As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Bjørn Fongaard.
In the pursuit of weird, rarely are the pioneers of our musical past given the gaze and glory they rightfully deserve. Their output rots on the shelves of dusty record stores a world away, awaiting the skillful—or lucky—hand that finds them like buried treasure. When contact is made and the breadth of the discovery is realized, we once turned to underground zines and games of telephone to stumble across neglected greatness. Thankfully the internet has drastically shrunk the world into a manageable size and the days of lost talent are slowly becoming extinct.
With the shrinking world, the strangeness and wonderment of invention is only expanded when a forgotten composer is discovered by an equally talent musician. Case in point, Bjørn Fongaard. Dug up by the skillful and lucky hands of Lasse Thoresen (known musically as Lasse Marhaug), the Norwegian experimentalist and researcher is born anew to a crowd of eager explorers.
Fongaard’s recordings are a work of science, working to craft tonal systems and theories with blunt force and careful deliberation. His studies and compositions from 1965-1978 have been collected by Prisma Records as a 3 CD set (along with a DVD of television performances and interviews), unveiling the twisted creations of Fongaard’s micro intervallic guitar (an instrument compacting twice the frets to manipulate quarter notes and battered with bows, sandpaper, tuning forks, and other instruments of musical deconstruction). Elektrofoni could not better describe the result: a heady blend of electronic engineering and playful cacophony as Fongaard actively chases his theories on record. Those with an ear to modern experimental composition will find Fongaard’s creations as the manual you seek.
Elektrofoni is packed with scattered rundowns, skittish plucks, and supernatural drones. In spite of this scientific approach to music, there is personality and originality brimming from Fongaard’s work. The cold comfort of the laboratory replaced with the warm zeal of calculated discovery; that shot of adrenaline and excitement at finding what you’ve been feeling around for in the dark. Come share in the glory! Come join the chase!
Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. He is currently at work on a new column which will debut on the KEXP Blog in the coming weeks. You may follow him on Twitter.