other work
Foxy Digitalis
Astra & Knyst

Voks, the recording project of Copenhagen-based artist Mikkel Moir Pihl, has appeared among the Dekorder roster for some time, but has released only a few 3” CDs. Too bad, really, because he’s creating some utterly infectious Mad Hatter pop toons that sound like little else being made right now.

Most of these songs are based on simple Asian or European folk and pop melodies, often using, what sounds like, the whistle, quena, or accordian tones from one of those children’s Casio keyboards. The melodies are generally set to frantic, mechanized rhythms that will perk up the ears of many Residents fans. Elsewhere, Voks explores the twangy goodness of Spaghetti Western guitar lines that maintain a melodic and rhythmic consistency with the aforementioned songs. These elements coalesce quite nicely on “Okse”, perhaps the strongest and most varied track on the album.

Indeed, there is a child-like simplicity to much of “Astra & Knyst”, like an elementary schooler riffing on that recorder they were given in music class. But much of these electronically doctored songs have a manic energy that course through them, turning them into something far more bizarre and unsettling than what they appear to be on the surface. They may seem friendly, but you might get buttons sewn over your eyes as well.

David Perron
The Wire
Astra & Knyst

Depending on the listener's tolerance for winsomeness, this latest release from Copenhagen odd-pop savant Mikkel Moir Pihl - following two 3" CDs, Darkvaks (2005) and Vaks Vanskab Ak (2003), which found favour with John Peel - could either delight or dismay. Pihl's approach to (mostly) electronic music isn't moody, dancefloor orientated or especially futuristic; rather, he takes delight in essaying a busy, breezy sweetness which frequentlyy borders on the manic, a tendency particularly evident with the ticklish duo of "Papirmekanik" and "Kakla" and closing track "Knyst".

Several of the tracks here gesture at a kind of hyperactive modern folk music comparable to Ghost Box at their most twee, not to mention the eccentric sound collage of British duo Position Normal, the latter of whom are distinctly evoked by the whistling "Kreds". Pihl's outlook is far from parochial, however, looking beyond Europe and incorporating fragments of African pop, Chinese traditional music and Polynesian dance into his exquisite miniatures. This pick 'n' mix approach to global music will always have its nagging problems. And yet, like Martin Denny and Les Baxter before him, the Dane contrives a mythic music which beguiles with its fragmentary strangeness, its numerous inputs processed with skill and consideration, infinitely preferable to the airbrushed hybridisation of Vampire Weekend and their like.

Joseph Stannard
Eo Ipso

"Voks" is the Danish word for "wax", and, just like hot molten wax, Voks' music is extremely flexible and it just hurts so good.

Consider this: the artist known as Voks has been brought up in a rural area north of Copenhagen and in his adolescence develops a favour for solitary walks through the adjacent woods (whereupon he probably meets fairies and midgets and finds the odd mushroom), but also for the world of computers.

Even in his childhood he'd indulged in creating noise by means of his toy collection or mother's household appliances. Later, when learning how to write computer programs, the machine becomes a welcome tool for the production of pretty weird sounds. Well, at least that's roughly what Voks' biography says.

"Darkvaks" is Voks' second album, and it's released as a very cute iccle three-inch compact disc. The Surrealist cover artwork may point the listener in the right direction, for the music on "Darkvaks" is likewise irrational and inexplicable. Sudden tempo changes, absurd anti-song structures, polyrhythmical patterns, melodies from the children's songbook, and random bleep sequences reminiscent of a robot gone mad, form a fascinating alliance.

At any given point, the sound clusters remain suggestive, yet utterly indefinite. Sometimes, Voks' sonic frolics even put a smile on your face - it's just so weird you can't help it. This is truly mind-expanding music, and therefore highly recommended!
The Wire

"I like cold and intellectual music - I don't plan for my music to be appreciated by children", declares Danish musician Voks, and it's hard to dislike the stern cut of his jib. Hard, too, to dislike Darkvaks (Dekorder 3"CD), especially its cover, whose photomontage includes a Residents-like eyeball staring down from a tree at a cloud that has apparently forgotten how to float. Darkvaks is a bizarre toybox of misshapen concoctions and replications. Its opening, untitled track, set amid a quiet tempest of organs and xylophones, features what sounds like a doll that spouts Gregorian chant when you yank the string in its back. Another features similar plastic belchings of player piano, another feels like an attempt to mass-market a plastic toy version of Konono No.1. The ninth and final track might be the imagined soundtrack to a Japanese ceremony. All perfectly useless, in the useful sense of the word.

David Stubbs

When „Vaks Vanskab Ak“ was released on Dekorder two years ago, I wrote “there is nothing you can be sure about with Voks”, and that is still very much true. It is a shuffled and mixed up kids book of parts funny folk music and parts digital electronic disruption, parts light as medieval dances and parts broodingly dark as the industrial mindset of the late Eighties, it is parts using toyinstruments in a weird way and parts using the computer in even weirder ways. From Peter and the Wolf to Blade Runner and back to the Hobbits and then off to the neverending story. The result is a pleasing invitation into a completely different world, a place that jumps and bubbles with sounds and is drenched in little melodies. A fascinating little epic piece of music.

Those Darkvaks are a scrawny little folk, scourring amongst the trees and the bushes in the woods, living from the mist and the clouds and hurrying home into their cosy little caves when the darkness falls. They have a funny and wholesome life, all in all, caring for the plants in the forest and keeping the barks of the trees fresh and shining. Sometimes they are afraid of the big, hairy Varsenkraks, who get up and hunt the woods at night for fresh berries and healthy leaves, but who are so big and hefty that they sometimes stumble upon the Darkvaks and crush them to death. But aside from this, their only danger in live, the Darkvaks live a happy life, enjoying their little dresses made of mud and their meals made of dewdrops and the music of tiny bagpipes and even tinier drums being played there. And oh, how they dance and how they jump and how they drink and how they are able to turn an afternoon into a moment of pure bliss and happiness. But all of a sudden a new and hitherto unknown of danger lurks about. A dark cloud rises on the sky, and its shadow falls on every living thing drowning it in blackness. The Darkwvaks are very afraid and at first they don’t know what to do. Various efforts to fight against the evil cloud with their tiny means and little fighting power are futile. But they are finally able to come up with a great plan, which brings them together with the Krakkeldaks, who live in the highest regions of the mountain behind the Darkvaks woods and even makes the mythological people of Dansenkrang appear once more, who live so high up in the trees that they haven’t been seen by the Darkvaks for ages. Together in this strange but enriching unity they are able to stand up against what is threatening their lives. What this plan is and how they are able to defend their beautiful life of harmony and ease will not be opened to you right now. Let’s suffice it to say that it includes a lot of funny schemes and creative thinking, some interesting machinery to be built, some involuntary but invaluable help by the Varsenkraks also, and a glimpse into the future that will forever change the Darkvaks. Because, even though they are able to return to their simple lives, things definitely have changed and those changes will creep up here and there, slowly and unseen at first. But this already is a whole different story. At this point of our story we are concerned with the moral lessons that come from the Darkvaks feats that include overcoming their own dark sides, transcending polar opposites of old / new and known / unknown. This our story, here told, ends in a fabulous march of triumph and heroism, that leads the tiny little Darkvaks back to their cavernous castles, proud and more happy than they ever were.

Lustig wie auf einem karussell geht's bei den 10 tracks dieser 3"-cd zu. Rohe miniaturen, die sicherlich cartoons für kinder gut zu gesicht stünden. Aber auch pur macht die bunte bonbonpackung, deren oft quietschige sounds an china oder tanzende zwerge denken lassen, einen heidenspass. Manch einer mag sich angesichts der hier zelebrierten absurden opulenz an den plan, felix kubin oder general magic erinnert fühlen. Und auch wenn das alles manchmal fast nervt, ist es doch unglaublich gross.
Bad Alchemy

Die raffinierte "naivität" seiner elektronischen miniaturen haben dem kopenhagener vergleiche mit the residents, der plan, schlammpeitziger und pascal comelade eingebracht. Mit 10 neuen tracks, die wie ein aufgezogenes spielzeugorchestrion durcheinander rappeln, dudeln, quietschen und flöten, setzt er sein überkandideltes loony-tuning der welt fort (zumindest kleiner teile davon).

Die samples bewahren jede menge analogen kinderzimmercharme, um sich vom laptopeinerlei deutlich abzuheben. Aufgekratzte childish music, die einem tatsächlich mal ein lächeln und kein "ihr nervt!" abnötigt und dabei nicht vergisst, dass es auch in china und arabien kinder gibt und steckdosen und schrägere tonarten als pampers-dur.
Vaks Vanskab Ak

Ten little themes to movies from the 1920ies never produced? Ten strolls through the woods trying to find you own mental health? Ten narcoleptic trips through sounds produced by mentally instable artists? Ten electronic experimental essays or even theorems? Who knows. Which movie are you in?

Another strange little release from the label that brought (to me) the comeback of john hegre and another scandinavian artist whose work is hard to describe. This time it is voks, real name not known, from denmark and all the real information i could gather was, that he composes using a computer, but i am not sure. It could also be children’s toys, or manipulated instruments or cheap keyboards or something else anyway. One thing is for sure though, voks has an obsession with weird little synthie-sounds and likes to form them into concrete patches of music that move at square beats and askew angles. Do you remember how funny people used to move in really old black and white movies (not counting on them being played in the wrong velocity), how the sets always seem a little strange and unreal (because they were all artificial back then) and how the acting seems so unbelievable and unrealistic? Now put that into music and you have narrowed to voks from one dimension.

Leaves about one or two dozen other dimensions open to explore on this collection of ten odd little ditties. Their size ranges from childlike plinkering on one keyboard-manual to deconstructed and manipulated sounds, a minority of tracks also has a beat, but of course nothing you’ll ever hear on a dancefloor. Sometimes “vaks vanskab ak” is like listening to a little child playing to himself, at other times you are thrown into the throes of postmodern reality, especially when sounds remind me of asian religious music and get connected with harmonica-like sounds or cheap second-hand-keyboards.

Have you noticed that i always use phrases like “-like” or “seem to be”? Because there is nothing you can be sure about with voks. Is it experimental music with a theory or the work of an artist exploring his subconscious? Or is one layer hiding the other? It could also be one big joke. If so, i don’t see the punch line. No, my guess is, that here is someone obsessed and following a route that his laid out for him and only for him to see. So i really can’t tell you for sure, what is coming next. “vaks vanskab ak” is a work that leaves more questions open than it answers, which is really no judgement of its value. In the meantime i am wondering, what the label will have in store for us in the future?
Vaks Vanskab Ak

Manchmal glaube ich, dass die Dänen da oben in Dänemark ein bisschen allein sind. So mit Lego, Carlsberg, ohne Vorwahlen beim Telefon usw. Ihr wisst schon. Menschen wie Voks zum Beispiel. Hat Goodiepal zum Freund, hat über ihn schon mal eine 7" auf V/Vm flüchten lassen und quetscht jetzt hier 10 Tracks auf eine kleine 3"-CD, 10 Sketche, die allesamt so klingen, als wäre das ganze Kinderzimmer in den Rechner gezogen, weil das mit den Großeltern einfach zu anstrengend wurde irgendwann und ein Mitglied der Bontempi-Familie lieber als Sample weiterlebt, sich ewig transponieren lässt, dabei die digitalen Clippings wie Fliegen fängt, als immer wieder nur neuen Tee zu machen. Macht sich auf jeden Fall gut so ein Kinderzimmer im Rechner, auch wenn ich die Busse vermisse. Vielleicht der Soundtrack zu Toystory 5, vielleicht Wahnsinn, vielleicht aber auch einfach so weit draußen, dass der Bus da nie hin kommen kann.

Vaks Vanskab Ak

Dans leur espace laboratoire installé dans un petit village à côté de Copenhag, Voks imagine un pays imaginaire où les mélodies enfantines se frotte à l'électronica la plus pointue, et les sonorités africaines se languissent sur des mélodies kraut-rock sucrées. Guitares langoureuses, électro neurasthénique, accordéons et jumbe numériques , Voks réussit le grand écart entre Oval et Tortoise, entre compiles « Clicks and Cuts » de Mille Plateaux et catalogue Crammed Disic. Plages paysagistes, Voks invente la Bo d'un songe musical raconté par un compteur africain. Superbe.. (LG)
Logo Magazine
Vaks Vanskab Ak

Though he lives in Copenhagen-by-the-sea, Voks' music inhabits a dark forest where strange creatures frolic and deep mysteries abide. Over the twenty minutes of this 3-inch mini-album he has produced an assemblage of future noir, sinister litanies and dark nursery rhymes that recall unseen creatures speaking in tongues unheard since man tamed the wilderness. 'Skelet Togt', which, if my pidgin Danish still works, translates roughly as 'Dead Skeletons', sounds like Portishead and Goldfrapp meeting in a black forest, while 'Flaterne Kommer' sounds like Evelyn Glennie tapping away on the ribcage of one of those skeletons. It's electronica, but it's never sounded so aged as this. Magnificent.

Fela Lewis
Freq Music Magazine
Vaks Vanskab Ak

Lurching like a toytown drunkard from busking clockwork robot to a freeform Improv group composed of wind-up toys left to play their instuments at random, Voks' sound is simple yet quite deranged. the ten tracks on Vaks Vanskab Ak hold a fascinating melancholy despite their jolly, enthusiastic lo-fi electronic sound. Beamed from somewhere in the distant past of childhood TV programmes, where mysteriously archetypal cutout figues parade to the rippling glockenspiel and dribbled pipes of Pan junior or the distantly-paced reeds and drums of "Obo Omo", this is a music which is strangely nostalgic for an imaginary past when the world really was new and strange.

The curious faux-Middle Eastern Techno of "Tuuie" picks up a halting rhythm with the frenetic enthusoiasm of an autistic juvenile intent on making their own music, regardless of the formula; it must be said, sometimes with as irritating a tendency to nag away repeatedly too on some pieces, like the patience-trying wheezing of "Ankergang". Plinking and wandering from one idea and track to the next, Vaks Vanskab Ak is a triumph of idiosyncrasy, magpie insertions and crazy arrangements fitted carefully together like a towering sprawl of Lego - simple to discern what it's made of, but not necessarily so easy to understand - or enjoy - without a willing supension of (adult) belief.

Linus Tossio
Igloo Mag
Vaks Vanskab Ak

It's like a 10-track (all under 3 minutes) mini cartoon album on 3" disc! Part Pink Panther, part Mouse on Mars, this is an incredibly clever-sweet spin that has a relentless upbeat sense of perky beats, almost like a harpsichord in the snow. Shucking out his debut album, Copenhagen's Voks has formerly worked with Goodiepal and V/VM with the camaraderie of humor certainly passing hands for sure. Plink, plunk a go-go....and here you have one of those special bright spots on those nasty gray days - something you can play for friends that may even warrant a gut full of laughter. These are little haiku sketches with some vague Asian undertones and a connect-the-dots attitude.
(K-RAA-K)3 Newsletter
Vaks Vanskab Ak

Een andere release komt van Voks.
Geen idee wie ze zijn, maar de muziek is klassieke cut-up waarbij Rachel's
verward wordt met Fennesz. Zacht en lief komt de track na 18 minuten tot
stilstand, maar oh boy, wat een nummer. Misschien maakt
http://www.dekoder.com je wat wijzer.
Vaks Vanskab Ak

Siden debut-ep'en Tre Små Spøgelseshistorier (1996) er der unægtelig sket en markant udvikling i københavnske Voks' musik. Siden den skrabede og ultra-minimalistiske debut har Voks bl.a. været omkring Goodiepals Goodiebag-serie og på www.datamusik.dk-hjemmesiden, ligesom han også har medvirket på et par opsamlinger. På trods af at Voks genremæssigt har bevæget sig godt og grundigt omkring, har fællesnævneren for hans musik altid været en art naivistisk eventyrunivers beboet af finurlige og ofte barnligt fabulerende ordsammenstillinger og umiddelbart simpelt opbyggede elektroniske kompositioner.På den nye ep Vaks vanskab ak fortsætter han med ti skitseagtige numre i samme stil. Med en simpel og legesyg elektronisk musik, der trækker på så forskellige aner som Residents´ mere melodisk, kantede repertoire, østeuropæisk dukkefilmsmusik og ikke mindst den legesyge nerve, der også præger åndsfællen Goodiepals musik. På det lydmæssige niveau kommer Voks - med alt fra billige legetøjs-synths over træblæsere og mere orkestrale elementer - vidt omkring. Musikken bliver dog ikke på noget tidspunkt hverken for indviklet eller mudret. Tingene bliver med god effekt holdt simple og bæres oppe af små legesyge melodiskitser, hvilket underbygger det umiddelbart naive eventyrunivers, der lyder som en lydlig udgave Grimms mere grumme fortællinger. Musikken indeholder en konsekvent undertone af uro, der gør, at man som lytter - lokket af de gode melodier - bevæger sig længere og længere ind i Voks´ underskov af uhygge og mere skæve indfald.

Vaks vanskab ak er et absolut spændende og originalt bekendtskab, der vil kunne lokke de fleste med øre for en god skæv melodi på afveje. Man kan beklage sig over, at enkelte af ep'ens ti numre kun er omkring to minutter lange, hvilket medvirker til, at Vaks vanskab ak flere steder kommer til at fremstå lige lovligt skitseagtig. På den anden side vidner dette om, at Voks kender sin begrænsning og ikke lader numrene køre i tomgang - på dén måde kunne han have mistet det kreativt legesyge overskud, som langt det meste af ep'en lægger for dagen.

Anmeldt af
Morten Bruhn
Vaks Vanskab Ak

Voks Velskabt Tak!

Det er ikke alle danske elektroniske plader, der ligefrem fængsler én fra første sekund. Men debutpladen fra Voks, eller Mikkel Moir Pihl, er anderledes. 'Vaks Vanskab Ak' er en samling skævvredne breakbeatskitser, der lyder omtrent som en skizofren, instrumental hiphopversion af musikken til 'Vinden i Piletræerne'. Hver af pladens ti snublende indsatser leger med sin egen inspiration: Uheldsvanger computerspilsmusik, stammesang, tysk electronica, caraibiske olietønder, pseudomavedans, dopet klarinettrutten.

Og energien sitrer! Lyt blot til pladens vidunderlige, Højholtagtige titler: 'Skelet Togt', 'Hottenslot', 'Kap Nakken Hak Hak', 'Hest I Hul' og - ikke mindst - 'Kaks'. Det er ord, man får lyst til tage i sin mund, og numrene på cd'en besidder samme kropslige, idiosynkratiske appel: det er musik, der hopper, svupper, knejser, knækker så lystigt, at man får lyst til at knipse med, smælde med tungen, klaske sig på lårene og knalde hælene kækt sammen i luften som en anden Fætter Højben på koffeinchok.

'Vaks Vanskab Ak' er musik for alle, der havde svært ved at sidde stille på stolen i skolen. På molen. Holen. Hak!

Janus Køster-Rasmussen
Vaks Vanskab Ak

De sidste par år har den danske computermusiker Voks optrådt i forskellige sammenhænge rundt omkring. Han var for eksempel med på Xart Hybrid-sampleren, og han har numre liggende på det fine datamusik.dk, hvilket i sig selv er et kvalitetsstempel. Den lille 3” CD Vaks vanskab ak er Voks’ første egentlige udspil, og lad mig straks slå fast, at der er tale om en meget sympatisk og ret usædvanlig plade. Nok har vi at gøre med elektronisk musik, men det er en underlig afart, der ligger et godt stykke fra såvel soundscapes som raveagtig techno. Hvis man skal tale om musikalske forfædre, må det være The Residents og deres mærkværdige cirkuseksperimenter fra halvfjerdserne og firserne. Man kan måske endda være mere præcis og pege på The Residents’ Commercial Album fra 1980, der udover stilmæssige ligheder også har det til fælles med Vaks vanskab ak, at der er tale om mange numre på kort tid: fyrre numre på fyrre minutter hos The Residents, ti numre på tyve minutter hos Voks.
Pladens åbningsnummer, Skelet togt (hvem synes ikke, at det er en god titel?), er en meget stemningsfuld sang, der veksler mellem en gyseragtig orgelmelodi og en grum marchrytme. Hvis man skulle lave en tegnefilm om nogle skeletter, der tog på togt, så ville man her have det perfekte soundtrack. I det hele taget kan man godt sige, at Vaks vanskab ak med sin blanding af barnagtige lyde og melankolske melodier lyder som et soundtrack til en tegnefilm – om end der ville være tale om en ret surrealistisk af slagsen.

Efter Skelet togt – som er pladens mest poppede nummer og i øvrigt det sted, hvor det minder mest om The Residents – kommer den mærkværdige Hottenslot, som er i en lidt anden boldgade. Vi har her at gøre med en eksperimenterende suppe af elektroniske knirkelyde, der sammen med et beat laver en opklippet melodistruktur, der er ret fængende, selvom den nærmest ikke hænger sammen. Nummeret er et godt eksempel på, hvad Voks for alvor har succes med: at mixe barnlige og fængende melodier med avantgardistiske lydeksperimenter, så det på den ene side ikke ender i det rene lal og på den anden side heller aldrig er ren friform.

Blandingen og den gensidige påvirkning af barnlige melodier og flippede eksperimenter er gennemgående på pladen. Et eksempel er Tuuie, der begynder med en tilsyneladende helt strukturforladt xylofon, som bliver suppleret med et par lige så flippede orgler, hvorefter det hele på højst uventet vis bliver understøttet af et papkasseagtigt trommebeat, der ligesom tvinger en melodi ud af galskaben. Et andet eksempel er Klarina, hvor vi først får én orgelmelodi, dernæst én til der blander sig med den første på en sær måde, hvorefter det hele, mens man mindst venter det, bliver afløst af en tuba-agtig marchrytme, der vender sagerne på hovedet og samtidig strukturer dem. Man bliver konstant overrasket, men på en måde hvor det hele giver mening.

Numrene på Vaks vanskab ak er præget af noget, der ligner en sangskrivningsbaseret struktur. Hvis man hører til dem, der får knopper af introvert electronica, der forsøger at fremkalde følelser ved at gentage den samme klichéfyldte flade af mol-klange om og om igen, så er det befriende at få en plade, hvor kunstneren leverer sit budskab hurtigt og præcist – især når det sker på en så raffineret måde, som det er tilfældet her. Kap nakken hak hak hak, Flåterne kommer og Ankergang (måske pladens højdepunkt) er alle eksempler på, at Voks har et stort talent for at komponere poppede og enormt stemningsfulde melodier ud fra et lydunivers, der i naivitet og C64-agtighed nærmer sig det direkte åndssvage.

Hvis man skal sætte en finger på Vaks vanskab ak, kan man måske nok sige, at naiviteten bliver lidt trættende i længden. Voks insisterer i dén grad på at holde sig til det simple, og det får engang i mellem det hele til at virke lidt ugennemarbejdet. For eksempel er Obo omo ikke en specielt spændende sang. Kaks, der lyder som en slags ufærdig version af noget, Steve Reich kunne have lavet, holder heller ikke nogen vågen om natten. Men i det store hele er det barberede udtryk særdeles vellykket. Vaks vanskab ak er en fin plade, der byder på glæde, humor, melankoli, personlighedssplittelse og meget andet.

Af Martin Laurberg