Kim Hiorthøy: Dogs

Scandinavian renaissance man's first album in seven years is glorious piano purity over sample-free glitch.
Kim Hiorthøy
Smalltown Supersound

Kim Hiorthøy’s first album in seven years is mostly dominated by piano and is as inspired by the elegance and purity of Johann Johannsson as catchy riffs from hip hop music. Dogs retains the playfulness he has displayed from his 2000 debut Hei through a series of affecting and idiosyncratic releases. These ten tracks all hit a very sweet sound-spot somewhere between ecstasy and melancholy, yet the soft and beautiful tones are never allowed to linger too long or to become maudlin or overdone. Hiorthøy typically uses analog electronics, toy instruments, and found sounds, tinkers with tempo, chops melodies at times to the point where they resemble a canon, applies echo, cuts in snippets of conversation, and does whatever it is called when sounds are made to appear as if they are coming from down a well.

“Allt Är Skit” resembles a piano recital in a dark old church heard from a distance — perhaps from up in the bell tower — with additional sounds as if someone were folding away a few wooden chairs. The bouncy piano figure of “Hands” overlays and repeats with a drone rising and accelerating in the background. Typical of Hiorthøy’s use of surprise, tracks can change, fall away completely, or restart from a very different angle. His ability to tie everything into a coherent flow is such that nothing sounds too discordant or frustrating. Some pieces add phases of percussion, which is more an aspect of his louder, faster, more techno, live sets.

“Wrong” combines a piano which sounds as if it is being played as it is melting, with faint traces of a woman singing in the bath being channeled through a seance at a nearby apartment. “Klockan” is perhaps the most broken and reassembled of these pieces with piano, echo, loops, stuttering and thumping percussion, vibrating strings, and fuzzy whines. In an odd audio-memory hallucination (of mine) it does seem at one point that as if Hiorthøy is unintentionally channeling a well-known melody from an ad for a male grooming device, although he does avoid a close shave as best a man can.

Hiorthøy’s many other creative outlets include cinematography, artwork for book jackets, and for labels as Rune Grammofon and Smalltown Supersound and the group Motorpsycho, as well as musical composition for dance performances.

RATING 8 / 10