“In the fear of being lonely I tried it all to get you back There were things you never told me Like your heart was painted black”
So run the opening lines of Berlin based alt-pop cum indie artist Farao‘s 2013 single, ‘Tell A Lie‘, a cover version of which has just been released by her fellow Nord, Therese Auneas part of a series of exclusive covers featured by the German Kultmucke publication.
Farao’s original is an even-tempered electro-pop ballad – measured, simplex, bleak in aspect with funereal organ-like synths creating a dark underbelly penetrated by tight guitar loops, jagged handclaps and a refracting click track. The Norwegian’s voice is as light as a feather and cool as a Winter’s dawn. Yet, despite the regretful melancholic sentiment that lies at the heart of the song, Farao’s beguiling vocal interpretation remains clear, poised, at times almost detached from the track’s emotional resonance.
Step forward Therese Aune with a dazzling electronic arrangement that takes the tempo and spirit of the song to another level. So delightful is this interpretation that if one didn’t know the lyrics one’s reaction would be one of instant joy! Aune’s expressive vocal dances around the words and pirouettes between light-hearted synth reps and electro-beats. It’s as uplifting and energised as Farao’s version is coolly sophisticated. Two sides of the one song, as diverse as they are impressive.
Covers are always difficult and emulating the original should be avoided at all costs. With her version of ‘Tell A Lie’ Therese Aune has taken what was obviously a deeply personal song and made it very much her own. By re-choreographing it she has put her own unique stamp on this gloriously uncomplicated complex song. Bravo.
As I sat listening to the hoarse vocals crying through the sparse opening bars of ‘Back To Where I Begun‘, the debut single from Dublin duo, Motions, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d heard that rasping plaintiveness somewhere before. It was on the tip of my tongue and brim of my brain but nah …
Fate stepped in, it was getting bored, and whilst humming the melody I turned my head sideways and lo, there it was, a CD jutting out from my stockpile that immediate caught my eye. The album, ‘Violator’, the band Depeche Mode. Wham! It hit me. This cigarette stained and strained, guttural yet strong and commanding vocal was redolent of Mode frontman Dave Gahan on ‘Condemnation’, widely held by DM fans to be his finest vocal hour.
But this isn’t about Mode … this is about Motions, the upcoming Irish duo whose very single, in all its debut innocence, was voted by savvy music fans into the Top 10 Fresh Faves over on the BBC Introducing feeding ground, Fresh on the Net – click here to read the review!
Motions aka @MotionsMusic isthe enigmatic and mysterious Tom Daly and Dave Nulty, and currently an unknown entity. ‘Faceless anonymii’ about town around which wafts an air of Celtic mystery.
There’s no mystery to their music though – it’s attention-grabbing, showstopping alt-rock. Musical headlights with an option of dip function. Full throttle anthemic built on a weave of potent, grizzling guitars, spacious spiralling synths, vibrant drum rhythms and that ‘oh so amazing’, infectious vocal.
‘Back To Where I Begun’ opens in a near empty soundscape of spacious ‘piano’ chords and a wistful vocal, that from the outset create a brooding and regretful atmosphere. A steady, introspective build follows, as the song makes a gloriously dramatic ascent through chorus and verse to a clamorous climax. The chassis of the clangour is redolent of the chaos of the lyrics. Layers of looping sequences and thrashing percussion underpin Daly’s honest and memorable vocal and save for a momentary dip of the afore-mentioned headlights, bring the track to a dramatic close.
Instrumentally solid with a vocal powerhouse in Daly’s voice, Motions have effortlessly arrived at the perfect combination of musical strength and lyrical insightfulness. In fact, this duo make songwriting seem easy.
With a cleverly choreographed, ‘”Leave Your Emotional Baggage Behind” before it’s too late’ themed video, ‘Back To Where I Begun‘ is as ready-to-market/radio a commercial package as I have come across. [Although there are some scenes in the video that I wish I’d never seen, thanks, and someone give that guy a razor #beardrash]
The vocals are potent, the lyrics thought-provoking, the music anthemic and for a debut single, that’s something special.
It’s been over a year since I first stumbled upon the impossibly talented Norwegian music artist Line Kasa. After a long silence on her part, and much “patience” on mine, sorry couldn’t resist, Line is making a much welcome return in the company of her long-term collaborator and cousin Halvor Nordal Strand, with their Swanlike music project. It’s quite the pleasure to bring you their new EP, ‘Years‘, a veritable sparkling treasure chest containing four diverse, thought-provoking and moving compositions.
Swanlike is the moniker for a project of moving parts, headed up by Halvor and Line. Like shifting sands, the line up is made up of whoever is involved with the latest collaborative work; its current make up is Trym Gjermundbo, Øyvind Mathisen, and Sarah Nordal Strand. Hailing from Notodden, in the southern Norwegian municipality of Telemark, this group of young, upcoming musicians have known each other for most of their lives.
While Halvor does most of the composing, lyrics and vocal arrangements are down to Line, with the remaining instrumental duties being picked up by the other three members. The current line up has been playing and recording together for some time now and the ‘Years’ EP is a testament not just to their tightness as a unit, but to their relative ease with each other as a musical partnership.
While project founders Halvor and Line have long been admirers of each other’s music, their first love was for English supers, Radiohead. Speaking about key musical influences Haldor explains: “Everyone in the band loves Radiohead. Line and I are both massive fans. Also, James Blake’s debut album was a turning point for me. I was, and am, so drawn to his approach to electronic music – with negative space, minimalistic instrumentation and gospel and r&b-influences in the London electronic sound. There are too many to mention but some of my other inspirations are, Frank Ocean, Burial, Jon Hopkins, Røyksopp, Arca, Bon Iver, and Cashmere Cat.
Drawn away from the strum of guitars to the pulsing world of electronica on first hearing Radiohead’s experimental opus Kid A, Halvor developed a fascination for “the sound shaping possibilities in working with synths and computers” and says moving to electronic music was a natural progression.
Inspiration for the the EP came out of a night of spinning Sia and Røyksopp tunes. Their positive, party vibe triggered the opening note-sequence around which the song ‘June‘ was written. Swanlike craft their songs by using the well-worn ‘forwards-backwards’ system, as geographic location and availability aren’t always in sync and once the music to the single was laid down and Line had added the vocals, the song was finished off with Øyvind Mathisen on the mixing desk of his Oslo studio.
The opening track and possibly the strongest song on the EP ‘June‘, is a heart-melting, stirring track about holding onto a good but passionless relationship for all the wrong reasons. With comfort and security comes guilt and frustration, feelings which Line Kasa’s exquisite vocal tenderly conveys with just the right amount of raw emotion. While there may be few sparks in this impassive relationship, the instrumental is practically iridescent. Windswept, radiant synths lines wrap around Line’s vocal in a landscape populated by the shadowy, dark spaces of disappointment and self-entrapment.
While most Norwegian electronica falls foul to the “icy”, “cold” and “frosted” labels, there is such a glow of warmth from Line Kasa’s clear vocal that when blended with such petillant synths, it melts whatever icy edges there are to be had on the instrumental accompaniment.
Delight follows delight as the EP moves onto the bewitching ‘Stones’, which has a slightly more rugged, edgy electronic vibe. A slow electro-ballad it comes with the twist of a mad scientist instrumental. A surprising side-order to its otherwise dreamy, hypnotic feel. At 5.22 it comes in on the ‘extended side’ but it’s a well arranged, imaginative journey through a diverse electronic landscape that should be to the taste of most hard-core electro-fans. Unlike the more contemporary ‘June’, ‘Stones’ was recorded a while backin Trondheim, with the help of Erlend Elveseen.
Similarly, next up ‘New Years’, is an antecedent to the newer compositions on the EP being recorded some years back with Sjur Lyseid. Speaking about ‘New Years’ Line explains: “(It’s) a song about feeling empty and having a hard time coping with the stuff in life that is supposed to feel good.” Spacious, stark, melancholic, there is an almost funereal quality to this track. An organ-like quality to the keys to which sombre bass-clarinet conjures a somewhat pious or reverent atmosphere while angelic harmonies counter the solemnity of the track’s musical foundation.
Book-ending the EP is a small slice of Norwegian delicacy, entitled ‘4’. With existential themes at its heart and mourning in its soul, it ponders why, years after losing someone who was an integral part of our lives, certain inescapable questions still involuntarily float to the surface of the mind. Of the song’s brevity Line comments: “I think one of the reasons why this song is so short is that the message is clear and there’s nothing more to say; these questions will never get an answer.”
Notwithstanding its doleful lyrical theme, the song’s pulsing instrumental and energetic percussive beat have a rather catchy rhythm that belie its inner melancholia.
The overriding sense of disappointment, despondency, and confusion that stems from the EPs lyrical content, is perfectly counter-balanced not just by the delightful tenderness and emotional honesty of Line Kasa’s poised vocal, but also by the imaginatively choreographed electronica that underpins it. Kudos to Strand for pulling off a flawless blend of gloaming and dawn with his ingenious line in synth composition and arrangement. The addition of drums and in particular the bass-clarinet, give texture and personality to what could so easily have been “ice-capped” electro-sounds, albeit sounds spun with some golden wizardry.
‘Years’ is a rather beautiful and stirring EP, skillfully orchestrated, and arranged with precision symmetry. A journey of dark and light, it is a confident, meticulous, intense and fascinating production that should provide Swanlike with a solid foundation from which to move forward and forge a full album.
You can follow Swanlike on Facebook. They play Skien 20.11 and Notodden 22.11 and Oslo in early 2017 tbc. A video for June is on the way, so keep your eyes peeled. Stream ‘Years’ here – links for downloads below.
Alan Wilder steps back in from the sidelines as performer-producer on debut single from upcoming Londoner, Dédé Davi.
Alan Wilder, man behind the Recoilmusic project, formerly one quarter of Depeche Mode, those pioneers of synth pop whose music captured the zeitgeist of ’80s experimental electronica, and general all-round enigma, has, after some years of silence which presumably he ‘enjoyed’, resurfaced in the form of performer/producer on an R&B piano-ballad by an upcoming English singer/songwriter.
‘Calling The Clock‘ is the debut single from LondonerDédé Davi to whom Wilder was introduced by erstwhile Mode road-manager, Daryl Bamonte, now a successful label and artist manager in his own right. Dédé, who has gone from a Uni degree course, through being BBC play-listed, to working with the likes of Steve Hewitt (Paul Draper, Placebo), is currently in-studio working on her debut album.
Rehearsed and recorded in a negligible four hours, the song sees Wilder reprise his role as accompanying pianist, and music composer and arranger, one that recalls his indelible contributions to songs like ‘Somebody’ and ‘Pimpf’ and which will doubtless reawaken the memories of many a Mode fan.
Speaking of the collaboration with Dédé. Wilder said:
“ I was struck not only by her beautifully soulful and sophisticated voice, but also the simplicity and directness of the words along with a melody which left plenty of room to come up with the arrangement … With limited hours in the studio, an immediate focus was required to get the right piano and vocal performances … The whole experience was refreshing and rewarding …”
Similarly, the song itself – lyrics & melody – was written in a matter of hours, early ones at that, in a creative burst that saw the Croydon-born artist put body to a title that had been lying around for quite some time. Explaining how the track came about, the singer confessed:
“I knew I liked the sound of it; I just didn’t have a clue what it meant to me or what it could turn into. It came out of frustration, I kind of just stopped caring what it could be and at 1am on a Saturday I just wrote what came out and what I felt like.”
Listening to the lyrics one can easily understand how they flowed during the lonely darkness of the small hours. The sense of frustration is palpable, the emotion raw, the uncertainty the territory of the still of the night.
Wilder’s musicianship is as meticulous as it is intuitive and his understated yet effectual performance provides the perfect balance for Davi’s heartfelt vocal. Her voice, which is pitch perfect and well controlled throughout, has a warmth and silkiness that lends itself well to this style of soulful balladry. Mr Bamonte certainly had a eureka moment when he conceived of this perfect musical pairing!
‘Calling The Clock’ is a masterclass in subtlety and discernment. A modern day soul song, emotionally stirring without being overindulgent, performed with accomplished restraint, by two musical perfectionists.
Dédé Davi is as they say, ‘one to watch’ and so in a way, is Alan Wilder. Where or when he will next be seen or heard is anyone’s guess. We can only hope it won’t be another four years. In the meantime, you can download or stream ‘Calling The Clock’ (our on Smile Records) here : itunes | spotify and watch Dédé perform the song in the video here,
Earlier in the Autumn, when the evenings were still balmy enough for us to hit the streets without donning the plethora of woollens and multitude of layers with which we are currently swaddled, Norwegian four-piece Sløtfacetook to the nocturnal streets of Bergen to shoot the video accompaniment to their latest single ‘Bright Lights‘.
Lifted from the EP, ‘Empire Records‘ itself just released on 18th November, the track is about escapism – escaping self and society. The song is written by frontwoman Haley Shea, who is to Norway what Grimes is to Canada and Ani DiFrancio is to the US. who gives an unusually restrained yet highly effective vocal performance with a much nuanced emphasis on the word “crushed” that hangs at the end of the chorus like a broken arm. Musically, this is Sløtface at their most understated. Intuitive guitars make a statement without being overpowering while the percussion takes on a more relaxed style. This is less punky, rriot, more Blondie style pop with its native intelligence.
The self-made Lasse Lokøy directed visual however, focusses its lens on an altogether darker subject – female vulnerability & safety. Just how safe the nocturnal streets of Bergen are is not known to me; what is known, and only too well, is how unsafe the streets of Dublin, city or urban, are for women at any time of the day or night.
Opening with scenes from a booze, music and fun filled gathering of friends, the mood of the film quickly shifts from relaxed gaiety to one of tense uncertainty, as the once crammed frame empties onto a deserted street, dark save for the street lights, desolate except for the lone female protagonist. What follows in this perceptively scripted and directed storyline, is an experience with which most of us females will be all too familiar.
The nervousness that automatically creeps in when we find ourselves walking alone at night. The sense of terror that screams inside when we suddenly find that we are not alone. The panic that sets in when a dark, hooded figure walks into our immediate space. The disgusted indignation and feeling of limp frustration at having to ignore midnight, booze-fuelled boors, spouting sexist claptrap dressed up as a neanderthal charm offensive, that rapidly turns into insults when their efforts go unheeded.
Walking with the phone on ‘dial-alert’. Bracing oneself with keys jagged to the ready. Taking to the middle of the street under some misguided impression that the midsection is safer than the side because “everyone can see me, right?”. Wrong.
We are not safe. Not safe from louts. Not safe from thugs. Not safe from bullies. Not safe from misogynists. Not safe from attackers, muggers, rapists, and murderers. We are women .. vulnerable, open to every form of attack from mental through verbal to physical. Welcome to our world.
Sløtface have been chugging out singles like JK Rowling spawns fantasies. The ‘Empire Records’ mini-compendium is the latest in the ever accelerating run up to their debut album, due for release in early 2017. In addition to their ever lengthening discography, the band have been speeding up and down the gig helter-skelter and not satisfied with having recently finished a whistle-stop tour of the UK, this hyper-energised bunch have just announced another week of UK dates running from 13th – 18th February.
With a sound that veers in the general direction of their fellow Irishmen and musical forerunners The Script and Kodaline, recently appointed chart-sensations, Picture This, have arrived more quickly than most at that point on the musical map that many of their peers will only ever view from a distance.
Formed a little more than a year ago, theirs has been an easy and rapid ascent up a most vertical trajectory. Watching ‘themselves’ from the virtual side-lines, as they shot from ‘Home Studio, Jimmy’s House, Athy’ to the top slot in the Irish charts must surely have been as surreal an occurrence as an out of body experience.
Even more bizarre must have been the spine-tingling, stomach turning flurry of butterflies moment they surely experienced walking onto the stage to a capacity crowd in a packed-to-the-rafters Olympia theatre a couple of nights ago. How many bands can put that on their CV just a little more than 12months from recording their first hook on their iPhoneX?
‘Picture This’ has drip fed slow, steady single releases to their ever-increasing fan-base. Starting with the beautiful ‘Take My Hand’ which they first sampled only in October 2015, the duo continued, throughout the long, dark Winter months, to unfurl their uplifting musical charms onto an unsuspecting Irish audience, who singularly and eagerly fell captive to their unassuming yet compelling and honest sound.
So much so that the band’s debut gig was in the Academy (cap. 850) – like who the hell debut’s to an 850 strong crowd? A rolling tour across Ireland and the UK that included full house lives in both Manchester and London, has culminated in three sell-out dates at the music-lovers venue of choice, Dublin’s Olympia theatre. All on back of one Aslan cover and a 5-track EP, ‘Picture’. Phew!!
On 12th August, Picture This released their debut EP – the tracks of which run in single release sequence – and six days later it had reached the number one spot in the Irish charts.
Needless to say, the critics ranted, in a good way natch, while the fans raved, and now after one helluva rollercoaster ride and rock-n-roller tour, Picture This are set to finish 2016 on a high when they hit the stage at Dublin’s 3Arena on 3rd December, for the 2FM Xmas Ball in aid of the ISPCC.
When the fall of ticker-tape subsides and the shutters come down on the year that was 2016, this pair of ‘unlikely lads’ (and I say that in the nicest possible sense) will probably clink a pair in Some Pub, Main Street, Athy, and raise them in salute to friendship, Aslan, YouTube, iPhones, Kildare and oh, I suspect Lady Luck and good musical genes may just also get a nod.
With an album on the way next year, 2017 should see more of the same if not bigger and better from the Athy pair whose star looks surely set to rise, and rise, and …
ROBBIE WILLIAMS’ NEW ALBUM “THE HEAVY ENTERTAINMENT SHOW” GIVES HIM HIS 12th SOLO UK NO.1 ALBUM, MAKING WILLIAMS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL UK SOLO ARTIST OF ALL TIME!
Having landed himself a record twelfth successive chart topping solo album, it looks like the British music buying public have well and truly taken up Robbie William’s 1997 ‘Let Me Entertain You’battle-cry.
Not only has hitting the top spot with ‘THES’ landed him his latest gong, it has also positioned him just behind the Beatles (at 11) on the leader-board for most number1 studio albums in UK chart history.
This latest record breaking milestone marks the end of a triumphant week which saw Williams joining David Bowie and Elton John to become only the third person ever to be honoured with a Brits Icon Award.
On hearing the news that The Heavy Entertainment Show, his first album on Sony Music UK, had hit the top spot Robbie said: “I’m chuffed that this album is No 1 and I’m humbled by these amazing statistics and facts. Thank you to the wonderful, wonderful team at Sony. I’m as proud of this album as much as any other, and hope that the fans enjoy it as much as I loved making it…this is for the friendlies. I’m very excited to be taking The Heavy Entertainment show on tour next year.”
On June 2nd 2017 Robbie William will embark upon a European Arena tour, kicking off in Manchester’s Etihad Stadium. So far, there are 31 confirmed dates up to the middle of September which will see the singer take in 18 countries including Russia.
Just how Putin will react to Robbie’s devil-may-care charm & mock Russian partying is anyone’s guess. Expect the next album to contain some references to oligarchs closer to home #Trumpton.
There are still some tickets left for Robbie William’s Irish date at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium 17th June 2017, tickets from Ticketmaster starting at Euro 69.50 excluding handling charges. ‘The Heavy Entertainment Show’ is available through iTunes, Amazon etc and in physical format via your local record shop.
At times there is something utterly otherworldly about the songs crafted by Norwegian rising star ‘du jour’, ARY. An otherwordliness quickly negated on meeting this young artist in the flesh. One is immediately struck by her ‘matter of factness’ while simultaneously warming to her self-deprecating sense of humour.
The normality and ‘realness’ that underpin Ariadne Loinsworth, belie the Himalayan imagination and scalable creative engine that frantically whir beneath. For this creative ingenue is forever composing, writing, scribbling, tinkering, producing and plain old playing music.
Her musical output over the past twelve months has gone into overdrive as her switch from passenger to the production driving seat has put her firmly in control of her own destiny, as it were.
Having kept her fans waiting an incredibly long 12months+ for the follow up to her debut single ‘Higher‘, the Nordic chanteuse sprang a September surprise when she announced single deuxième ‘The Sea’, a cherry-picked soundtrack to NRK’s latest multi-million dollar blockbuster drama series, ‘Nobel’, the rights to which have been syndicated worldwide.
Put that in your pipe …
Now, in a volte face of her modus operandum, Ary has dropped single number three, less than two months later! Another film soundtrack, it’s entitled ‘The End‘ and it comes, literally at the end of the new sports doc, ‘Supervention 2‘. A wickedly shot, fast paced, sheer vertical drop of a film about sports skiers and snowboarders, it is not for the faint hearted or folks who like me suffer from vertigo! Watch the trailer, here.
A collaboration with Jonathan Sigworth, ‘The End’ sees ARY at her classic otherwordly finest. Her bewitching breathy vocal soars, elevating the snow-cold electronica that shimmers and sparkles beneath its pristine state. With a lofty elegance redolent of the ‘on the wing’ harmonies of ABBA’s ‘The Eagle‘, this track ascends and floats aloft a vast instrumental spaciousness.
Set in a constant state of elevation it recalls the sky-high altitude champion skiers reach before facing the sheer plumb drops down the sides of some of the world’s most majestic mountains. An intoxicating vocal fused with an hypnotic synth ballet, if I could use but one word to describe this song, it would simply be, ‘beautiful’.
‘The End’ is out now via Petroleum records and can be streamed on Spotify.
In other news, ARY has been nominated for Best Newcomer over at GAFFA.no. Details of all noms, here. You can keep up to speed with her ARYness via Facebook & Twitter, where you’ll also find YT – @DervSwerve. And so, we’ve come to, ‘The End’!
I’ve written about some diverse Norwegian music artists in the 18 months I’m running this blog, but never before have I happened upon a music project based on Nordic spiritualism. “Who?” you might well ask, and if you did, you’d find about 44,000 FB fans shouting Wardruna back at you!
The brainchild of musician Einar Selvik, the project segued into a full-on musical going concern in 2003, and has since then, released three albums, the latest entitled ‘Runaljod – Ragnarok’, on the Indie Recordings/By Norse Music label. The third Lp in the Wardruna Runaljod series was released in October and is the final chapter in the Elder Fuþark inspired trilogy.
The album’s lyrical content centres around the Norse myth of Ragnarök, “a series of future events, including a great battle, foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number” of central figures from mythological deities, while “Runaljod is a song version of the Norse rune poem.”
The album’s lead single ‘Odal’, which hit the Norwegian airwaves in August, was followed by the current single release, ‘Raido‘, the video for which you can view below. The word ‘Raido’, which means ride or journey, derives from the Old Norwegian word Ræið.
Sung in Norwegian, it is a powerful and commanding track, but for all its thunderous topsoil of braggadocio, the layers underneath are rife with emotion, humanity and a sense of belonging to and oneness with nature. Opening with a percussive line not far removed from the hypnotic beat that was the spinal chord of Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’, the track augments into a breathtaking fusion of medieval Celtic spirituality and spine tingling Nordic chant.
This reviewer knows little about Norse mythology and understands even less about runes and fantastical deities, but if ever a song captured the essence of the pagan attunement with nature and the intense energy possessed of latter day spiritualists, then ‘Raido’ is it. Emotionally charged, lyrically potent (the English translation is printed underneath the video), poetic, dramatic and creatively distinctive, it is not the music of everyday, but of days lost, of times gone by, yet in its midst it channels the eternal trinity of man-animal-nature and the unique and special relationship that exists between all three.
Wardruna is Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik and Lindy Fay Hella. For more information on the band see their official website, http://www.wardruna.com/ . ‘Raido’ is on release now and the darkly dramatic accompanying video which contains some stunning nature photography, was directed by Finn, Tuukka Kos. Watch it here.
The danger with indie is that if there isn’t sufficient diversity of theme, tempo, and instrumental style, it can quickly segue into one continuous jangle cum drone, depending on which line the artist is peddling.
In this regard, Norwegian newcomers Ludvig Moon, appear to have done their utmost to unfurl their creative tendrils in several directions to try to ensure that debut album ‘Kin’, stretches across a broader than generic indie spectrum. For the best part, they have succeeded.
Ludvig Moon have been steadily honing their clearly identifiable sound since the 2014 release of their self-titled debut EP. It is a testament to their synchronicity as a unit that this multi-member outfit has developed such a tightly woven sound – no mean feat in a group where seven musicians are competing to be heard. Or maybe that is the secret, that together they recognise the Ludvig Moon whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.
This septet (see below for the roll call) is a talented cohort with a lot of genuine promise, who produce highly evocative and at times magical material. As a group, they often seem to be reaching for a sound bigger than the confines of their immediate Oslo environs. One whose sound almost over-reaches; almost. It certainly spills over beyond the brim of indie, flowing through the outer reaches of American rock, alt-rock and pop punk – think Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins and Ash.
Whether by accident or design, the sound at which they have arrived, pulls from the vestiges of the glory days of ’80s pop-punk and the classic ’90s indie-rock sounds both defined and dominated by the big American ‘supers’. Eleven track ‘Kin’ spreads its wings across this cross-generational spectrum, dipping and diving into styles coloured by the past blended with that freshness and effervescent urgency that is the trademark of youth.
After a string addled mini-melodrama of an intro, a mere whisper bookended by some windswept cymbals crashing off the shore, the album cracks open with the propulsive ‘When the Storm Breaks’, a song full of vim and vigour, thrashing percussion, great striking guitars, stonking keys and a killer chorus. A track to leave you wanting more.
I dare you to listen to the track ‘Sparks’ and not hear The Cure, albeit the post-punk goths back-dropped by a glorious if frenzied instrumental ascent/descent of musical scales fashioned by what is quite possibly the closest guitars have ever come to sounding like change-ringing.
‘Are We Still’ takes it down a few notches, showing a more restrained and subtle but no less experimental musicianship with its ‘eerie’ touches (redolent of the saw), golden melodies and heartwarming chorus, which by itself is a fine example of the perfect chemistry between fronters Anders Magnor Killerud and Lydia Popkema.
Indeed it is the pairing of Killerud and Popkema, whose vocal contrasts are like fire and ice, that gives so much depth and texture to the band’s songs. The fluidity and balance of their duets heighten the evocative essence of the songs’ lyrical themes. Speaking of which, here’s what frontman and lyricist Killerud had to say about the albums thematic inspos …
“The lyrics are based on stories from my life the past few years. People around lost control over their lives and I lost toucb with many of them during those times. For me this album mirrors the winter of 2015. It’s my soundtrack to life as a young, broke and confused twentysomething in Oslo – not knowing who I was, not knowing what I wanted to become. Filling the album with grandiose sounds felt like my cure against the grey fabric of life at the time. Making the album really helped my through the winter though, especially mentally.”
As expected, singles ‘Houses At Night’ and ‘Cult Baby’ take centre stage, but while the latter is the diamond at the heart of this long playing jewel, something in me remains unconvinced by the former.
For originality and instrumental flair, I find myself veering towards ‘Moth’, a song which more than piqued my interest with its perky finger picking guitar sequences, lively percussion and billowing, swirling synth background.
There’s a filmic vibe to this ever growing spiral, with it’s somewhat subtle shades of country come Americana, as it twists and ascends to a curious finale of alien noises and instrumental riddles. For ingenuity and musicianship, I’d score this a 9/10. For me, this is a song that walks a different path and the standout track on the album.
There are a few less noteworthy inclusions but overall the memorable outweighs the forgettable. The album has some really standout moments, not least the afore-mentioned ‘Cult Baby’, a track which has proved to be a firm radio playlist favourite across the broader reaches of the EU, particularly in the land that shall now always be known as Brexit. A track that could easily take Ludvig Moon into the US Billboard charts should they ever venture to stray that far, it is a benchmark against which future singles will be measured.
For a debut album, Ludvig Moon have played a strong hand with ‘Kin’, and while there is still room for improvement, they are young, ambitious talented enough to make the upward transition to a more mature and experimental level, with relative ease. They say the second album is always the most difficult. For Ludvig Moon it should be plain sailing. They’ve set the bar. It’s now up to them how far they wish to raise it.
Ludvig Moon is : Anders Magnor Killerud ( lead vocals, guitar), Ole Torstein Hovig (synths), Herman K. Hulleberg (guitar), Kristofer Staxrud (Drums), Andreas Andre Myrvold (bass, vocals), Lydia Popkema (vocals, guitar, tambourine), and Simen Sandbæk Skari (French Connection, vocals, tambourine)
You can follow Ludwig Moon on Facebook and keep up with all my reviews on DervswerveTwitter and Facebook. ‘Kin’ is out now via Riot Factory. You can buy or stream it via the following links: