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Famlende Forsøk ('Staggering Attempt' or 'Fumbling Attempt') are a long-running Norwegian band with roots in the DIY cassette scene of the 1980s. It's been a long time since I covered this band in Aquamarine, but I recently reconnected with them and now have their last four albums, namely the 2015 LP Washing China, the 2016 CDRs Lost in Laos and The Tao Tapes, and the 2017 double CDR The Taco Takeover. The band has overlapping membership with psych/prog/folk-rock band The Smell of Incense, with Lumpy Davy being a full-time member of that band and Brt and ChrispH making guest appearances with them, but it would be a mistake to expect both bands to sound similar. Whilst psychedelia and prog are components of the Famlende Forsøk sound, overall FF opt for a more overtly experimental approach which draws from such genres as industrial, ambient and free jazz.

Washing China has its origins in a drone-based live concert from 2009 at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, with extra layers of instruments added to the live recordings over the next five years. The core line-up of Cato, Brt, ChrispH and Lumpy Davy are joined by various guest musicians including Jean-Hervé Peron of Faust. The album is out on limited edition heavyweight vinyl, released by Prisma Records, the label set up by Lasse Marhaug and Lars Mørch Finborud to release music performed and recorded at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter. The LP comes with an informative booklet with English translations of the lyrics and other explanatory material. The lyrics are a mix of stream of consciousness and William Burroughs-style cut-up. Rhyme and alliteration are used as a starting point for free association, and bizarre surrealism is combined with oblique references to current affairs and popular culture. Figures as diverse as Norwegian AOR, pop, and rap artists, Jesus, Aleister Crowley, Cthulhu, and the aforementioned noise musician Lasse Marhaug are all namechecked amid wry humour and absurdism. This is the Space Age begins the album with its eerie drones and whirring spacey noises. This drone backdrop is expanded upon as the album progresses, with the addition of sitar and Indian percussion in Hindi Gana, mechanistic synth bleeps, harsh noise, psych guitar and free jazz in Washing China, and accordion paired with weird noise-sculpturing in Parting Song of the Whale. A creative experimental album which ranges from meditative ambience to chaotic improvisation.

The three CDRs are reissues of albums that originally came out on very limited cassette via the band's own label SHiT Tapes, as well as streaming/download versions from Sub Culture Records. Now that the cassette editions have sold out, the band have decided to self-release CDR versions. These albums are recordings of live performances in which the band revisit tracks from across their back catalogue. Lost in Laos is the first in the trilogy, comprising seven main tracks with several uncredited pieces interspersed between them. In Hindi Gana, meditative Indian music meets strange sound collage. Blabblab is angular art-rock with experimental jazz and spacey elements. Looking for Bob is eccentric jazzy/proggy art-rock; this was one of my fave songs of theirs back in the day so it's good to hear it again here. Next up is an untitled interlude with bizarre chanting about 'døve munker' (deaf monks), which seems to be a sort of catchphrase or recurring theme with this band. Demiourgos features sinister drones and breaking glass sounds colliding with mournful trumpet. Søppel ('Rubbish') brings in industrial clangs and metallic scrapes, while Neon Mørke ('Neon Dark') is based around a heavy and dramatic prog riff, accompanied by spacey whooshes and whirrs and metallic industrial noise.

The second part of the CDR trilogy is Lost in Laos, which features the core members along with various guests; Jean-Hervé Peron appears again, Sun Ra is sampled, and there is even a recording of peeing in the snow, credited to Geir T. Holm. The album opens with the 'Døve Munker' chant over industrial clanging and banging, then there's Gruppereisen til Etnia which blends spacey, proggy, jazzy and hypnotic elements; Etter Nansen with its combination of ambient, experimental, film score, prog, and the sound of trudging through snow used as percussion; The Festival mixing experimental prog with folky hints and spacey noises; and the accordion-driven Genser'n Te'n Johansen which comes across like a twisted sea shanty mixed with free jazz and spacey electronics.

The final part of the trilogy is the double album The Taco Takeover, in which the band are joined by a vast group of guests, credited with everything from clarinet, tomtoms and flute to snow pissing, ice field recordings, rice seeds, saw, glass, and metal percussion. The album starts with Purpur Heis, an intense free jazz/spacerock piece with a relentless electro beat, taking as its starting point Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze but ending up someplace else entirely. (Tror Nok Jeg Levde) En Gang combines 80s pop synths with spacerock and prog. The Dunwich Horror brings together ominous experimental noise, cinematic neoclassical music, jazz, and retro synths to create a dizzying juxtaposition of chaotic and soothing sounds. Munker, Myter, Mekanikk translates as Monks, Myths, Mechanics and sounds much like its name, combining mystical, medieval-tinged prog with clanging industrial noise. Anarki i Silicon City is bendy, angular, jagged art-rock bringing together spacey electronics with a punk kick.

Across their various releases, Famlende Forsøk give us unconventional, complex, original music that is experimental and challenging without sacrificing melody or sense of purpose. Contact them via their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/famlende. For more info on Prisma Records visit prismarecords.blogspot.com. Digital versions can be found at Sub Culture Records: subculturerecords.bandcamp.com


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Text © Kim Harten, 2018.