Stian Carstensen is most likely the only musician in our universe who can find himself at home in the wild hills of Carpathia, the endless dark forests of the mythical Hyperborea, the ruin-strewn plains of Thrace, the rugged Anatolian plateau, or the American Appalachian and make of all these journeys and wild experiences a delicious musical smorgasbord. «Musical Sanatorium» is the second solo album of the Norwegian super-versatile, multi-instrumentalist (he plays on 14 instruments on this album), known from his Balkan-boogie band Farmers Market as well as his collaborations with double master Arild Andersen and vocalist Tora Augestad in the Music for a While band. It truly reflects idiosyncratic, unique talents.
As on previous projects of Carstensen, he creates his very own musical universe that not only blends traditions and genres but pushes their boundaries far beyond what is considered feasible. «Musical Sanatorium» is a conceptual album that explores the world of odd rhythms of Balkan music with the tonal language of European classical music, spiced with Carstensen’s love for he seventies pop music and classic film soundtracks. It presents Carstensen’s inventive persona, but a thoughtful and receive one, far from the wild one he played with Farmers Market.
«Musical Sanatorium» offers a highly imaginative and cinematic journey. Carstensen is accompanied by the musicians of Farmers Market – bassist Finn Guttormsen and drummer Jarle Vespestad, and many other guests like vocalist Mike Patton and Jacob Collier, violinist Ola Kvernberg and trumpeter Arve Henriksen. All contribute to the inventive songs and the arresting musical puzzles that Carstensen cooked up. His compositions swing naturally and majestically between passionate Balkan parties to highly ceremonial European dances and sad Appalachian ballads. Carstensen is also a gifted storyteller and the dramatic-cinematic «Hippocampus Serenade» (that was released as a single) sketches a tale straddling the liminal boundaries between dream and nightmare. «Thalamus Canticum», with lyrics of Simon Dancaster and the vocals of Jacob Collier, offers an amused, heretic version of a pious carol. In a similar manner, Patton sings in Italian and in a sweet voice and playful pathos the lyrics of «Hydrocephalus Epilogue» about insanity. It is only natural that after experiencing this kaleidoscopic sonic journey, the last piece, the march of «Tarantella Cerebellum» will lead us to a faraway sanatorium where we can slowly recover, at least until Carstensen would enchant us with more of his musical wonders.
Stian Carstensen (12-string ac.g, barg, pedal steel g, b, el.sitar, ocarinas, acc, bagpipes, glockenspiel, kavals, bjo, tubular bells, synth, handclaps, v), Gabriel Carstensen Øien (timpanis, snare dr), Finn Guttormsen (b, tambourine, twister, dhol. Tapan, handclaps), Embrik Snerte (bassoon, contraforte), Audun Sandvik (c), Bjarne Magnus Jensen (strings), Ola Kvernberg (vio, Moog synth), Atle Sponberg (strings), Pål Hausken (tambourine, sleigh bells, perc), Giani Lincan (cimbalom), Todd Terje (synth), Torbjørn Dyrud (org, harpsichord, v, Russian choir), Marinette Tonning-Olsen (French horn), Jarle Vespestad (dr, dhol, tapan, cowbells, congas), Sidsel Walstad (harp), Jacob Collier (v), Nils Olav Johansen (finger cymbals), Mike Patton (v), Arve Henriksen (tp)