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, 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.

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, 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.

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.

Karokh Share Technicolour Punk Funk, ‘Boogies’ [Premiere]

Karokh
Photo Rat MIller (Rröödd Vveé)

Norwegian septet, Karokh, are unveiling their new single, ‘Boogies’ here today. 

Inspired by a myriad influences, incorporating multitudinous styles and comprising a diverse membership, Karokh is an eclectic experimental combo creating a rainbow sound unlike anything you’ve heard before.

Jazz Alumni of the famed Norwegian Academy of Music, home of adept musicianship and virtuoso techniques, that imbues its with proteges drive and passion, Karokh is a multi-talented, highly skilled outfit whose musical ingenuity knows no bounds.

Previous single, ‘Poke’ was an experimental journey through the mountains of Norway and the New Orleans delta, ending with a brief sojourn in Ipanema with Ari Up as tour guide.  Their new single ‘Boogies’ is similarly multicultural, taking sounds from Middle England, ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, Norwegian psych and a bicycle bell, topped of with a vocal in the best tradition of renowned poetry “slammer”, the late great Maggie Estepp.

It starts with a trumpet call washed with marimba and jungle beats, moves into some 10cc Mod Caribbean style riffs, and then amid some spacious slide-wonk and electronic interference, comes the “spoken word” style vocal.  The track bursts into a melange of sounds -psych rushes, extended rocky guitar instrumentals, Tubeway Army choruses, and squishy & spiralling synths.  Some repetition of the intro sequence is followed by a fusion of distracted trumpet, insistent drumming, and a very groovy Beatnik bass bring the track to a close.  You can hear what the band have to say about ‘Boogies’ in conversation below, but first, without further ado, here is the new Karokh single, ‘Boogies’, out now via NO FOREVERS.

Karokh is  comprised of musicians from various outfits such as Monkey Plot, Bendik, Girl, and ICH BIN N ! NTENDO, and its roll call looks a bit like this:

Ina Sagstuen – vocals, Thomas Husmo Litleskare – trumpet, Christian Winther – guitar, Jonas Cambien – synthesizers,  Jan K Hovland – synthesizers,  Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard – bass and Jan Martin Gismervik – drums.

Interested to find out what brought this eclectic combo together, how they found their sound, what exactly makes Karokh tick, and most importantly, to get the skinny on new single, ‘Boogies’, and upcoming album, ‘Needle, Thread and Nail Polish’, I put on my investigative journalist hat and got down to shooting the breeze of curiosity with vocalist Ina Sagstuen and trumpeter Thomas Husmo Litleskare, who had kindly agreed to take some time out of their uber hectic schedule to fill in the blanks.  Here’s how the conversation went …

Karokh comprises seven members of four different bands.  Tell me, why did you all decide to come together to form Karokh? Just how and when did that come about?

Thomas: Actually, Karokh came into existence because we were all students in the same year at the jazz/improv department at the Norwegian  Academy of Music. We had ensemble classes together, and found that we came up with interesting stuff as a group. It sounded quite weird at first (at least to us now)… a lot more jazzy weird. But our expression has developed constantly along with our personal musical development.

Ina: My perception is that the surroundings of our existence together,  musically and socially, made it possible for us to experiment without inhibitions and limitations in the rehearsal room. We were with each other all the time, and we also spent a lot of time playing together.  During that time anything was possible.  Everyone was young, dumb, fresh, hungry and without shame, Amen! And I firmly believe that many of the interesting projects that are going on in the underground music scene in Oslo derive from the freedom that we had and used at that time.

I’ve been listening to some of your music and your style is a most unusual one, very like a large musical cocktail, a muddle of many ingredients. Is that just how things worked out or did you deliberately tease out this all inclusive, incredibly diverse sound to accommodate all the individual member contributions?

Thomas: Things have happened as a result of trying out a lot of ideas, making mistakes, finding out what sounds good – and what really doesn’t – as part of the process. I guess what makes the sound so unusual is the fact that we are quite different musicians in many ways: we play in all the different kinds of bands you can imagine. But we still share some important aesthetic values and the appreciation of unconventional solutions. In a way, Karokh has been a sort of sanctuary where we can meet and let out a lot of strange and cool ideas.

Ina: I think the most important thing is to find a good balance between being open-minded and selective. In that way you can find inspiration through anything, not only music, and use the elements that you like to create something new. I think you have to improvise with the tools that you have and the impulses you get, and in this group of people, kind of randomly put together, those impulses derive from everything from classical music, acoustic jazz, pop, contemporary music, noise, experimental rock, punk, new wave and so forth. Somehow all this has been combined in Karokh.

Well it’s evident that with such an eclectic sound there are a myriad influences being brought to the creative process.  I guess the question is how much you have opened up to allowing these divergent inspos to formulate your sound.  After that it’s down to approach and interpretation.

Thomas: This relates to what I was getting into regarding style; our expression has been moulded and shaped through a lot of jamming and experimentation. Most of the tunes on «Needle, thread…» are results of hours of jamming on ideas, digging away and turning every possible stone to see what we can make of the material.

Karokh Press Image1
Photo Morten Espeland

So was your approach to recording more predetermined than organic and freeform? 

Thomas: Studio-wise we had very clear ideas regarding the forms of the songs before we recorded them, and they’re a lot stricter than people seem to think.

Ina: When it comes to recording our material, we try to be strict on the basic structure of the song and the roles of the instruments which is usually predetermined before we start recording. After that we can play around with the material, for example by doing dubs and adds and different little instrumentals.

Ok, so it’s pretty predetermined then, but with a door left open for possible change. Does to the same apply to structuring your songs, do you use a strict formula?

Ina: The base structures of the songs are kind of set and nailed down, but some things may vary. The tempo and the intensity of the songs are different from time to time. In live settings especially, I’ve experienced instruments being “bent” as it were, chords being played with different twists and improv of material to the extent that sometimes there`s three different tunings and an extra bar here and there, a longer solo or out of sync instrumental between two songs.  You just have to listen, make clear statements to lead the way or relax and follow.

You describe your style as “alternative rock” but there are a lot of other rich  sounds and styles in there – from Jazz to Afro-Caribbean to Indie. Do you like the idea of keeping your “style” open to interpretation?

Thomas: Like you say, there are a lot of elements from a lot of different styles in our music. We don’t put it much into consideration, we just play what we think is cool. We had some discussions regarding what genre we should claim to play. We should just name our own genre, basically. Which genre would you say we play?

Haha, I made some notes when I was listening to your music earlier and some of the words I wrote down were, Africa, Jamaica, Middle England, Jazz, Funk, Punk, Wonk and Bicycle Bell.  I think now might be an appropriate time to invent a new genre.  I’m going to christen it #Rainbow. 

Cover Art Ida Kristine Gismervik Hatleskog
Cover Art Ida Kristine Gismervik Hatleskog

Ina, your vocal style is incredibly unique – you’re more like a storyteller or performer than a singer/vocalist, though that’s not to say that you don’t vocalise in the singing sense. Do you see yourself more as performer than vocalist and what led you to adopt this style?

Ina: I think it just derives from a general interest of music. I never looked at my voice as the answer, but more as a tool. If that makes sense. I did some serious studying of my instrument, and the opportunities it has. Touching the extremes of genres, styles, timbers, sounds, effects, lyric and musical languages. It is important for me to be a versatile musician and interaction is central to my artistry. In projects like Karokh, I try to step out of the role as a front figure and use the voice as a worthy instrument, playing on and around the others improvising with words, rhythm and melody. I have  different attitudes towards lyrics. Sometimes it’s the words that matter, other times its just the sound of it or the rhythm of a sentence. In Karokh everything revolves around the sound of our music and the instrumentation.

Aesthetically, I have some problems with expressionism in vocals.  I’m a fan of an unpolished, real and with a «from the gut» sound.  Some sources of inspiration for this have been: Nico, Nick Drake, Beck, Portishead, Arto Lindsay, early RHCP, Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone, Tom Waits, Bon Iver…

Now, to the main event.  What is your new single ‘Boogies’ about and where did the inspo come from?   

Ina: ‘Boogies’ is a drowsy disco song that only God knows where came from, and I can resonate with it.  I think it was made from a jam we did around a sketch one of us played during rehearsal. It was around the time when some of us had watched this documentary «Kill Your Idols» which was about “No Wave” – a short-lived avant-garde music, performance art, video art and contemporary art scene that was going down in New York in the late 70`s. I think some of the “don’t play” but “DO” your instrument kinda performance, punky but funky attitude of that scene probably inspired  «Boogies».

It’s synthesizer weirdness, accompanied by a punk comp, repetitive and driving rhythms, beat song.

What is it about? … Just to embrace your own darkness or brightness and be as young as you feel. Freak out!

Finally, tell me, what exactly do you want your music to convey to the listener – what should they look out for when playing Karokh’s music?

Ina: I want the listener to feel challenged but included, frightened but happy, to feel swallowed by the sound yet want to dance like a ‘high on life’ hippie.

Get your dancin’ shoes on and get ‘high on life’ y’all …

‘Boogies’ is out today via the NO FOREVERS record label, as well as Spotify, Tidal and iTunes (you’ll find the details on the NO FOREVERS FB page).  Karokh’s album, “Needle, Thread and Nail Polish” is due for release on 18th March.  Follow Karokh on Facebook and their official website.  Follow DervSwerve on Facebook.

Interview: Matthew Clyma Talks Remixing Gris de Lin

Clyma

Today I’m yakking with Matthew “Matt Clyma” Gooderson , a.k.a in Swerve’s World  as Matt “Climie Fisher” Clyma, (you had to have been there – it WAS funny at the time!).  That be him in the photo above – trying to see how far back he can lower his head before his hat falls off.

Producer, Composer, Thinker, Talker, Educator, Skateboarder, Yogi and erstwhile member of electro-rockers the Matt has most recently been showcasing his remixing talents on the Clyma Remix of the track ‘Your Ghost’ by upcoming multi-instrumentalist and Bridport lass, Gris de Lin, more of which later.

I started by asking Matt to tell me a bit about himself … standard fare, but important nonetheless, yes?

” “Clyma” is a Cornish name that was passed down from my Great, Great, Grandmother.  It means “mild mannered” in English, which I think is really nice.  Also, having “Clyma” as my surname gives me a permanent connection to my family heritage.  Over the years, I’ve made lots of music under various guises, but I think now is the time to stop hiding, and so here I am, Matthew Clyma.

It’s been a pretty crazy musical journey, touring around the world, playing with electro-punk band, Infadels, but I’ve drawn a line in the sand now, and taken it all back to the beginning, which has been pretty daunting to say the least.  I’ve been trying to find a sound, a feeling, the holy grail of transcendence.  Making music saps you, you do expend a lot of emotional energy, but I see it as a doorway to an amazing otherness, to a perfect state, so I guess what I’m trying to do really, is to create music at it’s most optimal.  I was a bit like that with skateboarding and yoga, but the yoga didn’t go so well (laughs)”  … Actually he laughs A LOT!!

We stopped laughing and got a bit serious, as the conversation moved onto creative processes, musical legends and “HSKT” (no?, me neither!).

“I’ve always been very interested in the creative process and am fascinated by that Glass methodology, you know, “Systems in Art and Music”.  Glass, Reich, Nyman all create using the systems idea.  One of my favourite compositions is the Glass opera, “Einstein on the Beach”, with its numerical repetition and circular processes.

I’ve always listened to electronic music and Krautrock.  I really admire artists like Sylvan Esso for tracks like ‘HSKT‘ and Grouplove’s ‘I’m With You’ with it’s amazing Philip Glass style piano build up.  Their music has a resonance I like.” (Coincidentally (or not) Sylvan Esso remixed ‘I’m With You’ in June 2014, but ripped out the Glass piano intro in the process! Boo!!).

Gris de Lin came to my attention earlier this Summer when her song ‘Birthday’ featured on the Fresh on the Net Listening Post.  Fans voted for it in their droves and it landed a spot on the site’s #FRESHFAVES.  The reviewer that week was renowned hard man, Johnno Casson, who was “marshmallowed” by it’s loveliness – you know you’ve hit him where it hurts when the opening gambit of the review is “Oh sweet children of Dorset how you beckon me with your gorgeous voices and melodies” –  you can read it in full here.

Gris launched her debut Double-A sided single, ‘Birthday’/’YourGhost’, at the beginning of September with a big shin dig at uber trendy Servant Jazz Quarters, where coincidentally, she will form part of the star studded “house-band”, that includes the lush-voiced Ed Harcourt, for the launch of Joe Gideon’s solo release, Vice/Versa.  Since her single release, Gris’ music has been featured on both BBC6Music and, BBC Introducing South.

Gris’ debut album named, (shh ‘s a secret, can’t tell ya) has just gone through the final mastering litmus test and will be ripe for pressing early in the new year.  We’ll keep you posted on that one!!  In the meantime, aside from schmoozing with the London glitterati, she is planning her live promotional tour, plus, yes, you’ve guessed it, she’s working with uber remixer, Matt Clyma.  Yep, she’s got it all going on has this gal.

Matt and Gris are long standing, firm friends, as well as being tight musical collaborators who mutually inspire each other.  Matt gave a bit of insight into Gris and working on the ‘Your Ghost’ Remix …

“It took me a long time to do the remix because I was looking for the right sound.  I eventually found an Ellis Island Sound track that resonated.  They’re a band I’m hugely fond of and the song is called ‘Asa Kusa’ from their Divisions album.  I didn’t want to touch ‘Your Ghost’ too much, but I did want it to sound like Gris was singing the song from a different physical place.  I also took some ideas from Brian Eno and added them into the process.

Originally when Gris was trying out sounds for the album, we found ourselves in the really unique situation of having two pianos in the one room.  We both started playing, it was amazing.  We built the song around those notes which Gris recorded on her phone.  She has the most amazing way of writing songs, I’ve never come across anything like it.  I’ll leave that one for her to tell though (winks!).  We had some really good laughs during those weeks, but I did put her through her paces.  Particularly with one piece, where I made her sing one word at a time, like I literally made her sing one word per take, one take at a time. He’s back laughing again – Gris my girl, patience is obviously one of your virtues!)

I approached the remix with the mindset of, “I  want to do something unambitious”.  That removed the pressure, and allowed me the freedom to enjoy remixing it, and, working with Gris is always a pleasure anyway.  We’re going to do another remix, though I don’t want to say too much about it just yet or I’ll spoil the surprise. 

As for myself, I’m working on some new material, oh and updating my website.  I’m really looking forward to 2016, it’s going to be a lot of fun!”

And that conversation was a lot of fun – trust me on that – cos half of it isn’t printed here, though I will tell you that Celine Dion did come into at one point.  Cue more laughter.  A big thanks to Matt for his time, and a shout out “Hi” to Gris.

Matt Clyma will be releasing new material as well as collaborating on more remixes with various folks in 2016. You can find out more about him and his musical going-ons via his (currently being updated) website – or follow him on Twitter.

Gris-de-Lin will gig with Joe Gideon on 18th November and is herself planning some live shows, which you can get the details of, on her FB page here.

Adele Says Hello To Graham Norton & Aunty Beeb

Picture courtesy of BBC
Picture courtesy of BBC

Graham Norton has bagged the first live worldwide performance of Adele’s new single, ‘Hello’ for the BBC.  Clearly delighted with the coup, a beaming Norton cajoled Adele about various rumours milling around the music verse, in quirky game-show fashion.

“Rumour has it” (pun of puns) saw audience members question the ‘Hello’ singer about various whispers, with one asking, “Is it true that you’re not allowed on your own Twitter account”.  The singer good humouredly answered the question, confirming that her management had indeed banned her from direct tweeting.  After some near misses with late night drunken tweets, her management insisted that Adele go through two lines of approval before a comment could be tweeted!  And you thought you had it bad in work eh?

Although ‘Hello’ received some mixed reactions from the music press, there is no doubting Adele’s hu-normous talent as a vocalist and live performer.  Watch a smidge of the BBC premiere here.

Taken from Adele’s upcoming album, 25, due out 20th November, the full official video version of Hello, below, has already clocked up a staggering 266,667,533 views – mind blowing!!

‘Hello’ is taken from the new album, 25, out November 20. http://adele.com
Pre-order from iTunes http://smarturl.it/itunes25
Pre-order from Amazon http://smarturl.it/25amazon
Pre-order from Google Play http://smarturl.it/hellogplay
Pre-order at Target (US Only): http://smarturl.it/target25

Directed by Xavier Dolan, @XDolan

Follow Adele on:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Adele
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Adele
Instagram – http://instagram.com/Adele

http://vevo.ly/jzAuJ1

God Jul: Norway’s Aurora Takes Christmas

Aurora JL

Crystal voiced Norwegian singer Aurora, has pulled off the musical coup of 2015 by bagging the song for this year’s ‘John Lewis’ Christmas advert.

JL Ad

Her soulful rendition of Oasis’ ‘Half The World Away’ was premiered earlier this morning, along with it’s heart-hurting video.

You can watch it here together with the Oasis original!

God Jul & Merry Ho Ho