Somnambule - Writing About Music

Kim Hiorthoy ~ Hopeness EP

The unprompted arrival of this EP from the record label’s UK distributor provided my first opportunity to listen to Kim Hiorthoy’s music. Because of the familiarity of his graphic design for so many Rune Grammofon and SmallTown Supersound releases, and because his name had been hovering in the upper reaches of my ‘must give a listen’ list for quite some time, I welcomed the opportunity. I had wondered what soundworlds, tonal colours and rhythms Hiorthoy might proffer. His artwork led me to imagine that his music might be gently ambient, soft-edged and warm-hued, idiosyncratic and intuitive. In much of this I was right, but with one significant exception: Hopeness forges some fairly driving, noisy rhythms around which the guessed-at gentle melodies ebb and flow. This is particularly true of the 11 minute You Know The Score. It’s these determined rhythmic exoskeletons which initially demand attention and remain in memory the first few times after the music has died away. On further listening the tippytoeing of wheezy keyboards and the gentle patter of electric piano gradually encroach upon the awareness. Around and about these elements are arranged occasional samples of singsong Scandinavian speech. Perhaps primarily because of this, but also because of its overall sonic palette, Hopeness recalls Hans Appelqvist’s cd Tonefilm (2002).

Hiorthoy is one of a lineage of artists turned music-makers which includes any number of artschool graduates who turned from sculpture and painting to music, but more accurately he can be placed alongside people like Russell Mills – designer of cd covers for the likes of David Sylvian and Bill Laswell – and Brian Eno, who continue to practice in both worlds. The temptation to experience Hiorthoy’s music in synaesthetic association with his artwork is difficult to avoid. Perhaps this is why Hiorthoy’s designs for his own releases are rather different from the rest of his work, displaying people’s faces apparently caught offguard. Hopeness is less structurally ambitious than expected, though any disappointment implied by this observation probably reflects more upon me than it should upon the music. Warm-hearted, low-key and really rather lovely this EP has a naïve charm which is communicated by its makeshift English, but entirely appropriate name.
Colin Buttimer
May 2004
Published by Milkfactory