Nordic Breakthrough Palace Winter
The stars were aligned the day Carl Coleman met Caspar Hesselager during a brief music tour of Denmark in 2013. Both playing with different bands at the time, it was Danish native Hesselager’s astute foresight in identifying Coleman’s ability to fill the lyrical and vocal voids in his creative armory, that led him to approach the Australian to see if he might be interested in collaborating.
The pair decamped to Caspar’s Copenhagen studio, rocked out some tunes, and Palace Winter was born. Nine months later, the duo finished recording and mixing their debut EP, ‘Medication‘ but before they even got past first gear, were promptly snapped up by the uber eclectic record label, Tambourhinoceros. (which to this day I still have difficulty in saying).
Since the Summer, Palace Winter have released their stunner of a 5-track EP, wowing audiences across the Euro-zone with their live performances. They have hit the highs of Hype Machine, been played extensively on the musical mecca that is BBC6 Music, and are now on the cusp of releasing their debut album.
Hold on tight 2016, it’s gonna be a country-rockin’ roller-coaster of a Palace Winter ride. Yeehaw!
Nordic Best Solo Artist Nils Frahms
Words fail me when it comes to Nils Frahm. There is too much to say, and not enough words to say it with. Probably one of the 21st century’s musical geniuses, certainly one of a kind, Frahms has continued to stun worldwide audiences with his ingenious, unique and evocative compositions.
From his various collaborations with Ólafur Arnalds, to his standout, hair-raising performance for the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall; from his sell out European tour to his ‘Solo’ project, Frahms has been at the forefront of the ambient classical music scene for most of 2015.
An exceptionally talented composer, musician, performer and producer, everything that Frahms has turned his hand to this year has turned to musical gold.
There are very few music artists who have so consistently inspired such awe, who have so frequently reduced their captive audiences to tears – Frahms is one of them. And if you have any doubts, watch his spine tingling Proms performance, which was championed by the lovely MaryAnne Hobbs, here.
Nils Frahm sir, I salute your genius.
Nordic Best Group Blaue Blume
Copenhagen based Blaue Blume have pretty much dominated the Danish music scene this year. Having released their debut album, Syzygy, a Danish term for lunar or solar synchronicity or concurrences, to rapturous acclaim, Blaue Blume have pretty much beceome the darlings of Nordic music media.
Having achieved huge success in 2014 both internationally and domestically where ‘In Disco Lights’ was P6 Radio’s most played track, 2015 saw this uber cool quartet take it to another level. Syzygy took Blaue Blume’s hugely evocative sound, adorned it with operatic vocals, and laced it with strands of tempestuous instrumental and haunting harmonies. Trimmed with swatches of rock around the edges, it is an hugely diverse musical meld. Meticulously produced, with more polish than HRH’s Sterling Silverware, Syzygy is easily one of the best Nordic albums of 2015, giving Blaue Blume a clear edge over their Nordic peers.
Standout track, ‘Sky’, sends shivers up the spine. Listen to it here.
Nordic Best Video The Chopin Project ‘Eyes shut’
Classical maestros, Ólafur Arnalds & Alice Sara Ott, make up Chopin Project, whose exquisite crocheting of Chopin sequences into original scores, took the world of electro-classical by storm in 2015. The highlight for this reviewer was the tear-inducing ‘Eyes Shut’, the beautifully filmed visual for which, adeptly conveys the raw emotion of the music in the most understated way.
Directed by Mani Sigfusson, a long term collaborator of Arnalds’, who created a complete set of immaculate visuals for the project, this is a film whose only aim is to invoke a unique reaction from each individual viewer. Shot entirely in Iceland during the summer, in a stunning if bleak landscape, it is a beautifully simple visual. Strikingly edited, it has allowed the imagery to flow seamlessly with the movements of the musical tide. With the visual for ‘Eyes Shut’, Sigfusson has created a perfect symmetry between film and music.
Nordic Remix/Cover/Edit Moonbabies ‘Undone’ The Glass Children
Swedish electro-duo, Moonbabies, got a bit of a thing going on in 2015 with their English counterparts, The Glass Children. They did a bit of “I’ll do yours, if you do mine” kind of remix thing, and lo and behold, produced two very worthy listens indeed.
The Glass Children took the Swedes’ track ’24’, blew the froth off it and covered it in a dark shroud of pulsing electronica. Ditto, the Moonbabies who whipped TGC’s sombre ‘Undone’ into a vigorous percussive storm.
Picking which one was the best, was really 6 of 1, but I opted for the Moonbabies remix as it was more appropriate to the Nordic nature of the best of list. Both are wonderful songs, in their original formats and in their remixed states.
Hopefully, 2016 will see more such collaborations between Sweden and the UK! Come a little ‘Undone’ with the Moonbabies remix here.
Nordic Album of the Year
Chopin Project is the ground-breaking partnership of improv and ingenuity between German Japanese pianist, Alice Sara Ott, and Icelandic electro-classical wizard, Ólafur Arnalds. Together they have formed a perfect symmetry that has created their eponymous album, an overwhelmingly emotive opus, filled with humanity, sincerity and a great deal of love.
Born from Arnalds fond memories of a childhood filled with Chopin by his grandparents, the project lovingly and tenderly used pieces of the composer’s works, to form an arc through their critically acclaimed compilation of perfectly imperfect, fragile tracks.
Chopin Project is a the coming together of two exceptional talents, to produce an elegant, serene and heartfelt collection of beautifully arranged and outstandingly performed pieces of music. Standing Ovation.
Blaue Blume ‘Syzygy’
Olafur Arnalds/Alice Sara Ott ‘The Chopin Project’
Nordic Song of the Year
There was only ever going to be one winner of this and it’s been top of the 2015 pile since the first day I heard it on the Fresh on the Net Dropbox!
Hooked from the very first beat, this fast paced, country-rock-dance track, with its whacking great beats a la Christian Rindorf and driving Carl Coleman guitars, bit down hard and infected my bloodstream with its addictive potency.
While Coleman also contributes a dreamily enticing vocal, multi-talented Great Dane, Caspar Hesselager, plays out several starring roles on synths/keys/bass/production and mixing. This tidy little unit has produced such a huge, widescreen, cinematic soundscape with full bells and whistle surround sound, and with such little fuss, that it really quite beggars belief.
Rangleklods ‘Lost U’
Blaue Blume ‘Sky’
Palace Winter ‘Menton’