Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé record review
coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 230 - 06/02/15

Famlende Forsøk
Washing China
Prisma Records

[Including a report from the release party for the album at Notam, Oslo 2 May 2015]

'This is the space age', goes the dry and creaky voice of William Burroughs at the start of the new album by Famlende Forsøk (meaning something like Staggering Attempts) and also at the release party a couple of days prior to the full moon of early May. This is the title of the opening track of Washing China, too. Despite album title and most of the track titles in English, the lyrics are written and spoken by front man Brt in Norwegian. But at the start of the gig at the release party Brt remained sitting among the audience. He had had a fit or something and cold sweat appeared all over his face. He was escorted backstage and the concert was postponed for about 45 minutes. The band returned with a revenge, Brt seated on a chair in front, and delivered one of their best sets ever. Believe me, I guess I've witnessed twentysomething of them. Apart from the aforementioned "This Is The Space Age", we got "Sky Burial" from the new album and a thought-through assortment from the combo's back catalogue.

We have dealt with the album previously here at Luna Kafé. In May 2011 we ran an interview with the group that partly dealt with Washing China that supposedly was due for completion soon after. A mere four years later and the album is finally here. The original three band members were astonished when they heard the original live recording of the show from 2009 that forms the basis of the album. Cato Langnes who mixed and recorded the show, knew the band very well. Incidentally he was one of the three members of the exclusive FF Northern Norway fan club dating back to the mid-1980s. When he offered to use his spare time for recording more instruments and refine the lot at the studio where he has his day job, the band was grateful and found out it would be a good idea and do it the same way as Frank Zappa did with many of his apparently pure studio albums. They were in fact based on live recordings. Well, it turned out Cato didn't had too much spare time, and at least the newest band member at the time, multi-instrumentalist Chrisph (he joined in 1983, playing sax, keyboards, lap-top, bass...) was in a similar situation, becoming a father twice during and in much less time than the finishing of the album. When Cato was invited to join as a permanent member of the band towards what the trio thought was the finishing touches of the process, Cato insisted he ought to use even more time to refine and perfect the sound even further. Though impatient, the others were highly satisfied when they heard the sound being slowly improved. Let's give the word to multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keyboard, cornet, sitar etc. player) Lumpy Davy: 'No matter what you think about the contents, there's no doubt that the production is exceptionally good. No matter how many instruments and sound we added, Cato has found space for even the tiniest sounds. Everything can be heard frightfully clear! Even the voice of Brt has been given a treat; it has been tuned in C!'.

Well, the electronics keep grinding and churning and droning throughout the album, occasionally over steady electronic or acoustic beats. There are no melodies as such apart from a staggering attempt from Brt to sing towards the end and there are acoustic instruments now and again like cornet, trumpet, saxophone, sitar, Indian harmonium, percussion, ... It's not noise but the end result still might have been intolerable for the average listener if it hadn't been for Brt's voice and lyrics. The latter might be hard to follow, though. They are of the stream of consciousness kind in between, he plays with words ('too bored to be wild') and namedrops well known and lesser well known Norwegian celebrities, and a Polish-Swedish-American one, too. Basically the lyrics are based on his impressions from travelling in Tibet and China. Free Tibet and China ought to be ashamed and wash its hands, are the main messages as far as I reckon, but happily blended with several detours, humour and charm.

Washing China is well off the golden mean and not the most accessible of Famlende Forsøk's albums. It's probably closer to the noisier stuff of the debut LP Ars Transmutatoria from 1990 than any of the gang's other previous attempts. On the other hand the production, as said above, is impeccable. Of course it's easier to understand what the lyrics is about if you're familiar with Norwegian. For the rest of you, Brt's voice can be enjoyed as an exotic ingredient of this soup.

The release party demonstrated more facets of the multi-headed monster. Famlende Forsøk's music is more accessible in a live setting spiced with Brt's dry-witty comments in between and with access to see more of what is going on. I surely cannot recommend to seek out the band in a live situation near your home. This was the second gig in about five years, I think, so the grand world tour might not be quite realistic in the foreseeable future. Anyway, the chosen few present at the release party witnessed tracks from 1983 onwards. "Søppel" (Trash) off the 1986 cassette release Døve Munker Ut Av Norsk Industri was one of the many highlights and in this instance the lyrics had been somewhat updated. By now also the present minister of agriculture and her right-wing party was labelled trash ('Everything is trash, everything can be thrown away!'). We also got highlights from the LPs Ars Transmutatoria and One Night I Had A Frightful Dream and from assorted cassette releases. "Looking For Bob" inspired by the original TV-series of Twin Peaks needs special mentioning now that it seems David Lynch will participate in the production of the new series after all. A new number, "Genser'n Til Johansen" (The Sweater Of Johansen), supposedly the start of the next FF project of odd sailor songs, was the most overtly humorous. A great evening were had by all. As one of the other three members of the aforementioned Northern Norway fan club described the event a few days later: the already legendary release concert...

Washing China is released in a limited edition of 400 LPs and ought to be possible to order from the Prisma Records internet shop. At the time of writing it's closed, but I guess you can obtain a copy if you contact label manager Lars Mørch Finborud or FF spokesman Lumpy Davy. A digital version of the album will probably be available quite soon, too. Finally, to make one matter clear: no Chinese were harmed during the recording of the album.

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You may also want to check out our Famlende Forsøk articles/reviews: Døve Munker Ut Av Norsk Industri, Lost In Laos, Vol. 1, One Night I Had A Frightful Dream, A Tribute To H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), Return Of Monster Attack, Still trying - An interview with Famlende Forsøk, The Tao Tapes, Vol. II.

© 2015 Luna Kafé