“NO SIGN CAN FORETELL HOW SOON IT MUST DIE”
The Norwegian duo «kÖök» releases their third studio album on May 7, 2021. The musicians Jørn Erik Ahlsen (guitar / electronics) and Stian Larsen (guitar / electronics) have this time been inspired by the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō (1644- 1694) which for many is known as the master of haiku. Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry where the reader is introduced to a moment or a state, often inspired by a feeling, mood and traditionally, a natural element or season. The form of the poem is sparse and strict with dogmas that control both the number of syllables and the auditory pronunciation of the words. After touring in Japan, the duo entered a phase where they wanted to develop the improvisational work from freely improvised to an expression that carried with it some of the haiku's framework. They then went into the studio to work out the music for an album that is still improvised but which carries in it an ideal of stretching the music towards shorter, pointed pieces with aesthetics and frames clearly inspired by Japanese haiku.
An important aspect of the haiku is the phrase kireji which is the last word in one of the three lines to change the flow of thought and alter the mood of the following phrase. This is a literary tool that the duo has also tried to translate into music. You can hear this clearly on "Old Pond" and "Frog Leaps In / Sound of Water" which are two tracks on the album based on Bashō's poems with the same verse lines.
Form is important for the haiku and kÖök has also chosen to experiment with form both in a musical sense but also in the album's structure and design. The artwork was created by the Dutch artist Rutger Zuydervelt (who also contributes musically on the B-side) and will support the two poems that are the starting point for the album's concept.
«In an otherwise chaotic time, we have wanted to make an album characterized by calmness, reflection and the nature. Japanese poetry has a zen aspect, a meditative aspect that suits our music very well. When we read Bashō's haikus we found that this would be perfect as a concept and framework for our new album.» - Stian Larsen, kÖök
The form is also challenged on the conventional aspect where improvised music has traditionally been physically released on record and should be more like a document of a live situation or concert experience. On this album, the duo released singles a month apart and at the same time got other artists to remix the singles that form the B-side of the album. Each single’s artwork is its own part of the album's cover to make it clear that everything is connected both visually, textually and formally.
«Physical interaction and ad hoc meetings on stage were abruptly lost with Covid-19 and we wanted to find a new way to collaborate, to give and receive inspiration that was previously a big part of how improv music was created. By giving selected artists free reins to improvise over, tear apart the original or just interpret our songs, we felt that we were moving into unploughed ground.»- Jørn Erik Ahlsen, kÖök
The opening track and title of the album (the following verse lines) are taken from the poem "In The Cicada's Cry", also by Bashō, both textually and musically pointing to the previous releases and the musical expression kÖök were immersed in coming to Japan. A more challenging, freer and less harmonious universe, and as the verse lines "No Sign Can Tell / How Soon It Must Die" says, the duo also leaves that expression when the subsequent track "Old Pond" starts. It is a new calm, a return to nature and the closing track "Frog Leaps In / Sound of Water" is a metaphor for something unexpected that enters and the stillness when the water returns to its original form.
Stian Larsen: Guitar/Electronics
Jørn Erik Ahlsen: Guitar/Electronics