“Groove is in the heart of darkness”, they say. Well, as well as being groove-masters, Tusmørke are self-proclaimed ambassadors of macabre romanticism. Progressive in a retro way and just plain weird, I’d put it, in the way that certain Norwegian bands such as Atrox effortlessly convey their own apparent insanity.
Hjemsokte Hjem (Home-made home), which starts the album, is like a bizarre folk song. The flute adds to the jolly beat. It’s like listening to a cross between the Barron Knights and Jethro Tull, but in Norwegian. The fluty tones continue on “I Feel Like Midnight”. The monotonous vocals are straight out of the mental asylum. The words of the song represent what it sounds like: somewhere between being alive, asleep and dead. So that was an achievement. Cue a crazy instrumental passage – flute of course, with something sounding like a xylophone, and a strange sweeping noise. Strange, strange, strange. Nightmarish, actually. “Rykende Ruin” (Rising Ruin) follows. It is a wordy Norwegian thing. The willowy flute has a disquieting air. The song sways forwards and backwards like a folk song but it’s also vey prog-inspired of a psychedelic kind. Think people like Caravan, Comus and the Krautrock lot. Continuing the journey back in time, I can imagine “Lyssky Drom” (Shady Dream) on a late 1960s tv programme in black and white, with a bunch of men churning out languid folk tunes. The melancholic sound of the flute and the keyboard is magnified. I won’t say “intensified” because it’s very dreamy and drowsy. Well it made me feel sleepy. It doesn’t help that I don’t know what they’re singing about, but on the other hand I don’t think it matters that much as it’s somewhere between spaced-out and oddly structured. So it’s progressive, then. It ends with an off tune fanfare, which just about sums it up.
The pièce de résistance, I concluded, had to be the twenty three and a half minute “Sankt Sebastians Alter”. Starting with a kind of psychedelic hey nonny nonny sound, it develops into another dreary Norwegian dirge. I’m sure that the deep-voiced lyrics mean something, and the traditional pipes are supposed to make it epic. Whilst I appreciated changes in the mood, particularly at one point where it goes cold and shadowy, I found this all hopelessly unfathomable. It may mean great things to someone in Norway. Musically it’s languid and pays homage to the dramatic but the combination of fluty folk music and the spoken word in a language I don’t know were not pulling me in. It expands into a cacophonous folksy chaos, before a very 70s sounding organ cuts in. It wasn’t a highlight but it was momentary relief from the proggy, fluty, Norwegian tale, which makes a reappearance. After a few darkly spoken words, an epic chorus follows but this is not Moonsorrow. The bells ring, it all turns very spooky and sinister. The words turn into manic screams, the keyboard and everything else go haywire. A bit of yoiking doesn’t illuminate me. No, I’ve no idea what any of this is about.
Whatever wavelength Tusmørke are on, I’m on a different one. Some will no doubt enjoy these bizarre ditties. They just got on my nerves. But I do give them credit for being unusual.
(4/10 Andrew Doherty)