The plan was hatched (in an uncanny precedent for Ode To Marilyn) to get hold of some prime Nordic musicians - step forward Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Arild Andersen, Jon Christensen and Terje Rypdal - and have them collaborate with some of Norway's foremost modern composers to produce music that would represent a meeting point between popular music and the avant-garde. Arne Nordheim, Alfred Janson, Gunnar Sønstevold, Kåre Kolberg and the soon-to-be ECM-ers, plus additional musicians, duly obliged, and a concert of the results was held in April 1970. Three years later, this limited-edition double album emerged as a document of the project, which had been titled Popofoni.
The six tracks here are certainly fascinating, essential listening, especially if you're familiar with early ECM classics like Afric Pepperbird / Sart / Rypdal's debut. Imagine these records with a whole extra layer of avant-garde composition/production over the top, and that's pretty much what Popofoni sounds like.
The 20-minute opener Arnold, composed by Gunnar Sønstevold, is a free jazz groove with echo-laden vocals wafting over the top, and occasional organ and tape effects. Nordheim's two tracks that follow are even better works in the same vein, with the eerie collage of Solar Plexus (his first response to the TV debate) ending in a scratchy, sampled dance orchestra, a hail of gunfire then an emptying sink (or toilet?). The second disc is dominated by Alfred Janson's 25-minute Valse Triste, where the jazz musicians veer between free playing and lounge pastiche, feeling their way towards the eventual schlager payoff, whilst spoken samples of the TV debate pepper the sonic landscape. Kåre Kolberg's Blow Up Your Dreams is a more succinct attempt at stretching a conventional song (sung by Karin Krog) to fit an avant-garde frame, and as a closer we get a brief Rypdal composition in which he plays flute rather than guitar. An utterly essential collection.
|Original double-LP cover|