Rupert Lally / Espen J. Jörgensen – Øde (No Studio album, 2017)


The work of Rupert Lally and Espen J. Jörgensen is a lot like a tabloid-friendly romance. The duo have consciously uncoupled more than once, only to reform again each time. There’s no animosity, no conflict, just a compulsion to continue pushing out albums and to keep collaborating whenever they feel like it, typically followed by mutterings that each will be their last project together.

The result of this on-off-on again approach is a series of interconnected albums where the only connection is a firm willingness to do whatever feels right at that particular time. The pair have traded in ambient soundscapes, touched on pop and even mucked around with guitars. From a distance, being so outwardly inconsistent in terms of style could be decried as an incoherent vanity or therapy project never intended to be heard outside of the duo themselves; the reality is instead a rich seam of new ideas and new approaches, largely arising as a result of never physically working together in the same place as one another.

The 25-track Øde’s precedent lies in Lally’s last two solo albums, Day One and Scenes From A High Rise, both of which made heavy use of modular synthesis in their rich sound design, and both of which found Lally’s music taking on a somewhat uncharacteristically dark hue. Øde pushes that darkness to an extreme, the result being a nervous, edgy, tense affair full of cloying atmospheres and a panic-inducing analogue buzz about the sequences.

It would be tempting to view Øde as being a sonic representation of the parlous state of the world right now. Lots of such albums have begun to emerge as musicians variously attempt to direct their anger and resentment through their music; being mostly instrumental, Øde can’t rely on lyrical gestures to make its point. Instead, the album does a commendable job of encapsulating what it feels like to be living through all of this: the feeling that there’s something in the air, something restless, something not quite right that could develop into something far worse if not kept in check. Not for nothing does the album open with a tone-setting piece of sound design – echoes, muffled feedback, a tired voice – called ‘Getting Darker’.

While a lot of Øde relies on modular synth work, the album’s construction from lots of short pieces allows for a multitude of brief ideas to flourish, ranging from orchestral arrangements to wonky hip-hop, filled out by glitchy static and borrowed atmospheres. The pair have always traded voraciously in the markets of eclecticism, but never quite so liberally as they do here. No idea is allowed to develop into repetition, and yet each idea is developed just enough to avoid feeling like a collection of unfinished sketches. The approach feels highly democratic, as if each idea is afforded equal airtime in the album’s debate with itself.

Whether this represents another final album among final albums remains to be seen. If it is, Lally and Jörgensen may have just delivered their definitive statement; if not, what you are listening to here is surely part one of the soundtrack to the end of the world, as realised by its self-appointed resident composers.

Øde is released via Bandcamp – rupertandespen.com

(c) Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Soundescapes – An Interview With Espen J. Jörgensen (2011)

Noise Activity

Five years ago, Mute returned to its independent roots after separating from EMI. One of the first releases on the newly indie imprint was Soundescapes by Mute stalwart Simon Fisher Turner and one-time collaborator Espen J. Jörgensen. It arguably should have set the tone for Mute Artists’ new beginning, returning the label to the noisy, DIY, uncompromising point where it all began.

On the occasion of the fifth aniversary of Soundescapes, I am republishing my 2011 interview with Jörgensen. This will be followed in the next few days by the re-posting of a further interview with both Fisher Turner and Jörgensen from around the time of the album’s actual release. 


Soundescapes is a collaboration between musical auteur Simon Fisher Turner and film-maker / soundsmith Espen J. Jörgensen. The first fruits of this collaboration, the track ‘Noise Activity’, was released on 16 April 2011 as part of Mute‘s Vorwärts compilation; with that title, it is not a terrible surprise that the rest of Soundescapes explores the outer reaches of sound design.

‘I record whatever I like and Simon does whatever he likes with it,’ Jörgensen tells me from his home in Norway. ‘It’s the ultimate democracy; or maybe democrazy is a better word for it.’ Built on a mutual respect for each others’ creative vision, Fisher Turner and Jörgensen have an agreement not to challenge one another. ‘I do whatever I like, and Simon treats the material the way he wants to,’ says Jörgensen. and ‘I don’t comment on the outcome. So you could say that I’m the composer and he’s the re-composer.’

‘Noise Activity’ also appears on the forthcoming Soundescapes album, scheduled for release on a freshly independent Mute in November 2011, replete with a personal endorsement from Daniel Miller. ‘We’ve been working on this album for two to three years,’ explains Jörgensen about the album, recorded over an extended period in between both the composer and re-composer’s other activities, namely Fisher Turner’s scores and solo albums and Jörgenson’s work as a film-maker. ‘Noise Activity’ is our ADHD song. There are a couple of others which are ‘upbeat’, but not as crazy as that; some are very ambient, both light and dark.’

Already familiar with Fisher Turner’s work, I ask Jörgensen about his individual style. ‘I don’t actively try to pursue a sound, and I’m not trying to not pursue a sound. I think a lot of it comes from how I work, which is is more like an exorcism. I try to lure sounds out of devices and instruments. It’s all from intuition. I never write anything. I can have a five minute session one day and then I won’t touch an instrument for a month or two. I don’t do anything if I don’t feel like it.’

‘When I record things it’s mostly to hear what sounds I get if I hook up an instrument, be it circuit bent, analogue or digital, to an effects box or whatever; or it’s from an urge to play or record a beat. I try to record the first time I test an instrument to capture that first meeting or “moment”. I also think that art-by-mistake can be exciting, but I don’t call myself an artist.’

Artist isn’t the only term that Jörgensen doesn’t feel applies to himself. ‘I’m not a schooled musician and I don’t consider myself a musician, and so I can’t really say that I’m influenced by anyone.’

I ask Jörgensen whether his day-job as a film-maker means that the process of film making informs how he makes music. ‘They’re two different worlds, though they’re also not. I think it has more to do with my approach and attitude when I head into the different worlds. I want to be more free with music, so that’s what I do. With film you can improvise and play with the camera, editing and acting, but in the end it’s a lot of work. Music’s a lot of work, too, but Simon gets the hardest job of all – he’s supposed to make my noise work in a context, or a song, if you like. Then again, I wouldn’t call all of the tracks on Soundescapes songs.’

‘I like to write scripts which are more like skeletons,’ he says, returning to film. ‘I think it’s more fun to be open-minded when you work. If you’re not too tied to the script you can make room for things. I think visually, but when I work I often feel, or hear, what kind of music would work well without killing a scene. When I was working with [Faith No More founder / bassist] Billy Gould on the soundtrack for The Sequential Art, my documentary film about comics, he never got to see any of the footage. I told him what I wanted in the form of atmosphere and rhythm, and we worked from there.’

This sense of blind faith and trust also informs the Soundescapes collaboration. Whereas Gould never got to see a single scene, in the case of Soundescapes, Jörgenson and Fisher Turner have never actually even met one another. ‘When I think of it, I’ve never spoken to him either!’ says Jörgensen about this distance collaboration. ‘Our relationship is very text-based. It might sound very odd, but it works very well. I don’t always have control of the outcome with the stuff I record, but I don’t want to control what Simon does either because he does such a great job with putting it all together.’

First published 2011; edited 2016.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

The Killer Robots! Crash And Burn (Leomark Studios film, 2016)


I’m not sure how I never heard about The Killer Robots!, a ‘theatrical rock band’ from Orlando, FL where the band members wear huge robot costumes. They seem like a lot of irreverent fun, though I think you have to be a huge nerd to fully appreciate them; or maybe, given their predilection for on-stage pyrotechnics and tongue-in-cheek sci-fi-isms, you just need to be a fan of Muse.

The Robots are just about to release their second movie (the first was called The Killer Robots And The Battle For The Cosmic Potato – yes, you did read that correctly). Co-opting the name from one of my favourite robot flicks of my youth, Crash And Burn is a B-movie-style adventure that follows the Robots as they try to eliminate various nefarious villains in increasingly goofy chapters. The movie was began in 2010 and delivered on an amazingly small budget. The result is both deftly humorous but also, in its own inimitable way, a faithful tribute of sorts to the earliest sci-fi movies.

One-time Mute artist Espen J. Jörgensen contributed voices to three characters in the film – Skippy, RoboNoid and Spytor. Robots founder, bassist Sam Gaffin (who also plays the character Auto and put most of the film together single-handedly over the past five years) wrote a brilliant electronic score for the film that is sure to become as legendary as the movie will, and absolutely needs to be released in its own right. Think of the Louis and Bebe Barron soundtrack to The Forbidden Planet rebooted for modern kit and you won’t be far off.

The Killer Robots! Crash And Burn will be out on iTunes on July 15th. In the meantime, check out the official trailer below.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Espen J. Jörgensen / Rupert Lally – Paradise Once-inspired artworks

Artist Enrico Maniago has produced some artworks to accompany Paradise Once, the latest chapter in the ongoing distance collaboration with one-time Simon Fisher Turner accomplice Espen J. Jörgensen and Switzerland-based musical polymath and forgotten film buff Rupert Lally. Paradise Once was released on Espen’s No Studio imprint last summer and I reviewed the album for Electronic Sound.

Check out the art in this YouTube video.

Meantime, Lally has released a superb suite of modular synth pieces (Day One; review forthcoming) and found the time to set up a movie blog, which you can reach here.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Rupert Lally & Espen J. Jörgensen: Paradise Once and a Busy Summer

 

Long-time collaborators Rupert Lally and Espen J. Jörgensen are set for a busy summer, with contributions to Stuart McLean’s The Dark Outside event, the worthy Mitra – Music For Nepal compilation, the soundtrack to the Rebuild 3 game and a new album, Paradise Once. Check rupertandespen.com for more details.

(c) 2015 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence