Music

Thomas Dybdahl: What's Left Is Forever

With a sound at once soft and serene but clear and vibrant, Thomas Dybdahl returns with What's Left Is Forever.


Thomas Dybdahl

What's Left is Forever

US Release: 2014-04-06
UK Release: 2013-10-07
Label: CMG
Amazon
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Known in Norway as the Norwegian Nick Drake, Thomas Dybdahl has been steadily working away at perfecting a sort of rustic funk-folk that homogenizes all of his disparate influences. The singer, who has managed to earn plenty of accolades in his home country but little press outside of it, has just released his latest. What’s Left Is Forever mines the earthy, rootsy folk that Dybdahl is known for, but also introduces a more pronounced element of funk that he only mildly flirted with on previous albums. While it doesn’t exactly evoke the squirmy, live bass-jams that Prince is noted for, there is definitely a sense of playfulness to Dybdahl’s funk and rhythm.

Some of this new experimentation could be owed to mixer (and sometime producer) Tchad Blake, celebrated for his work with Suzanne Vega, Stina Nordenstam and Lisa Germano. Blake has always had an unusual way with mixing drums sounds, giving them a coyly alien resonance at once artificial and organic. These beat-experimentations are the highlight of What’s Left Is Forever, and they play especially well with Dybdahl’s percussive guitar playing. New joyful jams like “Running On Fumes” have a soft, ethereal cushion of synthesized atmospheres that house the grooves. These numbers evoke sunny morning breakfasts on backyard decks during summer. On “Soulsister”, the singer channels a sleepy Prince woken after a long nap, the purple funk and heavenly plucks of acoustic guitar creating a sweet friction of fun and romance. Single “Man on a Wire” offers an insistent pop-rock groove etched in with the chiming strains of folk guitar.

Dybdahl’s voice, a croaked falsetto that crumples softly like paper, is his most distinctive instrument. Often, he sounds as though he’s gasping for air, the strange and sensual rust in his voice lending another swirl of color to his impressionistic sounds of folk-pop. His voice is best experienced on the more sparse numbers like “I Never Knew That What I Didn’t Know Could Kill Me”, a track that edges closer to late night jazz. Under the plush hits of brush wires and surreal wisps of strings, Dybdahl reaches for notes heavenward. On the expansive, lush and sea-faring “This Next Wave is a Big One”, the singer’s voice is mixed low to allow the carefully plucked chords to gently percolate beneath the electronically-manipulated orchestral arrangements. Much like the sea itself, the number rises and falls in waves of distortion, signalling the turbulences of a love in distress. There are a few more pop gems scattered about. “The Sculptor” manages a light dance groove, pleasant and simple, adorned with the fluttery strains of Dybdahl’s guitar. “So Long” veers close to glitch territory, practicing a beat-technique worthy of groove experimentalists Matmos.

Throughout it all, the artist maintains a consistent sonic thread that pulls together all of the contrasting elements together harmoniously; in the tissue of the sensual funk, there beats the heart of a folk-balladeer. It’s a sound infused with the soft, lush colors of pastels, at once soft and serene but clear and vibrant. Maybe the Norwegian Nick Drake is actually the Norwegian Serge Gainsbourg, then.

7

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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