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Building Instrument - Kem Som Kan Å Leve album review

A brilliant, entrancing avant-garde post-pop hybrid from Building Instrument.

Building Instrument - Kem Som Kan Å Leve album art

Some records have a special capacity to transport listeners away from everyday concerns and off into a magical space where time slows and you become quite lost in music. The second album from this Norwegian trio certainly fits that description.

Kem Som Kan Å Leve (‘who knows how to live’), describes a bucolic topography in which purring Mellotron flutes, undulating beats, heat-haze organ and silvery trickles of zither echo from afar.

Recorded live in 2015 at a celebration of Dada artist Kurt Schwitters, Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s diaphanous vocals employ her native Molde dialect as well as slipping into the kind of concrete sound poetry Schwitters famously excelled in. With Åsmund Weltzien’s haunting keyboards and Øyvind Hegg-Lunde’s subtle percussives, they channel wistful songs steeped in a sun-drenched hallucinogenic filter.

Yet beneath the trippy veneer lies a tight structure and not everything is sweetness and light; Ligeti-like choirs swarm and mass, ushering darker, elemental spirits into otherwise blissful states of being. If you’ve ever wondered what The Cocteau Twins would sound like performing Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom, Building Instrument provides the answer.

Sid Smith
Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.