Rare or Unreleased 40: Origami Arktika

When the below-zero temperature gets the mucous production going, but freezes the snot before it's had time to run out the nostrils, you know it's time for some arctic sounds…

Origami Arktika: The Symbasic Structure for the Concrete Challenge 3logy pt. 0—Sondring [.zip]
  1. Inertia
  2. The Division of Hemispheres
  3. The Dancing of Shapes
  4. The Splitting of Atoms
  5. The Birth of the Flame
  6. Flux Quanta
In most countries, conservative tradition and the establishment conspire to preach and impose strict rules of conduct on the population at large, resulting in a society where rules are generally accepted, but with quite a bit of commonsense flexibility and a healthy dose of hypocrisy (which is only reasonable). Certain cultures, however, don't take too kindly to bending, let alone breaking, rules. And by «certain cultures,» I mean Norway.

Toilet Guppies hasn't been everywhere in the world, and by no means possesses expertise on the matter, but this country is still the only one we've experienced where rules, written as well as unwritten, are completely internalised. There's no opposition, no rebellion. In so totally accepting the mores and not acting against the surface ethics taught by the State/Church, you could perhaps say that at least Norwegians aren't hypocritical. But do you really prefer mindless servility?

When this almost bureaucratic conformism is combined with the new (oil) money that has spoilt at least two generations rotten—in creating a bubble of historical and geopolitical unreality for an entire population now exempt from the basic realities of the rest of the world (poverty, war, ethnic conflict, class struggle, religious division, pollution)—no wonder you end up with a spiritually bankrupt culture. From literature to design, music to cinema, everything is gentrified and sterile. Nothing can grow in any meaningful sense of the word in such an environment. Welcome to utopia: No one has anything to say.

Thankfully, there are exceptions. Kjell Askildsen in literature, Christopher Nielsen in comics, Kristopher Schau in performance art, Pål Sletaune in cinema, Turbonegro in rock'n'roll, Gunnar Hall Jensen in narcissism. This might seem like a long list of names, but keep in mind it's exhaustive.

Well, almost. Add one: Origami Republika. This international zenarchist noise art co-operative, stretching underground from Argentina in the West to Japan in the East, has as its epicentre and point of origin Norway. And within its ranks you'll find the only true remnant of soul in Norwegian music, like the output of Helge Sten, Tore H. Bøe and Lasse Marhaug. Minimalism is the weapon of choice for Norwegian art («Scandinavian design», etc.), but only within the make-believe, anarcho-dada republic of Origami is minimalism a justified choice, rather than merely a tactic not to risk offering too much, lest you reveal the lack of anything substantial, interesting or important to convey.

Alas, lost at sea among the pride and joys of the Norwegian establishment/population (in Norway, there is no such distinction anyway)—the much more lucrative productions of elevator electro background muzak (Erlend Øye, Röyksopp), New Age easy listening World jazz (Jan Garbarek, Nils Petter Molvær) and Spinal Tap-by-way-of-black metal (Satyricon, Dimmu Borgir)—a lot of Origami Republika's output has been drowned out by the mediocrity, either long since or slowly going out of print. Their contributions remain practically unrecognised in Norway (and elsewhere).

One such ignored item is the album above, Sondring («(act of) distinguishing»). Made by Republika faction Origami Arktika back in 1996, when it consisted only of founding members Tore H. Bøe and Benny Braaten (a.k.a. Origami Galaktika)—none of whom are in Arktika any longer—Sondring is listed as «part 0» in «The Symbasic Structure for the Concrete Challenge 3logy». I have a copy of part 3—the Origami Arktika/Deathprod. collaborative effort, Lat att grinda («close the gate»)—but suspect there are only two installments in this «trilogy»—one of which, then, is part 0. Oh, those artist types!

Although both Bøe and Braaten are noise pioneers, Sondring isn't particularly representative of that genre. Bøe's background as a drummer comes more to the fore, combined with Braaten's hypnotic ambient sounds. The result is what the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now! might have sounded like if set on the North Pole. It's one of the less subversive Origami releases, the avant-garde element consisting mainly in the stubborn minimalism of the vaguely tribal (Sami?) music. But it's a very nice slice of organic, minimalist ambience coming from otherwise quite abrasive maximalists. Enjoy.

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