Sunday, 31 January 2016

Selvhenter; Review of Frk. B. Fricka/Motions of Large Bodies.

Photo by Yvonne Forster.
One of the most irritating people I regularly experience is a prominent Radio 5 football commentator who, as far as I know, has never played pro football or refereed but seems extremely happy to pass scathing judgement on any performance that drops below faultless. I find people who haven't done it being judgemental about people who are doing it can be problematic, so I was always going to struggle as a non musician reviewing the creative output of people who have accomplished artistic heights I can only stare at. However reviewing/commentary doesn't have to be judgemental and fault finding, it can be an expression of enjoyment and here goes!
I first came across Selvhenter last summer on one of those meandering journeys through the internet that most of us experience from time to time-they're comprised of violin, trombone and saxophone put through pedals plus two drummers- turns out they're a Danish band, part of the Copenhagen  based Eget Vearelse collective. They have had two albums out so far Frk. B. Frika (2012) and Motion of Large Bodies (2014), both on the Eget Vaerelse label.
First album Frk. B. Frika starts with short track Bali which reminds of a slightly manic snake-charmer before going into the more representative Aebler og Paerer which is built round a riff that any heavy rock band would be proud to call their own except rather than guitars, keyboards and vocals you get distorted  brass and violin. On next track up Dodsjazz  the intensity builds and then the drums kick in at around 3 mins taking the whole thing up another  level. This is followed by Solkat which is far mellower, and has a kind of free jazz vibe I guess; it gives you time to regroup before the rest of the album. Frk. B. Fricka was the debut album by Selvhenter and is an exhilarating mix of free jazz and experimental rock, the only reference point I have for them is Henry Cow but that is a fleeting impression, on this album Selvhenter are a very different band, more rock, more raucous, more riff driven.
Second album Motion of Large Bodies was actually the first Selvhenter album I got and so it was interesting experiencing them in reverse chronology. Comparing the two I would say that MoLB is more subtle than FBF-it is slightly more focussed, possibly slightly more accessible. First track Golden Boy is superb and comparatively smooth but then track 2 Tribute comes in and you know the adventure has really started, distorted violin/brass over ace drumming which slows for a period mid song before it picks up again. Late Night Ferry starts with melancholic notes before it starts to take shape, like an object slowly emerging from mists-or maybe like a ferry emerging out of the night(!)-this track is restrained, orderly, under control. Track 6 Stirb Langsam is a brooding, slightly sinister sound, droning and wailing, evoking a sense of being on the edge of something about to happen. Les Femmes d'Affaires picks up the pace again before Ballinesk Ruder which has a rhythm that would go down a storm at a Shaman nightclub and dares you to try and dance to it!
Overall MoLB is probably a more atmospheric and nuanced album than FBF but not better, just different, and that has to be a good thing. The two albums are the sound of musicians moving, developing, thinking about what they are doing, not settling but exploring their art form. If you like raucous power maybe you'll prefer FBF, if you like your music a bit more measured start with MoLB. 
I'm sure there is a genre that Selvhenter fit comfortably into and I'm just not aware of it but to me its the sound of musicians on an intense experience of sonic adventure daring you to come with them.

Selvhenter play the Raw Power Festival in London May 27-29 2016.     

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