Over the last few years, Gard Nilssen has gained a reputation as one of Norway’s top drummers. He also deserves to be described as an innovator. Anyone whose heard Gard’s work with Astro Sonic, Puma, The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and Susanne Sunfor’s band will realise realise this. Then there’s the six albums Gard has recorded with Bushman’s Revenge. 

Their most recent album was Thou Shalt Not Boogie. It was released in January 2014 to critical acclaim. It’s no exaggeration to say that  Thou Shalt Not Boogie is one of the best albums of 2014. However, Gard isn’t resting on his laurels. No way.

On 12th May 2014, Gard will return with his latest collaboration. This was with another of Norway’s most innovative musicians Morten Qvenild. Morten has an equally impressive CV. He’s previously worked with In The Country, Shining, Jaga Jazzist, Trinity and Susanna and The Magic Orchestra. The latest addition to Morten’s CV is sPace monKey, whose debut album The Karman Line will be released by Hubro Music on 12th May 2014. sPace monKey, which is one of the most exciting and innovative collaborations of 2014, was the result of a chance meeting between Morten and Gard.

Having played in some of Norway’s most groundbreaking groups Morten and Gard were both members of Mathias Eick’s band. Morten was the pianist and Gard the drummer. They both enjoyed working together. So, much so, that Morten and Gard decided to collaborate. This wasn’t going to be a full-blown band, just a duo, sPace monKey. There was a reason for this.

Morten and Gard found the idea of working as a duo compelling. It allowed them for freedom to express themselves. There was the opportunity to innovate and take their music in different directions. This meant improvising. The result was The Karman Line, an album containing nine spacey and intriguing soundscapes. sPace monKey spring a series of surprises it’s a case of don’t try and second guess sPace monKey. That’s not possible. It’s also one of the reasons that sPace monKey’s debut album The Karman Line, is such a captivating album.

The Karman Line featuries nine tracks written by Morten and Gard. They arranged and produced The Karman Line, which was recorded at Propeller Studio, Oslo. At Propeller Studio, Morten played hyper-piano and is responsible for programming. Both Morten and Gerd take charge of electronics. Gerd plays drums, gongs, bells and vibes. Jørgen Træen was the only guest artist on The Karman Line. He played modular synth on Digital Cigarettes. The other eight tracks on The Karman Line, which I’ll tell you about, are Morten and Gard, sPace monKey.

Opening sPace monKey’s debut album The Karman Line is Aeronautics. Wistful and thoughtful describes this track. Just a piano and drums combine to create a poignant, melancholy arrangement. It’s akin to an outpouring of emotion and sadness. Later, brief bursts of strings flit in and out of the arrangement. Then midway through the track, it heads in the direction of avant garde and experimental. The piano becomes almost discordant. Feedback is fired above the arrangement. By now, the track has become the equivalent of Primal Scream Therapy. That’s before thunderous drums power the arrangement along to its dramatic crescendo. This proves the perfect way to close this innovative and ambitious track.

Chopping Wood In My Brand New Moon Boots has an understated and pensive arrangement. Just a lone piano dominates the arrangement. In the distance, instruments flit in and out. Bells ring and jangle, while bursts of electronica interject. Thoughtfully, the arrangement meanders along. Drums mark the time, while Morten’s piano playing is deliberate. He adds a darkness to the arrangement. There’s a sense of pathos to the haunting arrangement. Although haunting, there’s a beauty to the music which can’t help but move you.

Digital Cigarette features guest artist Jørgen Træen on modular synth. Straight away, the arrangement is atmospheric and takes on a cinematic sound. Bubbling synths, flourishes of piano and rolls of drums combine avant garde, experimental, and free jazz. Cymbals crash, drums pound. At one point, it’s as if you’re on a train journey across the Mid west. This is no ordinary road trip. Later, layers of music intermingle. Thundering drums, buzzing synths, crashing cymbals and a myriad of other effects combine with a jangling piano. Post rock, psychedelia and rock are thrown into the melting pot by sPace monKey as they push musical boundaries to their limits and way beyond, resulting in a groundbreaking 21st century sonic experience.

From the get go, Darkness has a moody, broody, gothic sound. The arrangement slowly unfolds. Deliberate and dramatic flourishes of piano take centre-stage. A droning sound escapes from the arrangement. As a result, the Darkness doesn’t just descend, but envelops you.

Blue Baboon and Carpenter is one of the slower tracks on The Karman Line. Again, it has a cinematic sound. sPace monKey’s instruments tell the story of the Blue Baboon and Carpenter. sPace monKey replicate the sound of hammers, drills and the baboon. Mostly, they use slow, plodding and drums and a melancholy piano. This is hugely effective. However, having said that, there’s a sense of sadness in the music which is also quite beautiful. 

Dramatic and futuristic. That describes sPace monKey. It sounds like part of the soundtrack to a sci-fi film. You can imagine a spaceship making its way from a distant galaxy. Providing the soundtrack are banks of synths, electronics and rolls of drums. Beeps and squeaks are the perfect addition. They add to the futuristic sound. Later bursts of free jazz piano, crackling electronica, rolls of pounding drums and sci-fi synths add to the drama of this futuristic space odyssey, sPace monKey style. sPace monKey sounds like the soundtrack to a dramatic sci-fi movie waiting to be made.

Just like other tracks on The Karman Line, Meanwhile In Galaxy Far Away has a spacious sound. A piano jangles hesitantly in the distance. It’s unaccompanied. That’s until bursts of drums and then feedback enter. By now, layers of music assail you. A thunderous bass and drums help power the arrangement along. This allows sPace monKey to stretch their legs. That’s apart from the piano. It’s still hesitant. Towards the end, the track takes on a minimalist and futuristic sound, as if sPace monKey have reached the distant galaxy. 

Long Distance Call shimmers then drones into being. Again, there’s a moody, dark and futuristic sound. The arrangement’s futuristic, sci-fi sound surrounds you. It has an edgy sound. Gradually, the drama and moody sound grows and builds. Then in the distance, a piano jangles and resonates. Later, the arrangement changes. While the darkness hasn’t lifted completely, it takes on an ethereal sound. That comes courtesy of the keyboards. The drums are responsible for the darkness and drama. They’re the perfect foil for the keyboards and both play equally important parts in this track’s sound and success.

sPace monKey’s journey is almost over. Landing Day closes The Karman Line. Deliberate stabs of ethereal, dreamy keyboards dominate the arrangement. They almost disappear into the distance, as if heading for a distance galaxy. All that’s left is a sense of melancholia, that this beautiful, ethereal and wistful track is over. 

The Karman Line is best described as a groundbreaking, genre-melting musical journey from two of Norwegian music’s innovators, sPace monKey. sPace monKey are Gard Nilssen and Morten Qvenild. They’re both experienced musicians who’ve been  mainstays of Norway’s thriving musical scene. However, The Karman Line is their first collaboration as sPace monKey. Hopefully, The Karman Line won’t be sPace monKey’s last album. Especially considering sPace monKey have created music that’s ambitious,  influential, innovative and inventive. 

Throughout The Karman Line, sPace monKey strive to reinvent their music and push musical boundaries. Sometimes, musical boundaries are pushed to their limits. Other times, boundaries are broken and rules rewritten. It’s as if sPace monKey aren’t content to stand still on what’s essentially a musical adventure.

Throughout The Karman Line, sPace monKey’s music constantly changes. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe it’s the same band. The music veers between wistful, melancholy and pensive, to dark, dramatic and disturbing. It’s also eerie and moody. Sometimes, it’s beautiful and melancholy. The music on The Karman Line is always ambitious, bold, challenging, influential and innovative as sPace monKey take you on a futuristic, genre-hopping musical journey.

During this musical journey, sPace monKey’s music is full of nuances, subtleties and surprises. sPace monKey combine everything from ambient, avant garde, classic rock, electronica, experimental, post rock and psychedelia on The Karman Line. It will be released by Hubro on 12th May 2014. This is just the latest critically acclaimed album from Hubro Music, who are fast gaining a reputation as a label who release groundbreaking albums. The Karman Line,  sPace monKey’s debut album is proof of this.

The Karman line is without doubt one of the most ambitious and innovative genre-melting albums of 2014. Featuring nine improvised soundscapes, it’s a mesmeric fusion that captivates and compels. You’re taken on a nine musical journeys.  Subtleties and surprises are constantly sprung, sPace monKey aren’t afraid of changing direction. Throughout The Karman Line, it’s a case of expect the unexpected as sPace monKey innovate and improvise creating music that’s captivating, compelling and groundbreaking.




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