Thursday 1 February 2024

'Nord Havn' by Kalaha

Kalaha have established a reputation for themselves that now comes with the expectation from listeners that, musically, anything for them is possible.

With releases through the revered April Records, the Danish quartet have revelled in music that runs the literal gamut of dynamic and varied soundscapes that displays the group's propensity to continuously defy genres and musical boundaries.

Kalaha's last album - 'Tutku' released in 2022 - saw the core unit incorporate vocalist Hilal Kaya into the fold along with the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra in their celebration of 70's Turkish music; prior to that, 'Mystafa' (2021) proved a thrilling showcase for Kalaha's musical gumbo style of global grooves, electronica and even some 80's synthpop that was nothing short of joyous.

Having initially come together after having performed an improvised show in 2013 at the electronic STRØM festival in Copenhagen, Kalaha are comprised of band members Niclas Knudsen on guitars, Emil de Waal on drums and percussion, Jens "Rumpistol" Christiansen on synths and Rhodes and Anders Stig Møller on bass and synths.  Over the years, the Kalaha collective have become their own dynasty of sorts with the individual band members firmly immersed as solo artists in their own right and collaborators across a multitude of various projects.

While past releases have seen the quartet relish in the excitement of collaboration - including tracks with the aforementioned vocalist Kaya, Peter Lopes Andersson, My Wittenburg Berents, Lærke Viola Lentz Milani and Kirsten Louise Bidstrup Hemmingsen - 'Nord Havn' sees Kalaha keep things more in-house and more instrumental this go-round.  It could also be said that while 'Tutku' was in fact a wonderful achievement, the record was fully immersed in their vision of psychedelic Turkish rock and in turn perhaps the most focused Kalaha release in some years.  'Nord Havn' uses the group's jazz sensibilities as a fascinating springboard to present their more typically unpredictable sonic palette across the album's nine tracks.

The slow build of the brilliant album opener 'CiklideKaj' is bolstered by some excellent guitar work that fuels a dusty and gritty Western undercurrent for the song which is then masterfully followed by the considerably more pop-y tones of 'Norsk Fars'.  A one-two combination that perfectly encapsulates Kalaha's ability to take their music in vastly different directions but still find a way to keep each song making sense with the one before and the one after.  The incredible sonic adventure that is 'Tunnel Fabrik' warrants special mention as the blistering, multi-textured and energetic gem is a real standout. 

April Records have long proved to be a phenomenal label bolstered by some immeasurably talented artists who wave the flag proudly for Danish jazz.  As one of the label's flagship artists, Kalaha are a collective that embody these principles and continually step out of the box in a bid to push themselves and the genre forward.  And even though Kalaha clearly don't like to make it easy for themselves, we all now know that for them - musically - anything is possible.

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