Harlequins Enigma decided it was time to release his first ‘Best of’ solo performance album, in February 2014. The album is mix from the artist’s previous period from 2008/2009 and also includes material from his comeback year in 2013, plus a few releases from January 2014.
Harlequins Enigma is Åge Riisnes who was introduced to music in 1991 via Protracker on the Amiga platform. He, like all others had a hard time starting from scratch producing music. His goals in the 90`s was to become a Boom Jinx, Atjazz and Mantronix` equivalent in skills, but he ended his career in 1998 with a footnote claiming to have ‘reached an above intermediate state in music’. Åge’s comeback in 2006 through 2007 was also tracker based, until 2008 where he started his career in the 16bit professional league.
Later on in his career he referred to an incident that happened at Haukeland Sykehus in Bergen, Norway (a psychiatric hospital) in 2000 or 2001. Here apparently a senior Doctor labelled him a ‘medium’ – a phrase that left him stunned!
Through his music, Åge Riisnes has made mental and spiritual contact with professional musicians such as Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, Klaus Schulze, Jan Garbarek, Kate Bush, Dave Weckl, Kitaro and many others. A real milestone is Jean Michel Jarre’s use of Age’s track “Bells” on his 2004 album release Metamorphosis.
In 2009 Harlequins Enigma produced a staggering 400 tracks, both 8 and 16 bit, of which many made it to finished masters. The “Best of Åge” though, only contains solo material by the artist.
One thing that I love about Åge Riisnes is that he performs with the liberty to do whatever he wants to. He is in no way chained by record companies telling him what music to make and who to sound like. Once upon a time in the music industry, if you were really different, you were given the chance to express your own concept of sound art. Today, if you try to do something different, then you get immediately categorized, and end up in the “not likely to sell” filing cabinet.
Åge Riisnes is one of those who would probably end up in the “not likely to sell” filing cabinet, by record companies. But if you love the innovators of electronic music like Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Tomita, Mike Oldfield, and even Vangelis, then you cannot overlook one of the best outsiders looking in, like Åge.
Åge has been working these past years, building his own unique sound, and trying to stay alive through all the modern-day musical confusion of overnight pop stereotypes. Åge Riisnes and Harlequins Enigma’s most loyal fans though, have a particular expectation of what music he creates. And he never under-delivers or disappoints them.
Even with all the modern technology available, Åge Riisnes does not fall into the trap of re-mixing his tracks with the current synthpop sound used in mainstream electronica. People often link music to events in their lives, thereby forming recollections and associations with time periods. The 14 tracks that make up the “Best of Åge” ” stay original, organic and retro sounding. Thereby fully respecting the integrity of the time periods from whence each song came.
Åge Riisnes’ use of digital technology at different times in his career is evident on this album, from start to finish, and makes it a memorable piece of work. That the “Best of Åge” is also so brimming with power and imagination is even more extraordinary. It is an album that displays the full range of Åge’s talent, where he matches up technique, experimentation and emotional power.
How many trance, ambient and techno songs have you heard that have the same drum arrangement and even the same synth, string and pad work? That’s because today’s ‘synth superstars’ all work with the same mountain of software, samples and patches, having no musical or technical knowledge whatsoever. Åge Riisnes’ uses the minimum amount of instruments and the maximum amount of creativity and knowledge!
This keeps Åge’s music-sound fresh, guaranteeing that the “Best of Åge” is one of those music albums that will never become obsolete with time.