A band very popular in Scandinavia, holding a wide fanbase throughout the continent, Motorpsycho is now considered one of the most important bands to come out of Norway. Lucid Little Moments has even garnered a review from the BBC. Despite this recognition, the band is still unknown stateside. Of the twelve studio albums released in their near 20 year existence, not one has been covered by Pitchfork Media, an astounding feat of obscurity. This trend, however, may be on the decline, as Rolling Stone blurbed Lucid Little Moments early last month.
My first experience with Motorpsycho came when ripping Lucid Little Moments onto my computer. It was genre tagged as “Metal.” Although I’ve never found genre markers really much help, my ears pricked up as I read the word.
Metal, in my lifetime, has always been just out of reach. Born at the end of the ’80s with popular music shifting to over grunge, the metal era was always spoken of in dismissive terms: years of infamy and gross excess of enthusiasm best left to be marginalized by the passage of time. Metal of my younger years was Marilyn Manson and Korn and other bands that wrote their names in a crooked, barded-wire font. Age and increased awareness exposed me to classics of the genre, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, though to me it was simply English rock. Metal has since been an ill-defined ghost that returns from obscurity for a good haunt, then quickly recedes once more into darkness.
Perhaps I thought Motorpsycho my first unadulterated glimpse at the essence of metal; maybe the name Motorpsycho is just exciting. I dove into the first track.
Though the guitar work, crowded with sound, seemed distinctly metal, the meditative interludes on overlapping and looping meldodies seemed distinctly not. The fact that the shortest of the four tracks comprising the album is 11:26 didn’t help push it into metal territory either. I knew metal to be quick bursts of smashed electrics, a wailing guitar set to scream. Motorpsycho wasn’t metal, not to me, although that’s not to say my hopes were crushed.
Once inside the work, I tried to find an idea to base my review on. I came up with something I thought a cop-out answer at first: Motorpsycho isn’t metal, isn’t rock, isn’t psychedelia, isn’t anything. This idea, with such little substance, might seem to provide shitty grounds for a review, but defying all odds, I’ve written quite a number of reviews based on this premise. I’ve written more bullshit about nothing than Larry David. I tried to reassure myself, knowing all music reviews (and indeed all culture babble) to ultimately be the same baseless bullshit dressed in different words. That thought, however, didn’t stop me from looking deeper. I kept going, and here’s what I came up with:
All bands in the popular music continuum (from freak folk to IDM to Britney Spears and 50 Cent) have a stage on which they perform, a stage called genre. To push beyond the enclosure of a single stage and introduce new elements into the genre is perceived as impressive and important, as the audience has not merely suspended their disbelief, but completely thrown it away, believing themselves to be sitting in a theatre, watching a single stage. The incredibly important are those who have built whole new amphitheaters for music to live in. The sound of these new genres are often referred to by the names of the band that built them: Pink Floyd and Radiohead are good examples. Bands like Motorpsycho, on the other hand, are marauders of the musical stage. They steal from venue to venue, leaving epic-length raucous adventures of violence and sombre moments in their wake. Stages are plundered, disrupting acts and etiquette, action and praxis, taking from all what they will, employing all at their own regard. Rhythmic shifts may be sudden, striking the stage in one fell swoop, or may be tactical, disparate melodies convening upon a certain point of triumph. Amidst the ruckus, they sometimes come close to polyrhythm. From any and all points, however, the music storms forward, always ready to steal the stage, no matter the genre. They are the nomads, the barbarians, but deal not with their music in an uncouth manner. They do not simply steal the stage, they master it. Then, off they go, departing for the next arena.
Jaga Jazzist – The Stix
Dungen – Ta Det Lugnt
Madrugada – Madrugada