Discover Narnia – The Magical World of Nordic Music

ūüď∑ @bleirvik

Is there anything more magical than an expansive tract of land carpeted with thick pile, powdery snow, imbued with a sense of hush and serenity?  As one soaks up its daz-white emptiness offset by a stunning azure blue sky and high noon sun of the type more associated with the Mediterranean, the purest air seeps into ones lungs, invigorating, healing, giving one an unexpected head-rush of dizzying proportions.  This is mid-Norway in early February and despite its minus three temperatures, it has a clement, almost springlike feel to its late winter weather.

As if by way of silent solidarity, the weather replicates the colourful iridescence and paradoxical cold charm, that like a pair of oversized, ice-tipped wings, so much of the music from this region drapes itself in.

Norwegian music has for many years held me in its thrall, with its effortless scaling of Himalayan vocal heights, pristine tonal clarity and sheer unadulterated enthusiasm. ¬†Time and again, it has drawn me to its Narnia-esque snowscapes, lured by its easy charm and communal spirit, each visit proving a little more enticing, each foray drawing me a little deeper into its ‘norsk kultur’.

Enough of the Danubian hyperbolic flow!  A recent trip to Norway brought about the opportunity for several interesting interviews, some of which were, it was agreed, to be published by a rather large online publication.  However and most regrettably, despite having received written agreement prior to the event, said publication has since reneged on its commitment and those long hunched over transcripts have gone unseen.

So, by way of small reparation to those artists who were promised a space in the much broader columns of that blog which shall remain nameless, I have decided to do a three-part Norwegian special to kick off my new Discover series featuring the best of Nordic music. ¬†The two posts will be made up of a sprinkling of those artists who are doubtless feeling very much aggrieved (you’re not on your own!) and a smattering of others to whom my ears are oft’ inclined. ¬†Enjoy, Derv x

WHO? KATRIN FRODER

Bergen born Katrin Fr√łder who goes by her surname, is one of many artists signed to the Toothfairy label, who are fast becoming ‘a thing’ in their native patch. ¬†Best known for her unmistakable signature vocal that resides up there somewhere alongside the seraphims,¬†Fr√łder crafts hypnotic electronic-based music saturated in more technological quirks than would challenge the best spark.

Having taken some time out to recalibrate, the Norwegian who is currently beavering away at penning new songs, says a revitalised return to form has inspired new music even stronger and more alive than that of her self-titled debut.

With several lives dates down and appearances at top festivals under her belt, the singer opted out of the chance to play at SXSW, choosing instead to stay closer to home to continue with her songwriting.  She has most recently been releasing collaborations with fellow label mate and renowned electronic producer Carl Louis, best known this side of the North Sea for his work with ARY.

Quirky, with an idiosyncratic style and a penchant for a bit of blue hue,¬†Fr√łder is an artist who stands out from the crowd while her unorthodox creative style lends itself to weaving both spiralling sonic fascinators and beat-driven crowd pleasers. ¬†Most recent releases see her featuring on Carl Louis’ Easy¬†and this wistful wonder, Come With Me.¬†Expect new solo music later this year.

WHO? LUDVIG MOON

Each time I go to write a review of LM’s music, I have to return to their FB page to count up just how many of them there are in this sprawling indie horde (there are 7). ¬†Ludvig Moon, signed to Norwegian indie label Riot Factory, are a band who I would classify as ‘still maturing’, a group within touching distance of nailing their sound.

Their debut album Kin had all the ingredients for a runaway success but alas, as seems to be the norm with much indigenous Norwegian ‘pop’ music, it didn’t really figure in their music charts scheme of things. ¬†Highly acclaimed and critically well received, it was, is, give or take the odd hiccup, an extremely well produced compendium of thrillers and seducers.

Ludvig Moon aren’t just another indie band – they are the sum of extremely talented instrumental parts, complete with a duet of vocals that are a synchronised match made in harmony heaven. ¬†While they may look a little top heavy on the instrumental side, and are usually found spilling over the side of any industry standard stage, when you strip back to component level the wealth of the individual threads doesn’t just validate it compounds the splendour of the overall weave.

Ludvig Moon say they’re in a happier place and it shows. What’s also evident is an abundance of freshly charged high voltage energy.

Blankets their latest from the forthcoming All Our Friends EP, due out on 26th April, ¬†(there doesn’t appear to be a pre-order so keep your eyes peeled) is a collaboration with The Little Hands of Asphalt and Team Me, possibly the only band to be able to lay claim to having c.99% of Norway’s musician population pass through its line-up since its inception.

There’s a touch of the poppier side of alt-rockers MSP to this track which drifts nicely back to a mid-90s landscape of Britpop when boys could be girls and girls could be whoever the damn hell they wanted to be. ¬†A video montage of ‘home “let’s get shit-faced” movies’ and archive film footage shows humour, personality and too much tongue. ¬†New music due date, 26/4/2017.

WHO? LOVESPEAKE

Ooh, one sip of this seductive sweetness and you’ll be intoxicated for hours. ¬†An anaesthetic for a bad day, heartbreak or general pain in the ass-iness,¬†Novocaine is our new musical drug of choice as produced by the colourpop hit factory that is Lovespeake.

Every picture tells a story, and this track’s artwork alone, should give music fans a good indication as to the optimistic mindset and rainbow of creativity behind this Norwegian ensemble. ¬†Headed up by Alexander ‘Pav’ Pavelich, who I had the pleasure of running into recently at an Einar Stray gig, Lovespeake and their album DNA were one of the runaway musical successes of 2016. ¬†Their precisely conjured cocktails¬†of sun-kissed melodies, Caribbean beats and retro-disco are the product of the most fertile of musical imaginations combined with a rush of vital dynamism.

Lovespeake cosy up to singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Max Frost, who seems to have a lyrical thing for pills of a certain persuasion #Adderall, on their latest piece of colourful wizardry, with the Texan adding a deep south raspy drawl to counter Pav’s spotless polar falsetto. Two things strike you when you first hear this track – Frost’s deliberately spacious vocal and the song’s ’70s disco groove.

This audacious combination produces something to the effect of a mash-up of a slowed down Someday by The Strokes and A Night To Remember, the 1978 smash by the most classy of all funksters Shalamar.

Like the most delicious dessert laced with bourbon, this is toxic saccharin; a moment on the lips, a myriad soporific trips.

WHO? SIGRID

Uncredited

Following the lead of Adele, Aurora and er, A-Rihanna, newcomer Sigrid goes by forename alone.

The baby sister of singer/songwriter Tellef Raabe, she was singing backing vocals to his headliner at the Norwegian Trondheim Calling festival in February 2016. What a difference a year makes!

Despite the fact that her first single Sun, which she released in 2013 at the tender age of 16, was a smash hit, it wasn’t until she signed to Island Records that the wheels began to seriously turn for this youngster. ¬†With the full force of the Island wind-machine behind her, Don’t Kill My Vibe didn’t just land, it torpedoed its way into our musical space.

Frighteningly perfect pop, it’s like an angry feline with an itch and the odd human to scratch. ‚ÄúYou think you‚Äôre so important to me, don‚Äôt you‚ÄĚ she swipes at some envious no-mark, her pitch-perfect vocal sung with that confidence only the young can muster, bouncing off echoey drum-claps and negotiating the melody‚Äôs high altitudes with the sort of conviction most of her peers will never achieve.

One of the latterday signs that you have ‘arrived’ is when you acquire your own Wikipedia page … Sigrid, but in case we need to reaffirm just how good this girl is, here’s the acoustic version of her global (yes global!) hit, Kill My Vibe. Watch, listen, shiver.

WHO? JENNY HVAL

Writer, musical architect, experimenter, songsmith and latterday Norwegian icon, Jenny Hval is revered the same way in Norway as Bjork is in Iceland.

A protagonist at the fore of the¬†current zeitgeist of female avant-gardists taking the oft maligned genre of art-pop to the masses, she is as lauded for her outspoken social commentary as she is for her creative brilliance. ¬†If music could be an ‘installation’ in the same way art is, Hval’s work would be first in the door of the Tate Modern swiftly followed by a stint in the Astrup Fearnley.

Her last record¬†Blood Bitch was a highly acclaimed concept album influenced by all things hematic. It was rapturously received by critics who universally heaped it critical acclaim. ¬†Cited by every influential publication in their ‘best of’ lists for 2016, it was the overall winner of the annual Phonofile Nordic Music Prize for best Nordic album, the award being presented to Hval during the renowned By:Larm international music festival.

Most recently Hval has been in the news with her bonafide collaboration with Welsh producer Kelly Lee Owens, who famously reworked her track Kingsize back in 2015. ¬†Recalling Owen’s “personal affinity for water”¬†Anxi slips and slides its techno persona through the musica obscura that lies between ambient and pop. Pulsing through a myriad metamorphoses, it maintains a mood of dark foreboding as Hval intersperses the electronic narrative with bizarre spoken word vocals – a monologue which moves at a pace that is quirkily out of sync with the pull of Owen’s beat.

The song swoops up out of the darkness into a brighter soundscape at the heart of which is a steady techno pulse, until apropos of nothing, it swerves right back down again, into an otherworldly void. Art that manifests a host of unorthodox ideas, music which reaches far beyond its natural boundaries; that is probably how Hval’s work is best described.

Jenny Hval will perform in Dublin’s NCH on 6th October as part of their Perspectives series. Tickets http://www.nch.ie

Nordic music, Norwegian in particular, has evolved and grown so spectacularly over the past decade that it is now hard to remember a time when it wasn’t part of our natural musical make-up. ¬†If you haven’t previously come across any of the five featured artists hopefully this first chapter in a new Nordic themed series will have sufficiently opened your minds to excavate further down into this magical, musical mine. ¬†If not, please do come back, there’s plenty more coming down the tracks.

As usual, no music series worth its salt would come without a complementary playlist. ¬†Here’s our ‘starter for five’, which we will add to week on week with each new blog-post.

DervSwerve

 

Phonofile Nordic Music Prize Nominees Announced

Phonofile Nordic Music Prize
Phonofile Nordic Music Prize

The dozen nominees for the 2016 Phonofile Nordic Music Prize have been announced; they make for quite the eclectic list!

The nominees, whose music crosses the broadest of spectrums, hail from all five countries that make up the Nordic region, with each country getting equal weighting.  Established in 2010, the prize is awarded annually for that album which the judging panel deems best of year.  Previous winners include Mirel Wagner (FI), First Aid Kit (SE) and most recently Band of Gold (No).

The Nordic jury responsible for selecting the shortlist is made up of a cohort of industry heavyweights whilst the overall winner and commendations are chosen by an international panel including the BBC’s Stuart Maconie and Welsh journalist and Guardian music critic Jude Rodgers.

The artists nominated for the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize are:-

Denmark РCTM, Bisse, Værket

Iceland – J√≥hann J√≥hannsson, Sk√ļli Sverrisson

Finland – Oranssi Pazuzu, The Hearing, Mikko Joensuu

Norway – Jenny Hval, Nosizwe

Sweden РKornél Kovács, Cherrie

CTM Suite for a Young Girl
CTM Suite for a Young Girl

The shortlist is something of a spaghetti Bolognese the main ingredient of which appears to be diversity.  Encompassing shots of midnight metal and blasts of underground garage beats, the nominated albums run the gamut of musical taste.

From J√≥hannsson’s cinematic widescreen soundscapes¬†which could so easily have¬†been recorded at the bottom of the coldest, darkest oceans, to Pazuzu’s compelling drone through Nosizwe’s idiosyncratic soul-style on the raw and unorthodox, ‘In Fragments’, to any newcomer to Nordic music, this multi-cultural medley is quite the Pandora’s box.¬† A box whose treasures once released, should¬†be slowly savoured and enjoyed.

For this reviewer, my¬†money is on either¬†Iceland or Denmark to take this year’s prize – one isn’t prepared to take that any further; some impartiality is required.

And while one might have individual grievances about those Nordic albums not included, it must be said that all of the albums nominated are more than worthy of their place on this list.

An¬†award ceremony to announce the winner¬†of the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize, run in association with By:Larm, Music Norway and GramArtist Organisasjonen, will be held in Oslo on Thursday 2nd March, 2017, during¬†the By:Larm festival.¬†¬†You’ll find a¬†full Spotify playlist featuring chosen tracks from the nominated albums below.

Pom Poko – Unleash New Single Ahead of Trondheim Calling & Cruise Into Urort Final!

Pom Poko Urortfinalen 2017
Pom Poko Urortfinalen 2017

Norwegian modernist collective Pom Poko have just released their third single ‘It’s a Trap’¬†accompanied by an impressive avant-garde ‘toon visual, the work of¬†Olav Fangel Jamtveit, brother of the band’s vocalist, Ragnhild FJ.

A song about release and arrival, letting go to achieve self-awareness, ‘It’s a Trap’ is a quirky, punchy little sherbet that fizzes with pops of 90’s post-punk with more than a hint of glam psych. ¬†Without doubt the track benefits from the experimental nous and masterly hand of Highasakite‘s Kristoffer Lo, a man who knows his way around more than a few instruments. ¬†Adding his trademark guitar, brass and a.n.other sounds to the mix, Lo has taken Pom Poko’s sound in a more experimental and diverse direction, giving the original live jam the same depth and texture he brings to all his collaborations.

While the instrumental backdrop has some sharp edges, it is chasmed by sufficient wide spaces to counter-balance the intensity. As usual, vocal duties of the infinitely starlit variety are carried off with effortless ease by Ragnhild Fangel Jamtveit and if her previous live vocal performances are the benchmark to go by, Pom Poko’s two gigs at Trondheim Calling should be something else and then some more! ¬†During TC the band will also perform a live sesh for P3’s Ruben. ¬†Unfortunately for me it’s happening on the Wednesday, ahead of my arrival ‘on scene’.

In addition to their saffron shot nocturnal cartoon visual accompaniment, Pom Poko have adorned their single with the cutest, candy-coloured artwork by Norwegian illustrator Erlend Peder which you can see here!  The floral bedecked character is as yet to be identified!

Illustration Erlend Peder
Illustration Erlend Peder

In other news, Pom Poko have made it to the Urort Final 2017 (a Norwegian national award for promising emerging artists); if you like what you hear, you can vote for Pom Poko to win this prestigious award, here. #doit

It is a testament to their punky quirkiness that Pom Poko give their facebook page “unofficial status” – hook up with it here to touch base with the band and keep up to speed with their lives at Trondheim Calling and their Urort escapades!

The future is definitely as bright as the characters in their ‘It’s a Trap’ video for this effervescent four-piece – I hope you’ll join me in¬†wishing them all the luck in the world – for Trondheim Calling, for Urort and we-ell, for the future.

‘It’s a Trap’ is available now via Phonofile –¬†http://phonofile.link/its-a-trap ¬†. ¬†Watch the captivating fam-made visual here.

As Far As I’m Concerned, ESO Are Beyond Impressive

eso-nov-2016-by-christian-zervos
eso-nov-2016-by-christian-zervos

Sandvika natives, Einar Stray Orchestra are to indie music what the Divine Comedy are to alt-pop. ¬†In fact, with his suave baritone and predilection for quirky, on-point lyrics and gregarious, orchestral manoeuvres, Einar Stray is for all intents and purposes, the Norwegian Neil Hannon. ¬†Tbh, I can’t help fantasising about what spectacular sonic soap-operas the pairing of Stray with Hannon could magic-up … ah, one can dream.

Einar Stray’s five-piece ‘orchestra’, for orchestral they are, have just released ‘As Far As I’m Concerned‘ the second single from their upcoming album set for a 2017 release via Sinnbus & Toothfairy. ¬†The follow-up to 2016’s ‘Penny For Your Thoughts’, it’s a lavish affair, awash with resplendent string sequences, bright vivacious melodies and smoothly manoeuvred time changes underpinned by dynamic contributions from the R/S.

Vocally, the sweet lightness of¬†Ofelia √ėstrem Ossum’s soft mezzo is the perfect foil for the dark shade of Stray’s rich baritone, while lyrically, this cleverly worded opus centres on the theme of¬†the fear of change. “The fear of turning into someone the old you despite. The fear of throwing your life away going in the wrong direction. Moving forward can be terrifying – yet it‚Äôs the only way.‚Ä̬†

ESO have announced an upcoming European tour kicking off in one of my favourite cities, Vienna, on 13th April. The tour will see them play countries such as Switzerland, Belgium and the UK amongst others but alas, no Irish dates seem to be on the cards! ESO are however lined-up to play Norway’s Trondheim Calling festival and for those of you who like me will be lucky enough to grace those snowy paths from 2nd to 4th February, full details of the artist schedule and conference programme are here.

2017 also sees the release of Einar Stray Orchestra’s third album, which, if the two superb singles are indicative of its overall quality, should be pretty much splendidly symphonic, colourfully creative and in two words, beyond impressive.

Full details of ESO’s tour and their upcoming album release can be found on their Facebook page. ¬†Follow them there and on their Twitter page to keep up to speed with their musical escapades and a possible collaboration with our own Neil Hannon (well, stranger things have happened!).

To read about my own upcoming escapades over at Trondheim Calling, check into my blog, or hang out here on FB or Twitter.

Denmark’s ‘Saint Cava’ Share New Single ‘No One’s God’

 

saintcava_foto_oliviarohde
saintcava_foto_oliviarohde

There is something quite compelling about the fusion of left of centre R&B and early ’90s dance with a hint of trance! That’s exactly what you get on ‘No One’s God’ the latest single from Danish duo, Saint Cava.

Based in Copenhagen, Saint Cavan was formed in 2014 by¬†Erika Casier & Andreas Waze – who¬†per their FB page, identify as “gender neutral (It)” #Applause.

With just a smattering of tunes on their Soundcloud page which btw pays mention to an EP – ‘Bliss’ –¬†it’s hard to nail down their backstory: one assumes it is filled with endless jamming, scribbling, crossing out, recording snatches, experimenting and trying to nail as many lives as is physically possible when you’re an unknown band starting out in a busy music hub such as K√łbenhavn.

They played SPOT Fest 2016 and most recently¬†have been releasing but as most of the info on them is in Danish, it’s a bit difficult to ascertain¬†any more¬†facts.

‘No One’s God’ is dystopian, disillusioned romance set to damning hypnotic electro-loops with a central line in insistent drum-claps.¬† But perhaps the most intoxicating ingredient in this¬†provocative mix is the retro synth driven dance sounds that transform what is an inherently bleak atmosphere into an altogether more compelling one.¬† Add in a seriously seductive vocal and you’ve got the recipe for one of the best single releases of the new year.

The song is accompanied by a visual conceived of and designed by Danish 3D Graphic artist, Kristoffer Moth.¬† It’s concept is quite apt and reflects the starkness at the heart of the song.
There’s no information ref upcoming live dates etc but you can hook up with Saint Cava via their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter and Soundcloud to tune into their latest releases.¬† We’ll leave you with the video for ‘No One’s God’ – if you listen to nothing else today, listen to this!

 

Therese Aune Records Enchanting Farao Cover For Kultmucke

therese-aune-photo sara-angelica-spilling
therese-aune-photo sara-angelica-spilling

“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 Aune¬†as 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.

Introducing Swanlike : ‘Years’ EP

Swanlike
Swanlike

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, √ėyvind 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.

years

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, R√łyksopp, 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¬†R√łyksopp 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 √ėyvind Mathisen on the mixing desk of his Oslo studio.

june

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.

Sl√łtface Shine ‘Bright Lights’ On A Dark Subject

Lasse Lok√ły
Lasse Lok√ły

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¬†Sl√łtface took 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¬†Sl√łtface 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 Lok√ły 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.

Lasse Lok√ły
Lasse Lok√ły

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.

Sl√łtface 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.

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‘Bright Lights‘ is available to stream/download here¬†https://slotface.lnk.to/BrightLights¬†& you can watch the band’s ‘on point’ awareness film right here.

‘The End’ Is Far From Nigh for Norwegian Newcomer ARY

Photo AKAM1k3
Photo AKAM1k3

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 deuxi√®meThe 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 …

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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’!

Wardruna’s ‘Raido’ Is A Dramatic Journey Into A Mythical Past

wardruna

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 Fu√ĺark¬†inspired trilogy.

The album’s lyrical content centres around the Norse myth of¬†Ragnar√∂k, 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¬†R√¶i√į.

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.