• David Bentley

Tortusa (Norway): Bre (title track from album)



After yesterday’s Daði Freyr and his Icelandic monster that looked like something out of the video for The Birdie Song by The Tweets, I reckon it’s high time for some serious culture again.


You’ll find plenty of that on Norway’s Jazzlandrec label, which does what it says on the tin.


Tortusa sounds like it could be a Caribbean island or a faux trendy bar in Deptford or Stretford but he is in reality a Norwegian-American electronic musician and producer from Stavanger. He has released four albums on Jazzland Recordings already, written film scores, and has been nominated for the Spellemann Prize (Norwegian Grammy). He does perform abroad and has been to the UK.


He’s into the texture and timbre of sound, searching for sounds that are out of the ordinary and placing the listener in different emotional states. He utilises both hardware and software equipment including retro tape recorders, modular synthesisers, samplers and a vast array of other tools. Field recordings are an important part of the production.


He draws inspiration from producers like Biosphere, Flying Lotus, Teebs, and Nils Frahm.


The music he makes is said to be ambient, electronic, experimental and contemporary jazz-inspired. On stage he even live-samples the musicians he plays with, creating an intense and spontaneous experience. Oh, and he’s a photographer so he can selfie himself professionally while he’s doing it.


Ambient jazz? Could there be such a thing? It sounds like an oxymoron. Well if it didn’t exist before, he’s invented it.


The track starts like the intro to a sci-fi film before what sounds like a sax on steroids comes in although it could just as easily be synthesiser. Then it’s over to the percussion for an extended session of quite complex rhythms played on cymbals. Then the sax returns along with a Spaghetti Western whistle before a little more sci-fi plays it out as if the spaceship is taking off, destination unknown. There’s the briefest sample of acoustic guitar along the way, it almost flutters by on the breeze and that is one of his specialities – defamiliarisation and repositioning.


OK, you won’t be whistling ‘Bre’ on your way to work but if you are into abstract, cutting edge radio programmes like BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction this will be right up your street. In fact I imagine he’d fit some of our artier festivals very well, too. The PR claims his music to be “melodic, slowly evolving and meditative.” Well two out of three anyway. But melodic? No. Not unless melody has been redefined and no-one told me.


The ‘Bre’ album took three years to complete and was released on 26th March. It features contributions from some of Norway's finest musicians, including three of his ‘idols’: Arve Henriksen, Eivind Aarset and Erland Dahlen. Dhalen contributed to this track. Tortusa is currently recording the second Dark Star Safari studio album with Eivind Aarset, Jan Bang, Erik Honore and Samuel Rohrer.


‘Bre’ is available on LP, CD and streaming.

Find him on Facebook. Or Instagram.