After aurora borealising around Norway for the best part of a month we’re now back on terra firma. Let’s hop on-board the Polar Express and zip around the Nordics to check out which arctic monkeys will be tickling your fancy this March…
Last month it was all about Norway. Now that we’ve finished by:Larming around Oslo, it’s time to fix our sights on this month’s musical hot potato…
“Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen” sang Danny Kaye in the 1952 film, Hans Christian Andersen. Well he’d be singing it again today if, from his heav’nly vantage point, he could see the lustrous litany of new releases emanating from Kongeriget Danmark this month.
Spring is bursting out all over, as are musical bodice-rippers Lust for Youth, whose latest album Compassion drops this week via Sacred Bones. If you’re up for a dalliance with LfY you won’t be disappointed, their album is a ‘keeper’. A trio from Kobenhavn, Hannes Norrvide, Malthe Fischer & Loke Rahbek, are a post-punk collective who came together some years back. Their last album, Independence (2014), was an international hit and it looks extremely likely that Compassion will follow suit.
To be honest, categorising this as strictly post-punk would be to wedge a very 3D peg into a 1D round hole. It is a jigsaw of many pieces and, yes, there are hints of post-punk, but let me show you the ‘World in My Eyes’. From where I’m standing, this is freshened-up ’80s Mode electronica with its pop sensibilities intact but with a much, much darker subconscious. And I like it… Jeg kan lide det meget.
Elsewhere on Strøget, Denmark’s answer to Boyz II Men, Liss, have just issued a huge apology in the form of latest single ‘Sorry’. Everything you’d want from an R&B track and more, this piece of slow-hand electronica is catchy, funky, sexy. An inviting vocal, catchy hook, nice line in melody, topped off with slick production – all in the can man. Taken from their forthcoming EP, the originally-entitled First (due out 13th May via XL Recordings), this is the type of natty little number that once heard sticks in your head, and hours later you find yourself subconsciously humming. I can see the Ed fanboying this.
Back in the ’80s there was a huge hit song called ‘China in your Hands’. Fast-forward thirty years and – T’pau! – there’s a Danish band called Chinah whose sound is so hot they’ll have you like putty in their hands. Just back from a stint at by:Larm, where all the ‘cool’ people were *cough*, they’ve just put out a re-work of the Jack Garratt track, ‘Worry’. What is it with these compassionate, apologetic, Danish worryboxes eh? This R&B delight is a montage of squashy, flouncy and juddery electro-noises and a floral bouquet of vocals. What’s the Danish for ‘fangirl’?
Before I slip off for some kaffe and Daim, three things you should know:
Firstly, The Entrepreneurs (‘Unable to Stop’-purveying noisy romantic rock) have just fired off a new single salvo. Ta-dah! It’s all hyperactive drumming, post-punky hazed vocals and a stream-of-guitar-consciousness that starts life in a menacing manner but expires with a swish of uplifting melodica.
Secondly there’s more squincy synth R&B courtesy of Soleima, she of the vox akin to Aurora, albeit one with a more American accent. Youthful, engaging, this ‘sort of’ love song is feeding our electronic addiction this month.
Finally, we have new kids on Rådhuspladsen square, Irah, a recently formed three-piece made up of Stine Grøn (of Kentaur fame – saw them at by:Larm *cough* amazing *cough*), Adi Zukanovic and Oliver Louis Brostrøm Laumann. They’re debuting their first single, ‘Into Dimensions’, a sublime electronic work with the most divine vocals, so delicious you’ll want to eat it, whole. Inviting, intoxicating, evocative, it will, like the best chocolate in the world (see above), leave you wanting more.
Sweeping swiftly into Sweden we ask a simple question: ‘What You Talking About?’ The answer lies with Peter, Bjorn & John, who after a five-year gap have come back to the party with a melodic ‘Young Folks’-ian popper full of pumping drums, vibrant guitar, dancing electronics and more hooks than an angling shop. Oh, and there’s lots of PB&J trademark Popeye-esque whistling. 6/4 on guaranteed hit!
Fancy a drink at our sonictail party? We have the Magic Potion for you, a nice cold glass of ‘Milk’. Good old-fashioned guitar-driven indie with a nice dollop of wonk on the side and a vocal redolent of Alex Clemence of Leicester dreampoppers Day Flower, this is possibly one of my favourite tracks to spring outta Sweden in a long time. Go forth and buy! Ooh, nearly forgot, ‘Milk’ is the lead single from Magic Potion’s hotly anticipated debut LP Pink Gum, due out on May 27th via PNKSLM.
On the week before Easter it’s kind of appropriate that we’re featuring a track called ‘True Believer’. No ‘Doubting Thomases’ here, we’re so into Ditt Inre‘s sexy sound. Lush, smoky, pulsing – this is the type of music you wanna get down to at ‘dark o’clock’, y’all hear what I’m sayin’? Electronic gymnastics on a grand scale make up the bones of this fantastic track, spliced and diced by some totally amazeballs percussion.
Instrumentally this track is magnetic, vocally it is addictive. The distorted voiceunders become dream voiceovers against a lush utopian electro-backdrop. This is pure pop perfection – get in, get down and do it.
Elsewhere on a starry, starry night in Stockholm, a ‘Chameleon’ was dancing through the shadows. The lush new single from RABBII, it is a piece of sugar-coated electro-pop candy, a saccharine confection with a delicious frosting. That is until you bite into its acerbic centre, unleashing a bitter lyrical flow. Don’t underestimate RABBII – this isn’t your average electro-pop outfit, this is adult electronica with a trenchant bite. Pay good attention to the lyrics and you’ll catch my drift.
And then there was Fredrik Georg Eriksson’s ’60s psych baby ‘Two Of A Kind’, lifted from his forthcoming record ‘Vagrants’ due out the end of the month. “Birds of a feather, two of a kind” – this is 2016 ‘alcopop’ to The Doors’ Whisky a-Go-Go. Colourful, bubbly, addictive, it’s choc-full of toe-tapping, head-nodding rhythmic beats capable of lifting the most despondent spirit out of the darkest musical doldrums.
“Finally, it has happened to me” (go google), we wrap with Gidge, and, seeing as we are in the midst of the perfect Swedish electrical storm, we shall end as we began, with a piece of Sverige electronica. Except this is electronica with a difference! A la Olafur Arnalds, this two-part composition deserves a piece all to itself. Think of this as the heads up, the read deal is to follow.
Rolling into Rejkjavik we grab a snifter of Brennivín and head straight for our favourite outdoor thermal spa, to blow a few bubbles, let off some steam and chillax to some of Iceland’s coolest new sounds.
First to espy us paddling in their back yard are Samaris, whose new single ‘Wanted 2 Say’ brings us yet more lush electronica. The track is from their forthcoming album, which interestingly was written separately, band members Þórður Kári Steinþórsson (aka Doddi), Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir (clarinet) and Jófríður Ákadóttir (vocal) having upped sticks to three different locations.
Recorded in Berlin, Reykjavik and Ireland (unspecified) over the best part of a year, the album sees Samaris’ first venture into English language territory, and a pretty successful one it is too.
There’s something hymnal about the intro of this intense electro-number. Starting with something of a spiritual exhalation, this momentary mournful state is broken up by some funky, whizzed-up techno d’n’b (Which in my day used to be a company of debt collectors, my how times have changed!).
‘Intense techno-pop’ is how I would describe it. ‘Wanted 2 Say’ reminds me of those heady club sounds back in the ’90s, full of crazy drillin’ beats and wistful, dreamy vocals. This urban bubbliciousness, a seriously good omen of what is coming down the line from Samaris, will have you hooked in no time.
Samaris will play the Lock Tavern, London on 5th April (6/4 the Ed will be there) and are releasing a 12″ version of ‘Wanted 2 Say’ on 8th April via One Little Indian.
Just as we’re settling down for a quiet evening in the igloo, in burst the multi-membered Reykjavíkurdætur, one hot-potata female rap collective, who have just returned to HQ having taken London by storm. With more members than I could ever hope to remember, this gang has more attitude than Banksy, the Gallagher bros. and Rihanna arriving home en masse at 5am to find they’ve been locked out. They’ve just released a remix of in-yer-face single, ‘Fanbois’. It’s in Icelandic so I haven’t a clue what they’re saying, but it’s potent, compelling, and just enough on the right side of melodic for this rap dissenter to want to hear more.
Finally, breaking news from a polar ice-cap near you: Sigur Rós have added even more dates onto their extensive tour, including Bristol Harbourside (June 23rd) and Stockholm Music & Arts Festival on July 30th (when will the new music drop guys?? #batedbreath). Further, a soundtrack composed by members Goggi and Orri has been shortlisted for the Tribeca Film Festival. You can check out all the details on their FB page, here.
A quick nod to the Icelandic Bedouins leaving light dustings of snow over European shores…
Solo artist Auður, fresh from a successful stint at by:Larm, is currently gigging in Germany, after which he will hop off to
freeze enthral those sun-tanned beachy musos in LA with his ice-cold electro R&B.
Elsewhere, new moody baritones on the Icelandic block Fufanu have just finished blitzing their way through a myriad Euro cities and have dropped a groovy new vid for the Damon Albarn remix of their ‘Ballerina in the Rain’ single.
The album itself is a bit Marmite. Personally I detest Marmite, but I love experimentation and this composition is an unorthodox revelation that’s broadened my Nordic horizons. Impressive instrumentation, deep insightful lyrics and complex arrangements, all Liima hallmarks, make this album an above average production. Predominantly a synth-driven sound, wrapped up in a furore of percussion, ii is a quirky, emotional rollercoaster that will make an impact, one way or another.
Ramping up the quirk more than a few notches is experimental Finnish artist Merja Kokkonen, who goes under the Islaja moniker. The Helsinki-based singer/songwriter is also a member of improv/psych folk bands Avarus and Kemialliset Ystävät. This multi-instrumentalist with a penchant for off-centre psychedelia is oft compared to both Björk and Nico, and it is the latter who was the main inspo for her latest project, The Nicosphere.
Originally an art installation comprised of music, written word and a camera obscura, it was installed at the Amos Anderson art museum in Helsinki. Our featured track today centres on the life and music of Velvet Underground collaborator Nico, and is a “free rendition” of her song ‘No One is There’. It forms a soundtrack to the visual, which Islaja has entitled, ‘Nicosfääri’. Prepare to be stunned.
We end our journey in the land of light, Norway. Here we’re switching off the electricity and drawing back the curtains to allow in the glow of night aurorae and ‘snowshine’. We’ll light some candles (for effect) and throw a few logs onto our glowing fire, on this Spring night which still has a hint of chill in its air. Time to cuddle up like bugs on a rug, glass of Akvavit in hand and ‘evocative’ music on the turntable…
Say hi to Hanne Kolsto, one gorgeous voice and one VERY grand piano. Be prepared to be enchanted by Hanne’s latest evocation, ‘Black Hand’, four minutes of hair-raising acoustic pathos. Taken from her forthcoming album Live at Toyenkirken (or ‘Toyen Church’ in English), it is one of a collection of live intimate recordings made, literally, on the altar of a church.
Sampling materials from her back catalogue, Hanne has compiled a re-worked ‘best of’, pared back and freshly arranged, from which ‘Black Hand’ is the lead track. Emotive to the point of emotionally loaded, this is a track so taut with tension and fraught with feeling that it could precipitate faultlines in the hardest of crusts. It is not driven but lead by a plaintive vocal set against a backwash of delicate piano and ever-increasing circles of mellow electronica. Recalling troubled relationships and their resultant emotional whiplash, ‘Black Hand’ is a “terrible beauty” – a poignant sonic memory of melodic pleasure tinged with heart-rending sadness.
Live at Toyenkirken is due out 22nd April via Jansen Plateproduksjon and can be pre-ordered here.
From hair raising to spine tingling, enter EERA, one of a new cohort of ingenues recently arrived on a flourishing Norwegian indie scene. Her debut eponymous EP released through House Arrest has literally taken UK musos by storm. Hand on heart, I have never known a musical debutante to so rapidly become such a magnetic draw for music media. ‘White Water’, the second single to be taken from the EP, has a compelling bedfellow in its visual accompaniment, which sees EERA stare fixedly, Mona Lisa style, whilst lying submerged in a bath of, well, white water.
April 29th- Denmark, Aarhus @ SPOT Festival
May 19th – 21st – Brighton, UK @ The Great Escape Festival
September 2nd – 4th – London, UK @ End Of The Road Festival
“This feels just like a dream” whispers Herman Wildhagen and that is exactly what his song ‘Again’ is like… a soft, hazy, mesmerising cloud of dream on which I could happily float away. Starting with blushes of sensual lo-fi, breathy vocals and spacious chords, ‘Again’ burns slowly towards a chilled out finale comprising Winwood-esque organ and impossibly lazy guitar sequences, as sensual as they are slack.
Wildhagen makes up one fifth of Panda Panda, a new young group from Trondheim, hub of the Norwegian musicverse. His first solo venture, ‘Again’, is a cleverly composed indie-pop number with catchy hooks and a nice melodic ‘rosemantic’ flow that will have your heart all a-flutter. It will be interesting to see where the musical road takes Wildhagen from this dreamy debut.
Finally, a pre-zzzz post-it note to check out the new Fiordmoss single ‘Madstone’, ’80s electronic a la Mode with a touch of ‘Purple Rain’ percussion and some very, very dark lyrics. Ditto the new Susanna offering ‘Hole’, another song of the dark, which despite some uplifting melody lines and enchanting vocals has a slightly claustrophobic feel. And on that dark note… *puffs out candle and hops into bed*
Words: Derval McCloat
Photo: Agnes Thor