Label: Hubro Music.
For the last three decades, forty-six year old drummer and percussionist Erland Dahlen has been regarded as one of Norway’s top drummers. He’s the drummer’s drummer, and the man who the great and good of Norwegian music go to when they’re looking for a drummer. As a result, Erland Dahlen is constantly in demand for session work, and has now over 300 credits to his name. Erland Dahlen has been like a musical gunslinger who travels from town to town, playing on album after album. So much so, that studios are like a second home to Erland Dahlen. However, in 2011, there was one was thing missing from Erland Dahlen’s impressive CV…a solo album.
By then, Erland Dahlen has just turned forty, and decided that now was the time to record his debut album. Rolling Bomber was released Hubro Music in February 2012. It was hailed as one of the finest albums of 2012. Erland Dahlen’s solo career was underway.
In August 2015, Erland Dahlen returned with his much-anticipated sophomore album Blossom Bells. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Blossom Bells, which was nominated for a Spellemannspris, the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award. Erland Dahlen’s solo career was going from strength-to-strength, and the followup to Blossom Bells was eagerly awaited.
Recently, the wait was over when Erland Dahlen released Clocks on Hubro Music. Clocks features six epic cinematic soundscapes, and is without doubt, the most ambitious album of Erland Dahlen’s long and illustrious career.
Erland Dahlen was born in Ulefoss, Norway, on the ’15th’ of May 1971. Growing up, Erland Dahlen discovered music, and started to learn to play the drums. Little did he know that this was when he had first lesson that he would end up one of Norway’s top drummers.
As the new millennia dawned, Erland Dahlen’s career was well underway. He was by then, an established session musician and was had a countless credits to his name. This included playing on albums by some of the biggest names in Norwegian music. However, when he wasn’t working as a session musician, Erland Dahlen was a member of a couple of groups.
This included the jazz group HET, who released their debut album Lost In The Lurch in 2002. Erland Dahlen wrote four of the seven tracks, played and programmed the drums, marimba, added vocals and took charge of the electronics. Alas, there was no followup to Lost In The Lurch, and Erland Dahlen concentrated his efforts on another group, Kiruna.
They released their genre-melting debut Irun in 2002. By the tine Kiruna returned with groundbreaking sophomore album Tarasarus in 2007, Erland Dahlen was a member of two other groups.
Erland Dahlen had joined Madrugada in 2005, and played on their fourth studio album Deep End, and their live album, Live at Tralfamadore. Both of these albums were released to plaudits and praise in 2005. Then in 2007, Erland Dahlen played on Madrugada’s eponymous sixth album. When Madrugada was released in 2008, it proved to be the band’s swan-song. By then, Erland Dahlen was a member of another new band, Boschamaz.
Just like Kiruna, Boschamaz’s music incorporated a variety of disparate influences. That was apparent on their debut album This Is Not Sweden in 2007. It was an ambitious genre-melting album that fused elements of ambient, electronic, experimental, jazz and post rock. However, it would be another four years before Boschamaz returned with the followup to This Is Not Sweden.
Over the next four years, Erland Dahlen continued to work as a session musician, and by 2011 he was recognised as one of Norway’s top drummers. He had spent over a decade as working as a session musician, and had divided his time between playing on other people’s albums and as a member of HET, Kiruna, Madrugada and Boschamaz. They returned with their sophomore album Rød in 2011, a year later. It was the last album the group released. Meanwhile, another group were about to hit the comeback trail, Kiruna.
Kiruna made a welcome return after five years away when they released their third album The River in 2012. While the album was well received by critics, Kiruna like Boschamaz haven’t returned with another album. Since then, Erland Dahlen has had other things on his mind…his solo career.
When Erland Dahlen turned forty, he realised that there was still one glaring omission from his impressive and burgeoning CV, a solo album. He was a veteran of a couple of hundred seasons, and took to the stage with everyone from Stian Westerhus, Eivind Aarset, Hannah Hukkelberg, Anja Garbarek, Nils Petter Molvaer and Xploding Plastix, to John-Paul Jones and Mike Patton. Still, though Erland Dahlen hadn’t released his solo album. He decided that now, the time was right to embark upon a solo career, which he could fit around his session work and his work as a producer.
As 2012 dawned, Erland Dahlen was preparing to release his eagerly awaited debut album Rolling Bomber. It was released by Hubro Music to praise and plaudits in February 2012. When the year drew to close, Rolling Bomber was hailed as one of the finest albums of 2012. Erland Dahlen’s solo career was underway.
Just over three years later, in August 2015, Erland Dahlen returned with his much-anticipated sophomore album Blossom Bells. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Blossom Bells, which was later, nominated for a Spellemannspris, the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award. Erland Dahlen’s solo career was going from strength-to-strength, and the followup to Blossom Bells was eagerly awaited.
After a two-year wait, the drummer’s drummer Erland Dahlen will make a welcome return when he releases Clocks, which features six epic cinematic soundscapes. They’ve been carefully created by Erland Dahlen and using his newly expanded musical arsenal.
Throughout his career, Erland Dahlen has collected a myriad of disparate musical instruments. Some of these he’s put to good use on his two previous Rolling Bomber and Blossom Bells. However, for Clocks Erland Dahlen has put together an unlikely array of musical instruments. He explains: “before I went into the studio to make this album I bought some Cymbells, a Mellotron, several large sheets of metal and a variety of drum machines and stringed instruments.” That isn’t all.
On Clocks, Erland Dahlen also used antique drums from the thirties, a selection of gongs, xylophones, bells, bowed instruments and strings as well as drone-boxes and electronics. Sometimes, Erland Dahlen has to think outside the box to recreate the sound he wants to create. This resulted in him using the sounds of knives and forks, or even marbles rolling on a plate. Erland Dahlen believed that: “it’s incredibly inspiring to explore new instruments and find new sounds.” They certainly play their part in what’s the most ambitious album.
So did two of Erland Dahlen’s ex-colleagues in Xploding Plastix. Hallvard W. Hagen remixed the track Lizard, while Jens Petter Nilsen mixed Clocks. All that remained was for Helge Sten to master at Audio Virus Lab and Clocks would be ready for release. It’s the album that critics, cultural commentators and music fans have spent two years waiting for.
As the title-track opens Clocks, there’s an element of drama and tension. This comes courtesy of the rhythmic, rounded sound of the drums. They’re panned as an array of disparate sounds flit in and out of the arrangement. This ranges from a scrabbled guitar, synths, drone box, gongs, percussion and a steel drum. Later, eerie, buzzing and jangling sounds join with guitars and soar high above the arrangement as drums power the arrangement along. By now, Erland Dahlen is a one-man band as he unleashes a myriad of instruments. They combine to create a soundscape that is full of drama and tension, as it veers between uplifting to otherworldly. Always, Clocks has a cinematic sound and sets the imagination racing before it reaches a crescendo.
Briefly, there’s an understated, orchestral sound at the start of Glas. Soon, karate drums are unleashed and crack, as flourishes of percussion join washes of shimmering guitar and bells. They create an elegiac backdrop while drums scamper and a myriad of beeps and squeaks join the ominous sound of a bass synth. It taps out a code, as if sending a message to distant land on what could easily be part of the soundtrack for a sci-fi film.
As Ship unfolds, Erland Dahlen’s drums briefly reference Krautrock. Then a drum roll signals it’s all change as drums pound and join with gongs, bells, xylophone, percussion and electronics. By then, there’s an element of drama, as this eight minute epic starts to reveal its secrets. A gong adds a hypnotic siren sound, as if the Ship is distress. Meanwhile, Erland Dahlen powers his way round his drum kit combining drama and urgency, as a variety of sounds flit in and out. This ranges from Eastern sound to jangling and deliberate sound. All of a sudden, a haunting vocal emerges from deep in the mix, and adds the to the drama. So do a variety of stringed instruments, electronics, handclaps, percussion, and bells. They’re all part of a carefully crafted and dramatic soundscape, that documents life and drama aboard the Ship as it sets sail across the ocean.
What better way to follow one eight minute epic than with another, Bear. Straight away, a drone box combines with the drums to create an ominous backdrop. They’re joined by a droning organ as a searing guitar cuts through the arrangement. This adds to the drama. So do the keyboards as the arrangement ebbs and flows, drama almost ever-present. Meanwhile, bells rings and effects are added to the arrangement which briefly distorts. Then eerie, otherworldly and buzzing sounds are added as the soundscape shimmers and shivers, as it marches to the beat of Erland Dahlen’s drum. Latterly, the soundscape is haunting, futuristic, atmospheric and evocative. It’s without doubt, one of the pieces of music Erland Dahlen has ever recorded during his three album solo career.
In the distance the ethereal sound of Lizard can be heard. As it unfolds, beeps and squeals are added and create a mesmeric backdrop. Soon, a drum roll signals that things are about to change. Effects are added, and as the arrangement howls, beeps and buzzes. By now, the soundscape sounds like a man machine, as it slowly comes to life. Meanwhile, bells ring and jangle, while eerie, otherworldly sounds are added as drums pitter patter. When rapid fire beeps emerge from the arrangement, it’s as if the man machine is malfunctioning. Later, quivering, shivering sounds join bells, beeps and squeaks during this captivating cinematic soundscape that features Erland Dahlen at his inventive and innovative.
Closing Clocks is Wood a seven minute epic, where drums play while Erland Dahlen improvises and the sound of a marble rolling across a plate can be heard. So can a drone boxes, keyboards and percussion. They’re joined by bells, gongs and bursts of thunder. Sounds flit in and out, some playing a fleeting visit, while others play a leading role as Erland Dahlen puts his mutual palette to good use. This includes the eerie, otherworldly sound that Erland Dahlen has put to good throughout Clocks. It joins an array of bells and drums, and plays its part in the sound and success of another atmospheric, evocative and thought-provoking cinematic soundscape.
After six tracks lasting thirty-nine minutes, Erland Dahlen’s third album Clocks is over. All that remains is the memory of what’s without doubt the most ambitious and cinematic album from sonic pioneer Erland Dahlen. He wrote, played all the interments and produced the six epic soundscapes on Clocks. It sounds like a soundtrack album, awaiting a film.
Erland Dahlen unleashed his creating and imagination on Clocks, which has been compared to Antonio Sanchez’s percussive score for Birdman. However, given the array of influences and reference points, a much more accurate comparison would be the soundtrack work of Tangerine Dream, Ryuichi Sakamoto or former Stewart Copeland’s music for Rumblefish. They may have been amongst the influences and inspirations for Erland Dahlen. So to some extent was Japanese musician, composer and producer Yasuaki Shimizu, plus American composer, music theorist and creator of bespoke musical instruments Harry Partch. He also successfully transformed an array of everyday items into musical instruments. This Erland Dahlen did when recording his genre-melting, cinematic opus Clocks.
On Clocks Erland Dahlen combines elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, experimental, Krautrock, Nordic Wave, post rock, psychedelia and rock. Disparate musical genres melt into one, on an album that’s variously dark and dramatic, to elegiac and ethereal, to eerie, futuristic, haunting and otherworldly. Other times, the music is atmospheric and evocative, before becoming emotive and uplifting and then ruminative, thoughtful and thought-provoking. Always the music on Clocks is inventive, innovative and cinematic as Erland Dahlen creates music that is sure to set the listener’s imagination racing. That’s not all.
Without doubt Clocks is the most ambitious album of forty-six year old Erland Dahlen’s career. Although Clocks is just his third album, Erland Dahlen draws upon a lifetime’s musical experience that comes with playing on over 300 albums. The result is Clocks, a breathtaking, career-defining album of atmospheric epic cinematic soundscapes from sonic pioneer, Erland Dahlen.