Wednesday, November 02, 2016
CAM - True or False?
There was a time in my life when the words ‘Danish Improv’ meant a shiver down the spine and a flick of the page and I get the feeling that there may be those amongst you who are feeling that same way right now but don’t go, please, this is special. Very special.
CAM is an acronym made from the first letter of the Christian name of each member of the group; Claus Poulsen, Anders Børup and the magnificently monikered Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau. Yes they are Danish, yes they have a background in noise, experimentation, field recordings [and in Børup’s case with ‘rocket launch orchestras’ - you learn something new everyday] and yes they know their way around a studio.
Which is where these eleven tracks were recorded between November 2014 and January 2015. Now remember it gets very cold in Denmark during the winter months and although these gentlemen are no doubt used to the drop in temperature there may have been something that kept them in that studio those three months and it may have been the cold outside or it may have been that they knew that they were on to something for these are remarkable recordings and not of the kind I come across too often.
Maybe this is because CAM are blurring the boundaries between improv and composition? If I didn’t know any better I’d say that these tracks weren’t improv at all which makes the results all the more remarkable and no they’re not using a drum, piano, sax set up: Poulsen is credited with samples, controller, guitar, trumpet, records, bass, Børup with vocals, computer, drums, harmonica, Paluszewski-Hau with bass, clarinet, electronic feedback, sampler and kalimba [thumb piano] and when they put all this together you get tracks that weave the work of Brighton dance absurdists Wevie Stonder, cut up merchants Broken Penis Orchestra, Jap synth god Tomita, Jim O’Rourke, Smegma and late era Kraftwerk.
The mood is definitely European in its sensibilities. The sheer swathe of samples and the cool air of ‘yeah we know what we’re doing’ couldn’t have come from anywhere but. On ‘Mirror Confrontations’ a languid bass guitar and the electric whip of the wind outside are the framework upon which Børup intones vocoder like, a sea of burbles and bleeps meandering through and around, a track that feels like a confession made from the bottom of a well crammed with studio gear. Drum & Bass samples are littered throughout, ‘Ghost’ has some turntable scratching, a wonky sax solo and a lolloping rhythm that is part Bonzo’s. The title track carries all manner of American 50’s samples relating to sex, ‘Coming to America’ is where they show off their noise credentials with guitar feedback and wild drums, ‘Jean Palle’ the track that follows it has that floating in space feel, Tomita swooshes, Space Invader kills, an empty milk bottle getting knocked off the doorstep and Neil Armstrong’s most famous quote. The KLF couldn’t have done it any better.
And this is all improv of course. This is what you have to keep reminding yourself.
Every time I revisited ‘True of False?’, mainly on the LP, because, y’know, just because, I felt both recognition and delight in the welcome of something new. Such is the myriad of samples and nuances you could listen to this for hours, days, weeks and only then would you have worn it out. Who could resist a band that puts out an album of delicious improv, with a great sleeve art and a track called ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’? [‘rock n roll is popular with the teenagers’ said in English by a lady from Japan against some skittery, doomy d&b]. Not me.