I first heard about Danish trio Kirsten Ketsjer through NYC record store Other Music’s weekly e-mail newsletter. The newsletter gave the band’s sophomore album, Ffffoo K Tsscch, a glowing review, and included brief clips of standout tracks “The Bridge” and “How Is Your Sleep?”. The clips sounded like a feminine take on early Pavement: drummer Anja Jacobsen delivered her vocals in a pleasant Sprechtstimme, and guitarists Andreas Führer and Anders Lauge Meldgaard’s treble-kicked interplay effortlessly compensated for the band’s lack of bass. I had to get my hands on more of their enchantingly slanted music!
Imagine my surprise when I popped Ffffoo in my CD player, and discovered that the “The Bridge” was actually an 11-minute epic in four parts, none of which sounded like each other! Songs that long rarely make ideal openers, but “The Bridge”‘s sprawling whimsy sets the perfect tone for the rest of the album. At the four-minute mark, a cacophony of strangled guitars and white noise overtakes the song. Eventually, the noise recedes, leaving behind the sounds of flowing water and lightly tapped toms. The transition perfectly captures the internal tumult that can drive people to suicide, as well as the peace and finality such people hope to find in death. Around the nine-minute mark, the band eases into a brief instrumental jam, before concluding the song with a three-part string arrangement (courtesy of Nils Grondahl, who plays in the equally excellent Danish band Under Byen). Oh, and did I mention that “The Bridge” is about mass suicide?
On “How Is Your Sleep?,” Jacobsen stoically narrates the unfolding of an apocalypse triggered by global warming. “Ernie and the Sand” is an account of a hallucination experienced while visiting a friend in the desert. Lest the album get TOO depressing, “People’s Republic” serves as a welcome counterpoint to “The Bridge”: instead of offing themselves, the protagonists in this song jump towards the sky to greet the morning. This display of optimism is reinforced by the song’s boisterous choral vocals and baroque instrumentation (organs, flutes).
Any non-Welsh band that gives its album a title as vowel-deficient as Ffffoo K Tsscch probably has no qualms about testing the patience of its audience. Unfortunately, that’s what Kirsten Ketsjer does during the album‘s final third. There’s a seven-minute interlude of atonal keyboard abuse that is indexed as 38 separate tracks on the CD. This prank is followed by a two-song medley about cows: part one is sung by the guitarists, neither of whom can carry a tune as well as Jacobsen, and part two is sung by a makeshift children’s choir (which doesn’t sound much better). The band rebounds, though, with closer “There Is More”. Underneath a collage of spoken voices, droning keyboards and weary horns, Jacobsen sings:
“There is more
Even when you’ve done it all before
And you’ve given all you had in store
And your arms are way too sore
There is more.”
It’s an anthem of perseverance, a fitting ending to an album that, while often morbid, never fully gives in to complete sadness. Overall, Ffffoo K Tsscch is a refreshing burst of unrestrained creativity from a band whose talent exceeds their weirdness.
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// Notes from the Road
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