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CD Feature/ Dan Fröberg: "15 Songs (Down at Jinxey´s)"

img  Tobias
I was listening to “15 Songs (down at Jinxey’s)” on a trainride along the Loreley, an astoundingly beautiful riverside of hills, vineyards, little islands, castles, boats and tiny villages on my way from Münster to Stuttgart. It was here and with Dan Fröberg’s music in my ear, that I realised that this was one of the few places, where folk music in its original meaning could still exist. And that Fröberg’s work, unintentionally perhaps, held the key for a repositioning of the oldest of all genres.

Not that “15 Songs” could ever be confused for a folk recording. A collection of fluent field recording collages, toy organ shuffles and drones loosely held together by a narrative written by Fröberg and read by a Chinese speaker with a delightful deficit in the English language, it is instead a typical example of a new school of sound artists, who have left the restrictions and confinements of their studio behind them to breathe fresh air again – taking their tape recorders with them wherever they go and finding parallels in the most different places.

In this instance, these places are Kunming, China, Newcastle upon Tyne, England and Göteborg, Sweden, the latter Fröberg’s hometown and the location where the final mix of the album was realised during 2005. As much as he has kept local tastes and site-specific spices alive, the complete freedom in juxtaposing environmental noises and street scenes from these three towns is inspired by the thought that wherever we go, we are bound to only find ourselves, because we can not leave our sensory system at home – “We’ve been here and we’ve been there, so we’ve been here all of the time”, the title of one of these pieces, implicitely hints in a similar direction.

Fröberg’s language is uniquely placed between sound and structure: If traditional musical forms appear amidst the noise, they can either be free improvisations recorded at a later stage, or compositions caught while strolling down the alley. Harmony, melody, rhythm and timbre are important to his style, but less so in an obvious way. These are not regular songs or even experimental tracks adorned by field recordings. Nor do they constitute field recordings deepened by the occasional chord or recurring motive. Instead, the differences between these two terms and their sonic textures is lifted – resulting in a hazy, unreal sensation, like wandering through places inside your memory.

If Daniel Rozenhall, head of Fylkingen Records, claims that “nothing is left to arbitrary randomness” and that “each sound is chosen with care” in his linernotes, the compliment is most likely not directed at the amount of conceptual work that has gone into “15 Songs”. Rather, it is probably to be understood as a spot-on observation of the fact that Fröberg, unlike many of his colleagues, considers his source material’s plasticity as given (no post-production was applied to the samples), but its chronological development and descriptive content as malleable. We are still listening to physical objects – but no longer to a physical reality.

Essentially, this points at an important feat: Communities are no longer forming around spatial proximity, nor are they held together by ideological dogmas. Rather, they are building on perceptional and emotional ties. Traditional folk music, when towns were still isolated by natural obstacles or distance, used to describe the world around us. The new folk music as pioneered by Dan Fröberg now pinpoints the structures inside of us. It may take a while for it to establish itself, but as this album proves, it is already capable of offering a similarly astounding sense of beauty.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Fylkingen Records

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