Artists Of The Year CMU Approved

Approved 2016: Moddi

By | Published on Monday 12 December 2016

Every day this week in the CMU Approved slot, we’ll be looking at one of our five favourite artists of 2016. First up, Moddi…

Released in September, Pål Moddi Knutsen’s fourth album ‘Unsongs’ is a vast and laboriously constructed project. Its twelve tracks are cover versions of songs from around the world that were banned. With a tracklisting whittled down from hundreds of possible inclusions, the record includes music that led to songwriters being imprisoned, killed, or simply denied airplay.

Translating the songs into English where necessary, Moddi takes some artistic liberties in places, though he attempted as much as he could to make contact with the original writers to assure that their message remained. The result is a powerful collection of songs that each make their individual points, as well as a wider statement about censorship.

Highlights include his stunningly stripped down version of Pussy Riot’s ‘Punk Prayer’ and his version of ‘Army Dreamers’ by Kate Bush, which was among songs banned by the BBC during the first Gulf War.

The latter song may possibly seem like a less worthy addition to the record – after all, no one died or was sent to prison because of it, and it’s not even clear if it actually missed out on any airplay. However, in an interview with The Quietus, Moddi notes that seemingly innocuous bans like this have led to a fear of censorship amongst many Western artists and a tendency to self-censor, severing the relationship between music and politics in the mainstream.

To go deeper, there’s a comprehensive website with videos and articles about the songs on the record. It’s well worth delving into. Though a good starting point is simply to listen to ‘Unsongs’ in isolation. It’s grip is as much emotional as its is political, and that is what makes it an album that I’ve returned to repeatedly in recent months.

Watch the video for ‘Punk Prayer’ here:

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