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«Palms, Beaches, Dreams»

The sophomore album of the Norwegian group Torg attempts to imagine Norway as a shiny, happy country, full of palms, beaches and melancholy-free dreams, This imagined sonic territory even attempts to correspond with the seminal album of Herbie Hancock, «Head Hunters» (Columbia, 1973) that was recorded in a faraway shiny territory, full of real palms, California.

There are some superficial similarities between the iconic «Head Hunters» and Torg’s «Palms, Beaches, Dreams». Torg is led by keyboards player Johan Lindvall, both albums offer rhythmic layers of synthesizer sounds, and on both albums the songs blend elements of jazz and pop with catchy and melodic, danceable rhythms.

But, apparently, there are few musicians-producers who can offer such a defining-moment in the history of jazz and pop or a listening experience as the innovative «Head Hunters» still does. «Palms, Beaches, Dreams» – the debut album of the Newly-founded Earthly Habit label of guitarist Christian Skår Winther – benefits from the presence of nine talented, young musicians who plays in some of the most interesting groups in the Norwegian scene as Monkey Plot, Propan, Ich Bin N!ntendo, Skrap, Oker and Skadedyr. Torg, as a group, is supposed to have accumulated influences by such an eclectic artists as Laurence Crane, Moondog, Portishead, Ahmad Jamal, Agnes Martin, Christian Wallumrød, Laurie Anderson, New Order and Gal Costa.

You can enjoy the refined rhythmic patterns of Torg and the tasteful work of guitarist Winther, electric bass players Adrian Fiskum Myhr and Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard, drummer Jan Martin Gismervik and the dreamy vocals of Ina Sagstuen. But the catchy, danceable pulses of Torg are rooted in a very distinct setting and atmosphere of a kind of high-brow, hipster club. Torg will make you move, even dance, but as soon as you finish listening to «Palms, Beaches, Dreams» you may feel still energized for new, more challenging listening experiences, without thinking much more about Torg album.

There are few exceptions in Torg’s tight, repetitive formula. The latter part of «If You Would Dream» explores some extra-terrestrial Sun Ra terrains. «Pretend You Don’t Care» finally succeeds to create an intense interplay, based on an edgy, funky pulse that corresponds more with George Clinton’s Funkadelic that Hancock’s «Head Hunters», but now Torg sounds more like Monkey Plot/Ich Bin N!ntendo who enjoy a funky session. And the last piece, «She Is Me», a dreamy song, delivered beautifully by Sagstuen.

Eyal Hareuveni

Ina Sagstuen (v), Johan Lindvall (synth, p), Christian Skår Winther (g), Torstein Lavik Larsen (tp, synth), Adrian Fiskum Myhr (b), Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard (b, elec), Anja Lauvdal (synth), Heiða Karine Jóhannesdóttir Mobeck (tuba, elec), Jan Martin Gismervik (dr)

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