DEBUT ALBUM – BAD SCIENCE FICTION
Released on Propeller Records on September 20th.
FIRST SINGLE – BLACK FREIGHTER with Ase Britt Jacobson online now
“I guess you could call it dystopian sci-fi country that you can listen to when you’re hungover,” laughs singer-songwriter Bjørn Tomren – “I’ve heard it called ‘gothic Americana’ too, but it’s just what comes out really.”
This eloquent summary gives an insight into the surreal mind of Bjørn Tomren whose debut release ‘Black Freighter’ is available now The track heralds the release of Tomren’s debut album ‘Bad Science Fiction’ released by Propeller Records on September 20th.
“In Fensfjorden, Hordaland, I waited for a black freighter to pass, so I could cross the fjord” recalls Tomren by way of explaining the title, a journey he made whilst rowing from North to South Norway – more of which later. ‘Black Freighter’ was originally conceived for Tomren’s throat-singing band but morphed into the current version via an intriguing variety of influences that include the novels of Lewis Carrol, ‘90’s indie band The Sundays and the legendary US comedian Carol Channing.
Tomren hadn’t intended it to take this long before releasing his debut but life got in the way. He’d picked up the guitar at 14 having been initially introduced to the likes of AC/DC before moving on Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Nirvana, The Sex Pistols and The Rolling Stones. It’s a fascinating career path that includes studying Psychology, Greek and Philosophy, working in a mental hospital and working as a clown in a small family circus.
When he wasn’t doing that he “kayaked the length of Norway and then Finland. Then I walked from the South to the North of Norway, then walked across the country on skis and rowed across in a small rowboat, holding the world record for most crossings of Norway.”
It was whilst touring the US with Aha in his yodelling duo that Tomren came to the attention of a music producer who liked his voice and urged him to write some songs. Not long after he came to the attention of country music legend Steve Earles.
A stint at the maestro’s songwriting camp produced the track Bonnie and Clyde a song which Earles immediately enthused about. “Well there’s not much to say about this; it’s just a fucking great song”. As a long term fan of Earles, and his mentors Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, Tomren was ‘over the moon’.
Bjørn’s idiosyncratic approach – blending more traditional sounds of the past with tales of a fantasy future to illuminate what’s going wrong in the present – is realised with a sonic palette that teams country with the raw-nerved humanity of The National, the playful but profound soul of John Grant, the ambient darkness of David Sylvian and a few cinematic flourishes around the edges.
You’ll hear it on the haunting warning ‘Last Girl In The World’, imagining a lonely time after climate change. Then there’s the open road ditty of ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ and the absurdist but affecting ‘Flying Robots Killing People’. There’s a lot to get lost in.
“Half of the record is kind of protest songs,” Tomren says of his debut album. “Staring into screens while facing extinction has become our new reality, and that’s something we need to address in music as well.
“In the shadow of modern technology, climate changes and environmental catastrophes the question of what really matters is more relevant than ever. We need to speak on these issues.”
Bjørn has teamed up with Åse Britt Jakobsen who performs the backing vocals, features on one track – Black Freighter – and contributed to the arrangements of many of the songs.
Now that he’s finally here Tomren’s fantastic journey really begins. Of course, the restless Bjørn still has another mad quest in his sights beyond the music. “I’d love to try and unicycle the length of Japan,” he laughs, “but I’m not sure if there will be time enough for that this year.”