruments, and punctuated with the occasional instance of vocals - sometimes actual singing, other times drunken chanting and odd yells. But there's something about the melodies on almost every track that's somehow rather ominous, spooky even. Like something REAL bad is about to happen. And it's this forboding atmosphere that helps make Analogik's strange brew of sounds so gripping throughout the course of the album.
It also helps that the band, unlike many experimental musicians, aren't willfuly obtuse with their arrangements - this isn't a record that takes effort or multiple listens to "get," in fact everything sounds so natural and in its right place, that you start to wonder why no-one else thought to do this before. The album may start off rather unnassumingly with "Russisk Vuggevise," but following some rather strange human beatboxing, its basic sea-shanty sound is expanded upon in "God Russik" with a simple-but-effective beat and a whole host of instruments dropping in a melody for a line or two each before giving way to something else. It's not all instrumental fare though; "Too Many Musicians" is a twisted lounge-jazz number with some smoky female vocals over a background of acoustic guitar, light percussion, sax jams, and bizarrely, DJ scratching. "Kaptajn Bim" is quite remarkable, displaying as it does a kind of electronic reggae sound, with half-Danish-half-German vocals, deep chanting in the background, and some pleasant keyboard and flute melodies.
The general "sea-shanty" sound that I mentioned is used throughout the album and forms the basis for most of the songs (the album's title roughly translates as "People of the Sea;" without quite being a full-on concept album, there's a definite theme going on here), and this could be considered a weakness, were it not for the way the band manages to consistently keep it interesting. Yes, similar melodies do occasionally pop up in multiple songs, but this familiarity maintains the flow of the album (which is also helped by the way the songs segue into one another, or are connected by skits and sound effects), and by using different instrumental approaches the band manage to keep you interested - it'll take several listens before you notice that some of the horn melodies in "Fandango" have been used in a previous song, because you'll be too busy marvelling at the way the band effortlessly combine jazz instrumentation with what is essentially a slightly slowed-down breakbeat.
I could go on for days about the intricacies and the wealth of ideas Søen's Folk
is shot through with, but I'd still struggle to accurately describe the sound. Due to its strange and unique nature, it's not necessarily an album you'd want to listen to every day, but when you're in the right mood, listening to Søen's Folk
will make you feel like you're sat on a small Scandinavian harbour pier, under the influence of illicit chemicals, dangling your feet over the edge and wondering how the hell you got there. It's an immersive album, a factor that's helped along by some brilliant production, and as spectacularly weird as it is, it really is a joy to listen to.