Norway’s Sgrow Return With Existential Trip Hop Brood

Photo Kristoffer Lislegaard

There is something disturbingly sinister about the musical canvas on which Vilde Nupen traces the lyrics of the lead track from Sgrow‘s forthcoming album series.  Yes, you read that correctly, series!

‘Is Anyone Where They Want To Be’ is the first single to be lifted from the electronic duo’s impending series entitled Circumstance.  With the initial album expected out this Autumn and an early 2018 date pencilled in for the follow-on release. it’s going to be a busy year for this Norwegian pair.

Already dividing their time between Toronto and Oslo, both Vilde Nupen and Kristoffer Lislegaard who make up Sgrow, have for the past six months been performing a fine balancing act between working, studying, music-making and general touristing. So, maybe it’s no surprise that the title of their latest single is a rhetorical question about our place in this world?

‘Is Anyone Where They Want To Be?’ is a deep dive into our psyche and soul, worming its way into our spiritual, emotional, and psychological fabric, and questioning the authenticity of our contentment with and acceptance of our lot in life.

Is anyone actually in the job, home, city, relationship, persona that they truly want to be in?  I suspect the answer in the majority of cases, would be a no, but if there’s a happy soul out there who is completely content with the lot, do please let us know!

Photo of Julie Wennesland Artwork
by Kristoffer Lislegaard

Nupen’s probing lyrics are carefully teased out against a dystopian backdrop of avant-garde drone. “What type of distraction shall I pick today to keep me from facing the fact that I’m drifting”

Lislegaard has conjured an intense galaxy shot through with random electronic sounds spiralling through its orbit like frenetic comets. Short showers of synth-iridescence hail down on Nupen’s softly blurred but weighty vocal adding moments of lightness to an otherwise shadowy gloaming.  All in all this is a thought provoking monologue set in a dark, avant-pop soundscape fraught with tension, its inquisitorial storyline coloured by both the insecurities and unsettling challenges of its malcontent narrator.

DervSwerve

‘Is Anyone Where They Want To Be?’ which you can listen to here, is available to stream/download via all digital channels.

Spotify: bit.ly/isanyone         iTunes: bit.ly/iawtwtb          Tidal: bit.ly/istidal
Soundcloud: bit.ly/iscloud    Deezer: bit.ly/isdeezer

Øyafestivalen … Internationally Speaking.

Julia Holter
Julia Holter

Where the author recommends their top 5 tips from the #Øya2016 International line up.

OYa

There is no mean array of ‘international jetsetters’ flying into Oslo from today for their annual musicfest with an environmentally friendly twist, Øyafestivalen. With revered acts from across the spectrum taking part, it’s a hard task to choose the creme from the creme de la creme, but hey, someone’s got to do the heavy work!

CHRISTINE & THE QUEENS

First up we have on-trend Queen of the Now, Christine aka Héloïse Letissier.  A multi-media artists hailing from Nantes, France, her name comes out of her long term association with drag queen musicians.  Signed to Because Music since 2012, she has released multiple recordings, but it was latest album, ‘Chaleur Humaine‘ that sent her spinning like a #tilted top into the arms of the international musicverse.  Christine and the Queens will play the Sirkus stage at 3.55pm Wednesday and her performance should prove to be one of the most unique of the festival.

LAST SHADOW PUPPETS

One time poster boy for northern kick-ass, Alex Turner has recently become something of the “guy the media love to hate”. Where once the Arctic Monkeys’ frontman was seen as a leading light of the new wave of Brit indie rockers with his Sheffield scowl and swagger, it would now seem that he has swaggered one step too far for some, and has become something of a piñata for a horde of meowling music media.  Personally, I think they’re missing the point of the Last Shadow Puppets and their hammed up, camped up, OTT on stage personae.  Call Kane and Turner defectors all you want, LSP make great guitar driven baroque pop with well crafted, entertaining lyrics accompanied by inspired videos.  I for one shall enjoy watching the northern swagger abound on the Amfiet stage, Wednesday 4.50pm.  Expect to be entertained!

MASSIVE ATTACK

Massive Attack
Massive Attack

Is there anyone on this planet who has remained unmoved by ‘Teardrop’, or, whose heart of stone hasn’t caved on viewing the video … that beautifully, wonderfully conceived of visual (I’m getting goosebumps just thinking of it).  Masters of invention, world-class collaborators and perennial chameleons of reinvention, Massive Attack swing from trip hop to delicate, soothing electro-pop ballads to rousing pop anthems brimful with unforgettable hooks.  Around for the guts of 30 years, there is a reason why Massive Attack have established a worldwide following, and those lucky enough to be in Toyenparken at the Amfiest main stage at 9.30pm Wednesday will bear witness to it!

DAUGHTER

Daughter oh Daughter, how you delight me with your delicious indie-folkie delicacies.  This trio is an international mix of Swiss born Igor Haefeli, Frenchman Remi Aguilella and North Londoner, Elena Tonra.  With a vocal that flows like quicksilver and a subtle intensity that catches you right off guard, Daughter produce spectacularly good music without fuss or fanfare.  They released their critically acclaimed top 20 album, ‘Not To Disappear’ earlier this year, so you can expect snippets from that as well as the ‘known’ songs from their back catalogue.  Masters in the art of understated, their performance at Øya will probably elicit adjectives like bewitching and spinetingling!  Daughter play the Vindfruen stage, Friday 5.50pm.  Will play on your emotions, but hey, isn’t that what festivals are about?

TOP TIP… hands down, JULIA HOLTER.

When it comes to American uncategorisable singer songwriter performer musical magician I have one shit-serious blind-side – Julia Holter.   I cannot be wavered in my magnetic attraction to Holter’s unique and utterly enchanting talent.  So much more than a singer/songwriter, this multi talented, multi-instrumentalist creator of magical charms is to 21st century experimental art-pop what Tori Amos was to the 20th.  Left-field abstract sometimes indie, sometimes ambient, Holter is in the mould of those other undefinable artists of her age – Newsom, Kate Bush and Laurie Anderson.  Her talent is a gift, and she will bestow this gift on those lucky enough to be in front of the Vindfruen stage at 3.55pm Thursday!

The main Øyafestivalen is located in the Toyenparken area of central Oslo.  It runs from Wednesday 10th through Saturday 13th and promises to be a hell of a lot better than the current meteorological situation in the Norwegian capital!!

Alma’s Latest Single Is Wickedly Good

Alma

There isn’t anything that the pomp of brass and wistful elegance of strings can’t take to the next level, and then some.

By layering russet hued horns and yearning string sequences over menacing basslines, sweetly seductive synth and touches of plinking piano, Swedish trip-hopper, Alma, has scored a classy soundtrack that could easily pass for a younger, sassier sibling of Portishead’s ‘Glory Box – Give Me A Reason‘.  Cloaked in the same hypnotic allure threaded with subtle strands of intrigue, her latest single, ‘Wicked’ oozes that same sumptuous, off-limits sexiness as its mid ’90s predecessor.

Vocals with an attitude face off against dreamy pillows of feathery delightfulness, giving the sultry, chastising lyrics a warm, animated colour with just the right touch of cool, refined disdain around the edges.

‘Wicked’ is Alma’s latest release following the feisty electro-dance track, ‘I Do It For You’.  Less poppy, more intense, this is an extremely sophisticated production that significantly ups the song-crafting ante.  In fact, ‘Wicked’ is of such richly textured and cinematic proportions as to be practically of the same calibre as the many hits penned by Guy Chambers or Adele (think Millenium meets Skyfall).

While the song itself was released a few months back, the Nim Sundström directed, sensual and dramatic Bondesque video (check out the Bond referencing shots of that spiral staircase) was only premiered a week ago.

Relatively new to the music scene in the UK&I, this young Stockholm based singer appears to know her strengths and is playing to them like a well seasoned pro.  If Alma keeps firing shots like ‘Wicked’ from her musical armoury you can expect to see her star in the ascendancy quicker than Bond could say ‘007’.

‘Wicked’ is released via Wicked Records and is available for streaming.  You can follow Alma on Soundcloud, Facebook and Twitter.