Musicians of the Faroe Islands, unite!

Orka «Leipzig» (Tutl, 2014)
Orka «Livandi oyða» (Tutl, 2007)

The Faroe Islands is, of course, a country in the first instance (the most fascinating and catching, besides), but in the second – just a village on a global scale. A very advanced village. According to Wikipedia, the Faroes share the first place with Iceland in the quantity of books published per head. It seems, the same situation is with the music albums. Only forty-eight thousand population — and a vast of music, enough to please everybody. But this music is often played by the same people.

For example, you can see Mikael Blak in a number of projects (it’s amazing, how many different styles he can play). And it’s OK. Not everybody can be a musician. Some people have to fish, and some – to work at school. However, the Faroese musicians, in most cases, also have another work. Not everybody can live only of music.

Well, those people, who’ve been possessed to explore the Faroese music, sooner or later, come to such a phenomenon as the “circulation of musicians”. I came up with such a title in the process, and I hope, it would become naturalized. The first place in collaborations belongs to a mighty and vicious industrial music band Orka. One can spend hours, looking through the cobwebs of that, which musician what instrument plays, who and what sings. This is particularly so with their last album «Leipzig» (2014), where the “braniac” of the band, Jens L. Thomsen has simply outdone himself and suggested half of the Faroes’ residents ( and Mikael Blak, as well) to take part in the record of album. It’s a joke, of course. But if we place all project participants onstage, we’ll get an orchestra of great musicians, and each is worth of individual characteristics:  Teitur LassenBenjamin PetersenGreta Svabo Bech, Knút H. Eysturstein, Marius Ziska and many others.

I’ll say frankly, that “Leipzig” is not my ideal. I don’t especially like electronic music (to be more exact, I don’t like too much of it), and, I think, Orka has overdone it this time. Besides, the choice of English instead of the Faroese disappointed me. Yes, the band became more international, but still it had lost a part of its original charm. However, this completes the criticizing of this album. If you put off all personal preferences and listen attentively, you’ll understand, that Tomsen did an immense scope of work. To accumulate all the variety of sounds into the whole harmonious substance is worth a lot. Besides, he did something absolutely impossible, I think. In a great mash of sounds, musicians and voices you can see a distinct model (both acoustic and atmospheric) and (attention!) melodies. Only you start to feel it, and the album sounds different. Actually, it’s worth to admit a very rational and deliberate work and extremely cool producing. And one more thing. Despite the great “electricity” of the sound, it’s live, and at least two wonderful songs: “The End” and “Leipzig VII — Sing”.

The first Orka’s album “Livandi oyða” (2007) stands in stark contrast to the last one. Despite its certain conceptual similarity, it was recorded with entirely different aesthetics. Especially Kári Sverrisson, the most fabulous musician, can be considered the absolute star of this LP. His appearance in «Fjøllini standa úti» and «Livandi oyða» sinks into your mind. Especially, if you watch a video on the bonus DVD, which is the evidence of the fact, that music can be played on everything. You needn’t to buy an expensive bass guitar for this (a log with strings will do), empty barrels will stand for the drums, and a saw with a turning lathe can make up for guitar licks. Here, by the way, is a good video, in which you can obviously see, what “garbage” Orka used for their first album. If “Leipzig” is closer to the ambient and standard electronic (though, here we also find a lot of surprises), then the first part of the “Livandi oyða” (up to the 7th track) is the most genial Faroese invention and no labels can’t be attached to it.

There’s a great deal of nationalism («Myrkursins muður» is a perfect example) and originality in the early music of Orka. Personally I haven’t met any analogues to this band. However, after the sixth song, the LP is “breaking”. Mechanical monsters invade into her possessions, ideal in its simplicity, they roar and emit gases. Exaggerated remixes (the mix of noise and industrial) Com-Data, I think, could be placed better on the bonus CD as optional tracks. But since they are in the album, they resonate with it greatly, and only a hard-headed music fan, who “swallows” such music the whole time, can listen it up to the end on the first try. Other remixes also sound very alien. Though they aren’t so crazy, they also mar the album. But we can forgive them even for the sake of the «Livandi oyða» itself.

Listen to the album «Leipzig» on Bandcamp.
Listen to the album «Livandi oyða» on Bandcamp.

P.S. I’ll certainly write about “ÓRÓ” (2011) and “Live at Trans Musicales” (2012) when I get the disks. Fortunately, there are no remixes in “ÓRÓ”, аnd «Live at Trans Musicales», as you’ve already guessed from the title, is the record of live performance of the project.

Reviewer by Anton Kovalsky.

Translated by Irina Boiko.

Russian version reviewer.