Diversions :: Orions Belte
The previous installment of Diversions found multi-instrumentalist Spencer Zahn diving deep into the sonic world of fellow traveler, Keith Jarrett. This edition finds us in the hands of Kim Åge Furuhaug, who drums for the Norwegian trio Orions Belte. An AD favorite (listen to their 2021 Lagniappe Session, here) the group are pulling a proper KISS move ⟨™⟩ this month, each releasing a solo album via a 3xLP box set, making Furuhaug the analogous Peter Criss. As Furuhaug went straight jazz with his offering, we asked the drummer to walk us through its aesthetic DNA.
Before writing this, I had to look up the word diversion. It has a whole lot of different meanings. A diversion can be something you do to take your mind off something. It could be a thing someone does to take your attention away from something. It could just mean to take a different route or it could be… the act of changing the direction that somebody is following.
In context of our triple solo album release, under our band name Orions Belte I guess this Diversions-series really fits all the above-mentioned definitions. On November 18th Orions Belte are releasing three solo albums, as a band. All albums were recorded separately without any input from any of the other members. A fun dogma for a band project: Ok. Let’s do this without any of the other guys having anything to say about my (our) album. Anyways, when we started talking about doing this project, I had just released a solo album with instrumental music made from cymbals. I wasn’t really that keen on the idea of making another experimental instrumental album with cymbals, so I said I was happy to do it if I could make a jazz album. Luckily, Matias Tellez, who has mixed our two previous records, as well as Chris’ and Øyvind’s solo albums, was really into the idea. I pitched the idea of an album with songs as beautiful as “Wichita Lineman” (Glen Campbell, written by Jimmy Webb) played like “Stoner Hill” (Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band) with the vibe of “Jazz på svenska” by Jan Johansson. Basically pop songs instrumented by jazz musicians with a Nordic folk tone vibe.
Being asked to pick an album to write about is hard. I am in no way a music nerd, nor am I a record hoarder or a really die-hard fan of any band or musician. I like a lot of different stuff and I rarely geek out about who played what instruments, where it was recorded and so on. Even though I don’t geek out about details, I usually connect songs, albums or artists with specific situations or periods of my life. “Jazz på svenska” was introduced to me by one of my previous band- (and flat) mates in 2005 or 2006. It was played a lot while either making food or when cleaning our flat. Ok, to be honest it was probably played mostly while we were really hungover and cleaning up after a party. This album reminds me of being at home, windows open, airing out the smell of cigarettes and beer. In my mind we played this album mostly when it was cold outside. The air smells different when it gets cold in the autumn, and the combo of the cold crisp autumn air combined with the feeling of hope you get when you finally get around to cleaning up a party is special sensory memory for me. Opening a window so it gets cold inside, but the sun is up, so it doesn’t matter. This album is perfect for that. I remember it gave me a feeling of nostalgia the first time I heard it, or maybe it was more a feeling of melancholy rather than nostalgia. “Jazz på Svenska” is an album with Swedish folk songs from 1964. When it was released, it sold more than 250,000 copies. That’s a lot. More interesting, all songs are piano and double bass only. No drums. I love that. I tried playing drums to this album recently, it’s really hard, and for me it made total sense to not add any drums to these arrangements. It would have given the songs a totally different feel. The drums would have gotten in the way. The album is beautifully recorded and so well arranged. Though, I’m not sure how much of it is arranged and how much is improvised, it’s probably a good mix of the two. And the musicianship is outstanding anyways.
Recording my solo album I tried to do much of the same. Stay out of the way, making sure the drums have a function and that they function in context of the other instruments and the song. I haven’t really thought about it until now, but when me and Matias wrote the demos for the album, we only wrote parts for piano and bass. The demos had no drums, only piano and double bass. We left a lot of room for the musicians to make their own interpretations of the parts, which maybe would have been harder, or at least different, if there was a drum beat they would have to work around. So going into recording I had to listen to how the other musicians reacted to the music and had to find something that suited what they were doing. So basically, I knew what everyone else was doing or supposed to be doing. But no idea what I would do myself. In a way a lot like how a regular Orions Belte album is recorded. I hated recording music this way up until I started playing with Chris and Øyvind (Orions Belte). Not sure if I love it now, but I don’t hate it as much and I think it is a great way to find something intuitive and not focus on small details. Get a good feel and vibe for a song, then everything will be good, I guess.
Norway and Sweden are two totally different countries. But we do share a lot of similar traditions and culture. There has been some export of Norwegian culture to Sweden the last years, but for the most part, the last 50 years or so, Norwegians have adopted and integrated a lot of pop culture from Sweden into our own culture. Growing up in Norway before 1990 meant there was one TV channel. NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. As a kid we had 30 minutes of TV from 18.00, barne-tv (kids TV), every day, maybe a bit more in the weekends or holidays. And a big part of that TV-time was Swedish movies made for television, split into episodes. Most of the movies I remember were movie adaptations of Astrid Lindgren books. Emil i Lønneberget was a story about young boy who would play a lot of pranks on his father. His father would be so mad that Emil would have to run as fast as he could to get away from his father. Probably so he wouldn’t get a beating. He would lock himself in a small shed where he would sit around and carve wooden figures and avoid his father, until he calmed down. Sounds like a great show for kids, I guess. I didn’t know this until recently but guess who wrote the music for the show. Jan Johansson? Wrong. It was in fact Georg Riedel. He is the other guy on “Jazz på svenska”, he plays double bass. The most famous show outside Scandinavia is probably Pippi Langstrømpe or Pippi Longstockings. Guess who wrote the music for this. Jan Johansson? Right. Turns out both Jan Johansson and Georg Riedel composed a lot of the songs I grew up with as a kid. Songs from the Lindgren universe. The sound of my childhood. Magical guys. Magical interpretations. The sound of wood, the sound of the cold autumn air. No drums. “Jazz på Svenska”, the perfect hangover album.
Recommended listening, inspiration or music mentioned here:
Jan Johanson – Jazz på svenska / Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band – Stoner Hill / Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman / Orions Belte / Kim Åge Furuhaug – Jangle med / Orions Belte – Totally Orions Belte (complete playlist) / Soundtrack from Emil i Lønneberget (Georg Riedel) / Soundtrack from Pippi Langstrømpe (Jan Johanson) / Super Heavy Metal (Kim Åge Furuhaug) – Two-Two (A track from Music for cymbals) / Super Heavy Metal (Kim Åge Furuhaug) – Super Duper (A track from Gong Splash Midi Midi)