The Norwegian ensemble Jaga Jazzist has been a platform for many side projects, but Lars Horntveth has really raised the stakes with his new album, joining forces with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra to produce a 36-minute single track that invites the listener to take an uninterrupted journey across an imaginative sonic landscape (though passages of it are available to preview here). Here's my chat with Horntveth about some of the intentions and influences that made Kaleidoscopic possible...
TB: Continuity is a battleground issue in both music and film. Some filmmakers, such as David Lynch, disapprove of films being broken up into chapters on DVD, trying to make it more difficult for the viewer to disrupt the continuity of films. Meanwhile, the music industry is rapidly struggling to adapt to a world where listeners buy singles, not albums. Does Kaleidoscopic's structure comment on these sorts of issues?
LH: Yes, absolutely. The decision not to cut the album up in tracks was very thought through. It's not that I want to be difficult, but I think Kaleidoscopic has to be listened to from start to finish. There is just too much music released these days and so much of it just don't get the attention it deserves. I just like the idea that you sit down, relax and listen to music. Also that you make time for the music to work. Not all albums are made so you can “understand it” on the first listen. I love albums that take time to understand or like cause they are often those I listen to for many years. So I wanted to make an album like that.
TB: I read that you count Joanna Newsom among your influences. Can you describe Newsom's impact on Kaleidoscopic?
LH: Joanna Newsom´s Ys was on of the main reasons I wanted to have just on composition on the album. There are 5 tracks on Ys, but they are very long. I think for a pop/alternative singer like Newsom, it's a very brave decision to do that. I guess there were some fans that fell off, but she most certainly got some new, very dedicated ones. Musically, one of my all time favorite composers, Van Dyke Parks, has arranged the orchestra on the album and Jim O'Rourke mixed it. That's inspiration enough for me.
TB: What does the new Jaga Jazzist work you're rehearsing sound like to you after working on your own music for so long?
LH: Actually, the new Jaga album is already recorded. We are mixing it in February 2009. I think we have managed to combine more complex elements in the music this time. More progressive stuff, harder to play, but still catchy I think. While What We Must was a more straight going, indie rock/shoegazer influenced album, this one is very detailed and “written out.” It´s influenced by Steve Reich, Rick Wakeman, Dungen, Spirit, Fela Kuti, King Crimson, MGMT, Air etc. Hehe, I think it's too early for me to say what this album actually sounds like...
TB: How do you know when a musical idea you've had is something for Jaga Jazzist or something for you to work on solo?
LH: That's is actually not a problem for me. First of all, I have three main projects that I work with; Jaga, The National Bank and my solo stuff. There are so many people involved in these bands, so we have to plan our time very far ahead. So it just gets very natural what to do. We took a break with Jaga for almost 3 years, in that time it was natural for me to do something on my own. Another aspect is that with Jaga, I write for nine people I have known almost all my life, not nine professional musicians. In my solo works I work with classically trained musicians who just play what's on the written sheet. So the processes are very different from each other, democracy versus dictatorship.
TB: You set out to make this album without knowing what the outcome would be. Is that an experiment you'd like to repeat for future albums?
LH: I think that the idea of writing chronologically was very interesting and challenging. The main thing was to keep focus on what would be the right curve of the album. Not to make it too intense, but also not too quiet. I think that it could work to do something like this again. Anyway, I like concept albums, so I'll probably have some kind of dogma thing going on next time as well.