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Rockin' Our Turntable: I Was A King

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 4, 2011 4:20PM

2011_03_i_was_a_king.jpg Old Friends was recorded in less than a week, and many of the members of Norway's I Was A King had even heard the material before heading into the studio. This nugget of info is remarkable primarily because once you you hear the album it seem unbelievable that the band didn't live with the songs for years before committing them to tape. The end result is an album that sounds loose but firmly inhabited by a group secure in their mission.

The band's self-titled debut was a haze of Impressionistic pop that enchanted us from the first listen and Old Friends allows the paint to dribble off the brush and splatter the canvas underneath more freely. The strong hooks are still there but now they find themselves fighting their way out from under a mad genius' laboratory of clattering test tubes and exploding Bunsen burners. Many of the songs slip into jazz freak-out mode before the eminently hummable underpinnings gently bubble up. It's as if it's only through allowing the mad cacophony to encroach and draw so close that it threatens to overwhelm ad disenfranchise the listener that the subsequent surfacing of the song's beauty is able to be truly appreciated.

Outside the ability to execute and invigorate material that could have been presented simplistically in an engaging fashion that reveals just how weird tunefulness can really be, the stars of the program are the raucous Moon-esque non-stop drum fills that never miss a beat and band leader Frode Strømstad's maestro level blending of multiple elements that, were they neglected for even a second, would tumble into each other and destroy the delicate balance each song navigates between chaos and sunshine. When you enter the universe of Old Friends you expose yourself to a different plane of existence, a space where time expands and contracts without reason; the disc's twelve tracks slip by in 30 minutes though each songs feels like it inhabits the land of giants when it comes to audio spatial relations.

This is all to say that I Was A King is a magical band that pulls off difficult feats of musical fancy while making the whole thing seem easy. It's music to listen to by black light or to make out to or to dance to or to slide lids over bloodshot eyes to. Old Friends feels like its title; it's an album that feels like you've always been familiar with but never fails to surprise you.