OUR MEMORIES OF WINTER
A few years ago, a well-known German music journalist described the powerlessness of the written word when subjectivity in the judgement of music is the point. "You can`t justify what you love!" I can`t remember the context in which it was written but I perfectly remember how perplexed I was about the conclusive explanation of this difficult situation in which you can`t help but give a subjective description of music even though you actually want to report in an objective way.
Of course, announcing our new releases we fortunately can put it this way: to hell with objectivity! And that`s - especially in the case of Norken and his new album Our Memories of winter - more than necessary because Norris` music is emotional in such a way that a sober judgement, predominantly focused on technical details, is strictly forbidden.
The question, if his wonderful house- and techno tracks maybe minimal or under the obligation to any kind of school can be dismissed as small-minded - more than ever after this album. His tracks are stories, every single one of them a microcosm, a small world of its own. These stories are neither complicated nor top-heavy and they are not counting on any effects in order to get somewhere. Lee Norris composes in a different way, his music rests in itself, talks for itself, sings for itself and seems to be more directed to the inside than to the outside. Yes, you can almost get the feeling Norken has said goodbye to the characteristics of western ideology like competition, function or unconditional progress. He was once called "the man who makes machines cry", a neat expression that is only half the truth - because he makes our mind laugh.
Of course, Norken hasn`t - with Our Memories... reinvented machine-soul all by himself but he raised it to a new level. He took his time to do that and that`s what he asks from us, but he doesn`t make it easy for us. If you are not ready to listen, to invest patience and dedication, you will never really enter his world - you will just pass by and pick up some nice impressions but you won`t lose your heart.
This sound has nothing to do with hipsterism and Norris passes on using the latest plug-in in his productions - and why should he? The possibilities of the existing ones are by far not utilized. Norken-music is very English but nobody would doubt it, if you would credit him with Detroit-roots. Our Memories of Winter is packed with this relaxed and inviting soft-kicking grooves which made him so popular, but from time to time the album becomes rougher than its predecessor what - hard to believe - even boosts the deepness of his songs.
Listen to Ty Canol! A poem full of depth and melancholy, produced along the frontiers of pain, carried by its typical dripping melodies and that mountain of groove. No dancefloor could stand that sound - anyway that`s not where you want to go with this track. Because this is private - but don`t be afraid! Its wonderful arcs of melody and slightly frisky beats are once again a highlight for every dj who has got more to offer than using the sledgehammer all night long.
Imagine there would exist a bridge between Springthemes and the new album, then you could find Folio und especially Eastern Soul, two members of the fleet-footed house-section, taking their place in the gallery of Norken-classics. Arriving on the other shore, Norken doesn`t look back anymore, settles the rest of the album on new land and finally comes up to the quality of his Metamatics-masterpiece From Deathword To Passwords.
It starts with the sunrise-drive-super-track Memories, followed by the unbelievable It might have been rain, a piece of Detroit-house which step by step becomes more thrilling. The almost Celtic Here advances towards straightness and is being replaced by the pre-maxi-track Flirt, which enchants once more with a floating version of Detroit-techno. And when Nights mixture2 evokes memories of Madchester times, then everybody knows that - in spite of new shores - we are still in England. The overflowing Audic strable and its playful sound are the last part of a trip which keeps promises - it never made. The voices of Marie-Louise Munck (Antenne) and Celine Lambert are worked up and alienated on some tracks. Norken uses the singing as instrument and the voice as the most feminine of instruments has found its perfect place, just like every synthesizer-part. He seems to make sure that his equipment won`t get jealous. An amazing act of equal treatment.
Perfection represents no option for Norken 2005. Although many of his tracks sound filigree and are fascinatingly detailed, they are still fragile and vulnerable. Tim Kottmann`s cover-art, based on an photograph made by Robin Merkisch for the pre-maxi and the album, illustrates the music in an appropriate way: it`s organic and down-to-earth, it`s wide and fragile, but it also describes - by leaving white openings between the boulders - the clarity and the ambivalence of the artificial. Is it snow? We suppose it is, but we can`t be sure. One thing is for sure - it`s an surface and surfaces are defining the sound of Our Memories.... , just like the blankets you need during wintertime outside the big cities - even in South West England`s predominantly mild climate. Norken describes the winter as what it is: dark and melancholic, but sometimes at the same time sunny, warm and friendly - while snowflakes are falling down on the other side of the window.