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 are currently on an extensive tour of Norway; having seem them live, I can heartily recommend you check them out, details here https://www.facebook.com/pg/ludvigmoon/events/
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)