Jan 15 2017
The sophomore release from Skadedyr was so damn good, it earned the #18 slot on this site’s Best of 2016 list. Culturen is fascinating and intelligent and fun. I am addicted to it now and that addiction shows no signs of fading. That’s where things are at.
But I was curious where things were before. As is often the case when I put together a Best Of list, I look back to the previous albums of the artists under consideration. Was their newest a big step up? Does their new album reflect a creative shift or gradual evolution? Was their previous album even any good? These are small matters when putting together the list, but curiosity doesn’t rank these things, and curiosity wants what it wants. And this time around, it wanted me to get ahold of Skadedyr’s debut, Kongekrabbe. I was surprised to discover that I didn’t have to search any further than the shelf occupied by Hubro Music releases. Because if it’s on my shelf, that means it’s been listened to, and probably much more than once.
And so I gave it a spin. And then a few more.
In the context of how they sound on their sophomore release, the debut Kongekrabbe is pretty raw. Much of the sweetness of Culturen is absent. And while Culturen is a wildly expressive album, Kongekrabbe makes it look practically tame. The two-part “Linselus” switches between the sounds of animalistic growling to a haunted children’s song to a game show theme to a drone mimicking still waters. And then there’s the way title-track “Kongekrabbe” seems to drift in an out of dreams as it tries to sing a song, the shape of the tune taking both surreal and static forms as the changes slip in each direction. And “Partylus” goes from a Dylan cover to a hip hop influence to a Nordic lullaby to something in between and undefinable.
In the end, I can see why I never wrote it up. I like it well enough, and by way of comparison to Culturen, which I enjoy quite a bit, it’s nice to see how the ensemble’s vision changes over time, as well as how they craft it. Culturen is fleshed out. No matter how crazy it becomes, the ensemble provides the music a form and shape and sense of direction. Not doing those things is perfectly fine, but in this specific example, one album succeeds by foregoing that approach and the other, well, not so much.
But there are things to enjoy about Kongekrabbe, and if you enjoy Culturen as much as I (or even close to it), then you owe it to yourself to check their debut out.
Your album personnel: Hans Hulbækmo (drums), Joakim Heibø (drums), Heida Mobeck (tuba), Anja Lauvdal (piano, synth), Adrian Løseth Waade (violin), Ina Sagstuen (vocals), Ida Løvli Hidle (accordion), Torstein Lavik Larsen (trumpet), Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø (trombone), Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson (double bass), Lars Ove Fossheim (guitar) and Marius Klovning (steel guitar).
Released in 2014 on Hubro Music.