Old Friends, the latest record from Norway’s I Was A King, to be released January 25, 2011 on Sounds Familyre, touches on this phenomenon. A bizarre cross-section of musical backgrounds is represented by indie-music luminaries (Daniel Smith, John Ringhofer, Emil Nikolaisen), an avant-classical composer (Joshua Stamper), a free-jazz drummer (Kevin Shea), an electronic music diva (Anne Lise Frøkedal). Indeed, their work together would seem strange were it not for the compellingly simple songs and clarion melodies of Frode Strømstad that provide a sure anchor for such wildly disparate musical proclivities.
The album was recorded in April 2010 as the inaugural project for Daniel Smith’s Familyre Studio in Clarksoro, NJ. Construction on the new facility had been completed just a few days earlier, and a very special excitement was in the air as musicians prepared to christen its walls with their contributions to Strømstad’s latest batch of songs. None of the musicians had heard any of the material prior to recording, which lent an on-the-edge-of-your-seat-ness to the proceedings. The sessions, which lasted a little less than a week, possessed the same character and vitality of sessions at the Brill Building and similar music factories in their hey-day.
The speed and momentum of the work accomplished was often dizzying; while the rhythm section recorded in one room, vocal harmonies were rehearsed in another, and in still another room piano and organ parts were sketched and revised and solidified. The distance between idea and action was remarkably short. Lyrics were written and recorded by Strømstad and Frøkedal with breakneck speed, almost in one fluid motion. When it became clear that certain songs called for strings or winds, string and wind parts were written. When trombone or harmony guitar lines seemed necessary, trombone or harmony guitar lines were recorded. Musicians came and went, traveling across states and even continents to add their own special flavor to the mix. Magical moment after magical moment was faithfully captured on tape, as a net is dipped into the wind to capture butterflies.
Old Friends is a record of excitement, managing a tension between control and chaos, harmony and discord, old and new; a tension that is always teetering, but never stumbling. There is also a comfortableness to the music—the same kind of comfort you feel when you’re with people you’ve known for a very long time; the comfort to risk, to stretch, to laugh. Old Friends is very special music. It is music not unlike the phenomenon of friendship itself: a sublime oddity.
1) The Wylde Boys
3) Learning To Fly
5) Snow Song
6) Someone Is Waiting
8) Forgive and Forget
11) Here To Stay
12) Old Friends