SkarWorX (Norway): Wisdom (first track from forthcoming debut album)
In the UK, national broadcaster the BBC, with no new programmes to show, is re-running its classic 1970s sit-com Fawlty Towers. In the first episode Basil Fawlty, looking to improve the image of his hotel by attracting the upper class, advertises in landed gentry magazines but only manages to attract a con man masquerading as the aristocratic Lord Melbury.
We have no Basil Fawltys here but occasionally we do chance upon the musical aristocracy. In this case it comes in the form of Øystein Skar, currently of Löv and previously of Highasakite and other bands. SkarWorX is his latest solo project and this is his first release.
Øystein Skar’s CV is immense. He was educated at a music school from the age of 12, and then at the Norwegian Academy of Music. He has a background in classical piano, modern jazz, improvisation,avant-garde and experimental music, and electronic music composed on analogue synths. He has played at festivals across Norway and in many countries throughout the world, including Russia and South Africa. His collaborations look like a who’s who of the Norwegian and international music scene and include the Peer Gynt Chamber Orchestra. (He was born in the town in which the model for the character Peer Gynt in Ibsen’s play lived and there is a Peer Gynt Festival there every year). When he isn’t writing and performing he works at a renowned private Music Institute which has the motto "From music kindergarten to concert podium."
No pressure then.
All the aptitudes mentioned above come together magnificently in this track, ‘Wisdom’, which is also the first track off an album, ‘SEED – X’, that will be released on the Grappa label around August of this year. Øystein Skar says the track is instrumental-only at least for the moment, suggesting that lyrics could be added later before the album is released and adds that it is strongly based around an instrument “that has brought me both joy and frustration” - the piano and that recording the album has been a long process for him. On his SkarWorX Facebook page he describes himself as “Producer & Piano Player” and I wondered if the song’s title somehow refers to a satisfaction of having attained mastery of that instrument.
‘Wisdom’ starts out as a simple piano piece but it is only a matter of seconds before those strange hissing, crackling, tearing and explosive electronic sounds which populated numerous Highasakite songs appear, as if it’s a Norwegian Bonfire Night. I’m thinking particularly of the song ‘God don’t leave me’ for those that know it. It develops into a highly atmospheric middle section then it does exactly what you aren’t expecting it to do. Rather than build to a crescendo it tails off into a piano piece again, and this time quite a sombre one, which plays it out.
And it has ‘film score’ written all over it.
When I chatted to Löv last year, I recall band mate Marte Eberson saying that while the modest and unassuming Skar would never make any such claim himself, he “writes some beautiful music of his own.” You know what? She wasn’t wrong.
In fact, when I think of the ‘classical’ music the ex-members of Highasakite have produced individually over the last few years – Skar, Eberson and Kristoffer Lo (check out his 10-minute opus ‘Front Row Gallows View’ for example) I get excited wondering what they could conjure up between them.
But for now just immerse yourself in a little wisdom.
Now as an antidote to all this culture I’m going to watch the Megan Thee Stallion / Cardi B video from the Grammys. You couldn’t ask for a bigger contrast. Yan and Ying. I wonder what Basil would have made of it?
Apparently there is a video for ‘Wisdom’ which will be released later.