Nordic Music Scene #7 – News and Reviews from across Scandinavia and the Nordic countries

Nordic Music Scene #7 – News and Reviews from across Scandinavia and the Nordic countries

Nordic Music Scene

#7 – 01 Oct, 2018

Welcome to the seventh edition of Nordic Music Scene, a monthly section within God is in the TV that is dedicated to reviews and news of artists from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and their associated territories, focusing on indie artists and labels.

In this edition: Orions Belte, TeleGram, Feel Freeze, Dolores Haze, The Lovers of Valdaro, Pom Poko, Frøkedal, Choir of Young Believers, MAISØN,  FRIGGA, TULA, Victoria Voss, Cure-a-Phobia, Helga, Júníus Meyvant, NONONO, LEW, Solblomma/Johan Vävare, EA KAYA/Kidnap, Simon Alexander, I am Karate, Charlotte and Thieves, First Aid Kit, Royal Prospect, Lokoy, Amanda Tenfjord, Highasakite, Frum, SAS rewards programme now offers rock concerts in Scandinavia, Katzenjammer reunion?

Sections: New Singles/Singles from previously featured artists/EPs/Albums/News/Videos/Down Memory Lane

Singles, EPs and albums are now rated out of 10.

All the editions of Nordic Music Scene are stored under ‘Features’ on the GIITTV website or can be located by searching the website for ‘Nordic Music Scene’.

Special notice! Reviews of several Nordic artists and bands who played live at the Reeperbahn Festival, September 19th – 22nd and including Pom Poko, Ane Brun, Sigrid and Lxandra, can be found HERE

Singles

(Norway) Orions Belte – Joe Frazier

The Norwegian trio’s Bandcamp and Facebook entries read Is it blues? Is it world music? Is it underground pop? You can choose whichever you want, it’s not important for Orions Belte to be pigeonholed. They’re playing instrumental music inspired by Nigerian 70’s rock, postcards from the French Riviera, Formula One races at the Monza track in Italy, and when Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali in the ‘Fight of the Century’ in 1971.”  

The video is of an abstract bus journey featuring characters straight out of a lost Munch painting. The music is equally abstract; that sort of blues that is tinged with jazz in the way only the Norwegians can.

This is actually the final music video instalment from Orions Belte’s album Mint. The video brings the previous two together in the dream world, surrounding the life of ‘This Man’, the theoretical figure who apparently turns up frequently in the dreams of psychiatric patients the world over. (http://www.thisman.org/)

If it’s all just a little too weird for you, read GIITTV’s Album Editor Loz Etheridge’s review of the album Mint here: https://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2018/08/15/orions-belte-mint-jansen/

7/10

(Norway) TeleGram – Another City

Anyone who has read this column for a while will know I track members of the hugely distinctive but temporarily dormant Norwegian all-girl band Katzenjammer (see also the News section, below). One of the members, Anne Marit Bergheim, has popped up in a new band, the Oslo-based TeleGram.

‘Another City’ is the first single from the album The Right Song, which will be released this autumn.

Of course TeleGram isn’t just Ms Bergheim. Other band members are Kaja Pettersen – cello, and vocals; Adrian Løseth Waade – violin and vocals; and Marius Graff – vocals, guitar and banjo, in addition to Anne Marit on vocals, guitar and mandolin.

They describe their style as “Folk-inspired acoustic chamber pop”.

The inclusion of banjo and mandolin suggest a Katzenjammer-type sound and in the introductory music there is but that’s where the comparison ends. When the strings come in the chamber pop takes over and it makes for pleasant listening.

8/10

(Norway/UK) FRIGGA – Flower Flower

FRIGGA is the British-Norwegian artist formerly known as Sasha Siem. ‘Flower Flower’ was conceived in her home studio in Brooklyn, New York shortly after giving birth to her son, Dylan.

She comes with quite a CV, having studied music and poetry at Cambridge University and Harvard University. She has written music for the London Symphony Orchestra, The Royal Opera House, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and she was the youngest person to receive a ‘British Composer Award.’

Her first two albums – Most of the Boys and Bird Burning – were recorded in Iceland with renowned producer Valgeir Sigurðsson and have been remixed by the likes of  Matthew Herbert, Susanne Sundfør, Highasakite, East India Youth, and Rabit.

‘Flower Flower’ is “a bold celebration of desire, the human body and the pure pleasure of being alive.”

It’s more than a little psychedelic and seems lighter in tone than previous work, which often featured heavy bass and drums. She used sacred objects here such as crystals, runes, and tuning forks to create unique percussive sounds and beats, and the album also marks FRIGGA’s return to her first instrument – the cello. Recorded at 432 hertz – otherwise known as ‘the Love Frequency’ and claimed to be ‘the natural frequency of the universe’ – the vibrations and sounds of the record are intended to “awaken, restore, uplift”. You can’t get much more hippy than that.

Watching the video I got the impression the song could have been lifted straight out of the 1960’s musical Hair.

I’ve seen her compared to Björk, Joanna Newsome and Fiona Apple but I’d liken her more to Julia Holter.

7/10

(Sweden) MAISØN ft. Majro – Under my Clothes

A new artist here for you. ‘Under my Clothes’ is the debut release from a Swedish producer – MAISØN , who is known as an EDM instrumentalist – and it features vocals from Majro, a singer whom MAISØN found and connected with on his Soundcloud channel. MAISØN says “The lyrics are about an addiction as everyone is addicted to something. That’s why I think a lot of people will find them meaningful”. In this case it’s “something in the water”…

The 28-year old was apparently contracted in a way which did not permit him to release any music under his own name until recently.

Like a lot of Swedish music we’ve reviewed this year it has a summery feel to it, so perhaps this isn’t the best time for it to be released.

Nevertheless he hits the mark with a house vibe at the poppier, dance end of the spectrum and in Majro he’s found a high quality vocalist from the off.

‘Under My Clothes’ was released on Sep 5th via Armada Music.

MAISØN promises much more new music and collaborations to come.

7/10

(Sweden/Germany) TULA – Colours

‘Colours’ is the new single from the Swedish-born Berlin-based dream pop artist TULA and follows her comeback single ‘Bullet’.

Synaesthesia (“the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body”) seems to be the big thing at the moment (see also Becky and the Birds in NMS #6) and she has said I hear in colours. Every voice, every sound and tone is connected to a colour in my mind.”

The track opens with the appropriate “I’m hearing all your colours”. There are seven colours in the spectrum and it seems as if there are as many vocal parts in this song.

Classed as ‘dark pop’ I’m not sure that’s an altogether accurate description overall, certainly not of this song, which is a quite inviting and calming though that was not the case with ‘Bullet’.

Both songs and the forthcoming EP ‘Skin’ were produced in co-operation with Klas Åhlund, who has worked with Robyn and Madonna. She has also recently worked with LA based electro trio THE GLITCH MOB on their new album ‘See without eyes.’

7/10

(Sweden/France) Victoria Voss – Layers

‘Layers’ is the debut solo single from Victoria Voss, a Swedish/French pop artist and songwriter who In recent years has placed most of her focus on developing her songwriter career, writing for artists signed to major labels such as Warner, Universal Music and BMG. Inspired by France’s strong lyrical culture, Victoria places a lot of emphasis on writing meaningful lyrics, playing with language and putting a twist on common themes. As a (half) Swede, her song writing equally emphasises hooky melodies.

She’s an academic too, and is doing a PhD thesis in sustainability sciences at Stockholm University. Victoria’s research has taken her to many corners of the world, from the remaining primary rainforests of Borneo and coral reefs in Florida all the way to the United Nations Headquarters in New York. She hopes one day to be able to merge her musical and scientific careers in order to stimulate both heart and brain in tackling some of the most important issues of our time.

And so to the song itself. After the worthy introductory spiel above the last thing I expected was a track which Souncloud issues a parental warning for, on the grounds of explicitness. It’s fairly mild, a couple of “fucked ups” and an insistence she’d like to peel off someone’s layers, one by one. Accompanying the Soundcloud track is a pretty raunchy picture of Victoria in the bath that leaves little to the imagination.

It’s something the Cheeky Girls could have concocted, only much better; well written, sung, and produced. I could imagine it being a hit in the UK with a bit of doctoring. If this is what they do in the rainforests I might become an environmentalist myself.

8/10

(Sweden/Norway) Cure-a-Phobia – La Chanson du Cochon (The Song of the Pig)

After a four-year hiatus the all-female progressive pop band Cure-a-Phobia returns with a new (third) album, ‘Regeneration’, and a handful of singles. First out is‘La Chanson du Cochon’ (The Song of the Pig) – in English, with a French title.

It is an overtly political song targeting a list of perceived wrongs in society perpetrated by “Generation Ego.”

It is a call for humanity to start taking care of the world and each other the premise being that to make the world a better place we must all take responsibility for our actions.

The question is who is actually the pig? Is it the little harmless animal that is exploited and slaughtered by man or the human pig, which ruthlessly exploits the world for its own gain?

It features consistent rhyming that Eminem would be proud of.

“What is this insanity/We lost touch with reality/What happened to humanity/I blame it on society/The never-ending irony/of human mentality/destroys our viability/and that’s what really bothers me/We are what we are”

Then,

“People in authority/Dismiss their liability/The end of our own history/A rising probability/We need to end all poverty/oppression of minority/And make it a priority/to achieve equality…

I’d be inclined to add, “It’s all too much for me/I’ll just have a cup of tea”.   

Cure-a-Phobia formed in 2011, initially as an experiment in overcoming fears, hence its odd name. Stage fright, performance anxiety and inferiority complexes were primary targets that were attacked. The experiment focused on exposing the musicians’ fears by throwing them into the unknown, for example by playing an instrument they hadn’t mastered and exposing its (and their) soul to the audience.

7/10

(Sweden) Helga – Battle Song

The environment seems to weigh heavily in this edition of NMS and here is introspective Swedish singer Helga to reinforce it. Hailing from the forests of Dalarna, Helga writes music from the confines of her cabin. Living in the wilderness with just her guitar for company has given her song writing a sense of introspection.

She says “Nature for me is something magical and spiritual. It gives me a stronger sense of self and a feeling of unity and calm. I try my best to express these experiences and emotions through my music. I have a hard time writing songs about people and end up writing about nature, introspection and other-worldly stuff instead. It feels easier and more natural to me. I gather a lot of inspiration from nature, internal experiences my wild imagination, books and dreams.”

Drawing upon a wide range of influences from post-rock and metal to folk & classical, Helga propagates her sense of melancholy. On ‘Battle Song’ a crow caws and pounding tribal – almost warlike – drums are juxtaposed with mournful vocals (with “no surrender” and “we’re all in this together” repeated frequently). The vocals are underpinned by flourishes of guitar that remind me of the style of Anna Calvi, though not as complex.

Interestingly, Soundcloud casts it as ‘metal’ and it is intense though there are distinct elements of pop and folk in it. Folk-metal, anyone? A new genre? It certainly goes well beyond tree hugging.

7/10

(Iceland) Júníus Meyvant – High Alert

Júníus Meyvant has announced he’ll release his second album, Across the Borders on November 9th via the independent Icelandic label, Record Records.

Born and raised on Heimaey, the largest of the Westman Islands off the south coast of Iceland, Unnar Gísli Sigurmundsson has been releasing music under the moniker of Júníus Meyvant since 2014, having been brought up in a musical and religious household. He was a latecomer to music, only taking up guitar in his early twenties. In 2015, Júníus received ‘Best Single’ and ‘Newcomer of the Year’ at the Icelandic Music Awards, marking him as an important new talent amidst the Icelandic music scene. He released his debut full length, Floating Harmonies to critical acclaim in 2016. Across The Borders is his first new material since that debut LP.

Marking the album’s announcement, what is regarded as the stand out track, ‘High Alert, has been made available as a taste of what to expect from the new LP. Despite the perceived upbeat nature of ‘High Alert’, Júníus explains there’s actually a darker side to the origin of the lyrics: “‘High Alert’ is about one-dimensional self-pitying talk amongst grown human beings, it’s the old cliché that you get kicked out and you get lost in desperation and self-pity. One day you have it all and the next day you’re looking over your shoulder because of a paranoia of wrong doings.” 

Those comments possibly reference Iceland’s financial crash, which almost finished the country off. It is written from the perspective though of someone whose tiny home island’s micro economy is underpinned by the fishing industry, which wasn’t adversely affected, and by tourism, which actually benefitted from the crash.

The album was recorded at the renowned Hljóðriti Studio at Hafnarfjörður on the outskirts of Reykjavik, which is regarded as one of the world’s leading studios.

He says, “the song started with me playing along to the drum loop and out of that came the guitar riff, making this one a rock tune. In the studio we then added the cinematic 70’s horn section.”

Despite the talk here of “rock tunes” what I hear is nearer to Northern Soul.

Júníus Meyvant will return to the live stage with his full band at this year’s Iceland Airwaves festival and will tour the UK (London, Manchester, Bristol) but not until February 2019.

7/10

(Denmark) LEW – You Said

LEW is singer and guitarist Sara Lewis Sørensen, who released her debut album Black Feathers in 2016, being well received both in Denmark and internationally.

The raw observations and minutiae of everyday life that she chronicled on it are continuing themes on the new single ‘You Said’, which describes what it means to walk together, the relation to another human being and daring to be brave and adventurous.

Of the many people involved in its production the one that caught my attention is producer Nis Bysted, who has worked with Choir of Young Believers, which is the featured band in ‘Down Memory Lane’ this month.

There is an otherworldly quality to the production and a percussive style that is similar to CoYB’s ‘Hollow Talk’ which is the featured DML track and I agree with the observation that LEW’s vocals are slightly punkish but melancholic. But for me the song never really gets going and it doesn’t help that I can’t tell at times if she’s singing in Danish or English. After a promising start it gets stuck in the same groove and for that reason becomes repetitive.

’You Said’ was released on all music streaming services on September 7th.

The video comes courtesy of Jonas Bang.

6/10

(Denmark) EA KAYA – Tied Up (Kidnap remix)

EA KAYA is the moniker of 22-year old Danish singer Christine Kiberg, who follows her debut release ‘Remedy’ (February 2018) with ‘Tied Up’, which has been given a stripped-back rework here by Kidnap.

Not short on ambition, EA KAYA is being mentioned in the same breath as Scandinavia stalwarts , Zara Larsson and Sigrid and is helping put Copenhagen on the musical map along with compatriots such as Liss, Goss, and Vera.

Her style is energetic silky future pop with lyrics about love and relationships but with edginess that distances her from mainstream pop, with frank lyrics part of the bargain. The tempo of the original track was slower but Kidnap has been able both to strip it back with the steady but groovy beat and add infectiousness to it at the same time.

7/10

(Sweden) Simon Alexander – Last Dance

From (originally) the west coast of Sweden comes Simon Alexander, who entered the music business as a drummer, covertly writing his own song material. It first came to light in 2015 with the release of the single ‘Cold Shiver’, in a project called Distant City Light, that he revealed his song writing capabilities. Following that he moved south to Malmö where he continued his music studies, and started working on his own solo project.

Regarded as a serious songwriter he decided to “step out of my comfort zone and make a fun and danceable anthem for all of those who wish that they had taken the chance when they had it. Whether it be telling someone how you really felt, or asking someone for one last dance.”

Finding himself being compared to the likes of Jeff Buckley, Neil Young and Hozier, none of whom are exactly known for dance anthems, must be daunting. You can however hear some similarities on a previous single, ‘Slide’, which, to be honest, has more considerably more gravitas about it in and in which he presents himself as a convincing folk/indie prospect.

6/10

(Sweden) I am Karate – News

Swedish pop duo I Am Karate (the Stockholm pairing of Erika Soldh Ahlström and Marta Petterson) have released have released their new single ‘News’.

Previous hits have seen them win the Best Unsigned Award at the GAFFA Awards in their home country.

They say, “This song is about someone chasing a dream and the spotlight, but if you take a closer look it’s also a love story.”

The single features a bouncy tropical rhythm alongside a huge chorus which is its most attractive feature.

‘News’ is out now through the pair’s own label I Am Karate Music

7/10

(Norway/Sweden) Charlotte and Thieves – The Machine

Charlotte and Thieves is an emerging new band from Norway, with two of the four members being Swedish.

‘The Machine’ lyrics concern a woman with great artistic qualities who becomes weighed down with routine work, or “get a proper job” as we say here. Taking the case further it portrays a world where artistic expression is suppressed to maintain a life that continues the machinations of society.

I’m not sure I entirely agree with that premise; “artistic expression” is everywhere you look these days.

The single is a slow burner which builds towards a crescendo that doesn’t quite get there; perhaps one more chorus would have done the trick. There is the clever use of a bell, my favourite percussive instrument, presumably to mark the passing of “wasted time”, which in this case is spent painting walls.

The greatest impact comes from vocalist Michael Besseberg, whose style fits the material perfectly, subtly supported by Andreas Rukan’s deft bass work.

‘The Machine’ was released on August 24th on all streaming platforms.

7/10

(Sweden)Royal Prospect – Soldier

Royal Prospect was formed in early 2014, participated in the Swedish version of the Emergenza festival and ended up in the first place, which got them to perform at various Swedish festivals and Croatia’s biggest music festival Inmusic in Zagreb.

The band recorded The EP Watching Your World’ and picked up a publishing deal. They’ve issued several singles since then and recently had a headline spot at Live at Heart, one of Sweden’s biggest festivals.

‘Soldier’ has a 1960’s feel to it in places though it is infiltrated by a very contemporary Scandic “woah-oh-oh-oh-oh” which perhaps doesn’t quite fit. Upbeat, uplifting and not a bad effort.

7/10

Singles from previously featured artists

(Denmark) Feel Freeze  – Let Go

I reviewed Feel Freeze’s last single, ‘Bridge To Your Heart’ in the previous edition and found it too repetitive while the instrumental bridge was the best part of it.

The new single, ‘Let Go!’, also taken from upcoming album Feathers and Scars has more to recommend it with some attractive synth lines.

‘Let Go!’ draws on the subject of freedom, with the duo telling us “Sometimes you have to set your loved ones free for them to grow wings and so that you can meet again on the other side. ‘Let Go!’ is about feeling lost and not knowing where you are or where you are going. About letting go of conceptions and expectations as to what genders fit certain bodies, which sexualities fit certain people and which bodies desire certain bodies.”

Feel Freeze draw pop inspiration from the likes of ANOHNI, The Flaming Lips, Royksöpp and Robyn.

The song still sounds a little disjointed but it is a step in the right direction.

6/10

(Sweden) Dolores Haze – Play Hard, F**k Hard, Love Hard.

You’ve got to hand it to Dolores Haze. Just like the fictional character they are named after they leave little to the imagination. Yet strangely they had the modesty to use asterisks in the title of this new single from their forthcoming album which is set for release this autumn. It must be the new zeitgeist in Sweden.

In their last single, ‘Banana’, which was as suggestive as it sounds, Dolores Haze fired shots at the overly male-dominated music industry, focusing on the #MeToo movement.

In Play Hard, F**k Hard, Love Hardthey follow a similar theme, with their unrelenting attitude towards female empowerment in the music industry, while adopting a less visceral approach in the process.

I can’t agree that the chorus is particularly anthemic or that they have much in common with Sigrid or Tove Lo as their PR company has it, but the three girls, who do have a little of the visual detachment and menace of Let’s Eat Grandma about them, have produced a musically and lyrically more satisfying song here than its predecessor and one that gets better each time you listen to it.

They say, “This song is for all destructive party people, looking for love in the wrong places, loving the wrong people too hard. Giving so much but never seem to feel content. Going around in the same circles. End up feeling nothing but emptiness”.

An album should be delivered this autumn.

7/10

(Norway) Pom Poko – Follow the Lights

Heavily fuzzed guitar and cowbell welcome you to this, the first track from experimental Norwegian rockers Pom Poko on their new label, Bella Union, and it is a first taste of their as-yet-unannounced debut album which is expected to be released in early 2019.

As is often the case with the band, who met while studying at the genteel Trondheim Music Conservatory (which has spawned several top class artists and bands) it is raucous, complex and unpredictable.

The group cite a range of influences on their unique sound, including “(West)-African music like Oumou Sangaré and Ali Farka Touré; indie bands like Vulfpeck, Palm and KNOWER; noisy high-energy bands such as Hella and Death Grips; and music with interesting lyrics such as Jenny Hval and Nick Drake”.

But it’s the improvisation that you’d expect from a school like Trondheim, which has a strong jazz tradition, which shines through.

Their live performances are reputed to be as rowdy as the music but regrettably there is only one forthcoming one in the UK; in London on October 1st (Heaven).

Pom Poko are Ragnhild (lead vocals), Ola (Drums), Jonas (Bass) and Martin (Guitar).

9/10

(Sweden) NONONO – Dancing (Mumbai Wedding)

Swedish alt-pop powerhouse NONONO released their new single ‘Dancing (Mumbai Wedding)’ on August 31st through Warner Music Sweden. Its message is that wonderful experiences can come in the darkest of times. Stina Wäpplin said, “I wrote the song under a wedding in Mumbai India, during the celebration of my friend’s love. Eight years earlier I had been in the same city but was then horrified and stuck in the middle of a terrorist attack. Life feels more fragile now and very unpredictable. I wanted to capture that feeling in a jar, save it and keep it as a reminder – that’s how ‘Dancing (Mumbai Wedding)’ came about.”

NONONO are big sellers in Sweden and you can understand why when you listen to the track, which is unrelentingly life-affirming. It’s got Radio 2 Track of the Week stamped right through it.

9/10

(Sweden) SoLBLoMMa – Charles de Gaulle (The Terminal Mix) 

Stockholm’s Queen of Quirkiness returns with a re-mix of a track released earlier in the year – ‘Charles de Gaulle’. But this isn’t any old remix. It marks the return after 20 years no less of legendary Swedish producer Johan Vävare, known as the Brian Eno of his country, who apparently now resides in Vietnam and whose production skills have not been heard on any Swedish release since the late 1990s.

In the 80s and 90s Vävare established himself as one of Sweden’s leading music talents, with soundscapes and ideas that were integral parts of classic recordings with a host of Swedish stars too long to mention but which did include the Bowie-a-like Thomas di Leva, who is himself undergoing a renaissance at the moment.

I lost count of the instruments and paraphernalia Vävare’s added here – everything from a harpsichord to an alarm clock – but nothing overshadows the almost plaintive piano riff, which he left untouched. The line “Attention please, will all passengers travelling with SoLBLoMMa to Planet Earth please report to the information desk” is pure genius.

Vävare said,One day I happened to find SoLBLoMMa online – an irresistible blend of Goldfrapp, Pippi Longstocking and Albert Einstein. I just had to make contact with her! I mean, how many other artists create IQ-tests in their spare time? I really love this song… Emptiness. Time that stands still. A crazy, lonely lady walking around the terminal talking to herself” … “The airplane will come and get me”. Her dreams of flying away… elsewhere… sometime… maybe…”

It speaks volumes about SoLBLoMMa’s idiosyncratic appeal that Vävare was tempted out of retirement to do this re-mix. She’s an acquired taste but more than ever we need these people operating at the margins of society to help keep us sane.

‘Charles de Gaulle (The Terminal Mix by Johan Vävare)’ was released as a single on September 14th and is featured on the EP ‘Come and Have a Coffee with Me at Charles de Gaulle’ (released September 28th).

That EP also features a remix by EvOLu who works with members of Depeche Mode and Peaches and contains the original single mix and two new remixes by Solblomma herself.

8/10

https://soundcloud.com/claesolson/solblomma-charles-de-gaulle-the-terminal-mix-by-johan-vavare

(Norway) Lokoy ft. DePresno – Unfortunate

Sløtface’s bassist Lokoy releases his second solo single, written, as was much of his solo material, on the road, amidst Sløtface’s Try Not to Freak Out album tour of 2017/18.

As with his first single ‘Malibu’, Lokoy enlists a guest vocalist. For ‘Unfortunate’, the honour was bestowed on Norwegian artist DePresno.

‘Unfortunate’ is Lokoy’s take on a slow-jam R&B ballad, telling the story of late nights on a long European tour, missing your loved ones.  He explains; “‘Unfortunate’ is a straight-up love song. Sløtface did a six-week EU tour right after our album came out, and I missed my girlfriend a lot during that tour. I think I wrote these lyrics just to feel like I was closer to her.” 

He isn’t singing about a tomato. The obscure line “Paint me by the rules of sfumato” refers to the very specific style of painting where there are no hard lines but still a very accurate re-composition of the object. He describes; “Paint me be the rules of sfumato” was based on when she told me over the phone that she felt like I had changed just a bit – I think it was just my way of talking or something not very serious, but still, I felt like her picture of me was getting blurry. I wanted her to see me as accurately as possible in the situation we were in”.

It is quite different again from Sløtface’s output, and different again from ‘Malibu’. Whatever will come next?

‘Unfortunate’ was released via Propeller Recordings.

7/10

(Norway) Amanda Tenfjord – No Thanks

21 year-old Amanda Tenfjord would “rather sleep alone tonight than have a second-best by (my) side, that’s you…” according to her  new single ‘No Thanks. He’s obviously trouble but her sassy nature suggests another side to the story.

The song appears to have been written in reverse, working backwards from the title, which came first and was co-penned with the Norwegian producer/writer Odd Martin (Sigrid / Aurora) and there are traces of Sigrid in the style of the song.

Originally hailing from a small village in western Norway called Tennfjord – it is her real name – she is now based in Trondheim which is becoming the new Norwegian musical mecca. She was recently awarded Norway’s Forbildeprisen, with previous recipients including Aurora and Gundelach.

There are plans for an EP release in October and more music to be revealed in the coming months.

7/10

(Norway) Highasakite – I call Bullshit

I can never tell with Highasakite exactly what songwriter Ingrid Helene Håvik means. Is this actually meant to be ‘I talk bullshit’? Or ‘I call it bullshit’ or ‘I call (out) your bullshit’? She has a little language, Norwegish, of her own.

The song, the third single to be issued so far in 2018, is not just a mission statement, but a call to arms for the party goers who refuse to end the night at closing time. It’s a song that goes back a while – to 2014 indeed, between the Silent Treatment and Camp Echo albums and was written during a sleepless night. It probably wasn’t considered suitable for the bleak Camp Echo.

Because of its age one might expect it to mirror its peer songs and it is certainly a little different from the other two singles that have been released this year, ‘Out of Order’ and ‘Elastic State of Mind’, the first of which did it for me (a fan) while the second didn’t, really.

Ingrid had to sing it quietly on the first occasion for fear of waking her boyfriend and that restrained vocal delivery has been retained for the track. Otherwise, it is immediately identifiable as a Highasakite song through its complex arrangements and the harmonies that make you yearn for Marte Eberson to be there on backing vocals in live shows. But she’s gone now, along with another two-fifths of the band. C’est la vie.

The tune is also a little different. It doesn’t rise to the typical crescendo; rather it hangs on the deft little chorus, “I call bullshit, the night is young/my drug of choice and I sure ain’t done”. The song has distinctly headed back in the direction of ‘Silent Treatment’ which will please many of Highasakite’s most ardent fans.

Highasakite play Omeara in London on November 20th in a one-off UK show. They return to London on February 28th for the first of two UK shows, the other is in Manchester (also Dublin), before heading off on a five-arena Norwegian tour followed by further European dates.

That is how they released Camp Echo, with the three British Isles dates in the same cities so it seems highly likely the third international album will be released in February 2019 (or sooner). Videos suggest a new band may have been put together for the live shows to complement Ingrid and Trond Bersu, who has transitioned from percussionist to keyboards man and producer.

8/10

EPs

(Sweden) The Lovers of Valdaro – Euphoric, Melancholic, Electronic

The Lovers of Valdaro is a Swedish duo comprising Erik Gabriel, who has been an artist for 15 years and Adam Warhester, who is also a music producer and manager of two bands who have appeared in GIITTV/Nordic Music Scene – Rånda and Delorian.

Historically, The Lovers of Valdaro is a pair of human skeletons approximately 6,000 years old and discovered by archaeologists at a Neolithic tomb in Italy, in 2007. They were interred facing, and with arms around each other, in a way reminiscent of a lovers’ embrace.

It’s a mightily evocative name to choose but their music, typically Swedish electro-pop but with much more to it, is appropriately vivid, powerful and well produced with two well-matched voices. Gabriel in particular has a lyrical vocal, not quite androgynous, where you can’t quite tell if the singer is male or female. He has had to tone down his typically theatrical delivery for these songs.

The Lovers of Valdaro released their first single ‘Lost Forever’ in April and won a spot as the opening performers at Melodifestivalen 2019 with a Radio P4 Nästa performance of it, partly because of a very visual stage show, which they promise for the Melodifestivalen competition, which is Sweden’s entrée into the Eurovision Song Contest as the country’s representative. The band had their first show at Stockholm Pride/Europride. They follow up with this EP consisting of four tracks and including a version of Nick Kamen´s ‘I Promised Myself’ which isn’t that far removed from the original.

They describe their music as “euphoric, melancholic and electronic”, hence the title. ‘E.M.E’ is something they’d like to develop, acronym and all, as a new ‘genre’. Heartbreak songs with lyrics that welcome scrutiny.

‘Walk Alone’ might benefit from a lengthier, more diverse, bridge but the tune is Euro-catchy while ‘Lost Forever’ meanwhile is reminiscent of a slightly toned-down Wham! and with an even more distinctive 1980’s sound.

‘Lovers on the Run’ is a slightly slower track with more emphasis on melody and vocals.

A solid disco beat pervades each track and that’s where these songs are going to be played, whether the discos are in Venice, Valencia or Västerås.

‘Euphoric, Melancholic, Electronic’ was self-released on September 7th.

An album will follow later this year with, it is promised, “some more cheerful songs on it”.

Interesting titbit. Erik Gabriel has already appeared in the Eurovision Song Contest, this year, as a dancer for the Moldovan entry.

8/10

(Lost Forever)

Albums

(Norway) Frøkedal – How we made it

For a full review of the excellent second album from Anne Lise Frøkedal please go to https://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2018/08/23/frokedal-how-we-made-it-propeller-recordings/

8/10

News

SAS rewards programme now offers rock concerts in Scandinavia – all part of a growing trend

Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) has announced a new rewards programme initiative allowing all its EuroBonus (Frequent Flyer) members the ability to book concert tickets via LiveNation, the World’s largest concert search engine. In many cases there will be access to advance tickets, which are released before general on-sale ones.

Initially, around 30 events per annum will be offered in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

While offering tickets to such shows as part of a loyalty package is not new this is a smart move by SAS, which correctly perceives the Nordic countries, and especially Sweden, as amongst the premier stages in the world for live musical events. Sweden (10 million population) is the 12th largest music market globally by retail value and Norway (five million) is 15th (China and India are 19th and 20th respectively). But the impact of Sweden in particular is much greater and it is considered to be the world’s third strongest musical country after the U.S. and UK. Annual events include the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway and the Polar Music Prize in Stockholm, which is regarded as the ‘Nobel Prize of Music’ as well as individual festivals such as By: Larm and Øya in Norway, Way out West and Live at Heart in Sweden and Roskilde in Denmark in addition to a full range of individual shows in all major cities. And that’s not to mention classical performances, variety shows, musicals, operas and others.

The partnership with Live Nation is a step in SAS’ strategy to meet the increased demand for ‘personal experiences’.

In 2017 a report, written by David Bentley of Nordic Music Scene, was published by CAPA – Centre for Aviation – ‘AIRLINES, AIRPORTS, TOURIST ORGANISATIONS AND THE MUSIC BUSINESS – THE CASE FOR GREATER CO-OPERATION’, in which it was pointed out that the Norwegian division of SAS is already very proactive in promoting music as part of its service.

https://centreforaviation.com/shop/airlines-airports-tourist-organisations-and-the-music-business

SAS Norway indeed is one of the most ‘hands-on’ in the business. The highest concert in the world was performed onboard an SAS Braathens aircraft in 2008 (41,000 ft). While that might be regarded as gimmickry, a partnership concluded in 2016 between SAS Norway and Universal Records (part of UMG, one of the world’s three largest record labels along with Sony Music and Warner Music Group) is anything but.

Under that agreement, one artist per month is promoted by SAS by way of (inter alia) an onboard concert or a performance in an airport terminal. In the example below, SAS teamed up with Norwegian singer Julie Bergan for a concert and catwalk show staged on a baggage carousel.

Scandinavian Airlines’ Norwegian division has focused increasingly in the past few years on combining sound, music and travel within its communication. Apart from concerts at airports and performances on aircraft, it creates its own Spotify playlists. (Spotify is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and is thus a logical choice for a partner in music streaming activities). It is through the branding SAS Live Music, however, that it is breaking new ground.

These activities are complemented by the offer of show tickets as a loyalty reward.

The findings of the 81-page report included that both the air transport business and the music business are very large ones in terms of size, scope, revenues, employment and global impact. Musicians need to travel, often internationally, in order to collaborate, record and perform, even to seek inspiration.

There is thus a propensity for an overlap between the two industries which can be exploited by the aviation and tourism communities but it is one that, despite the fact that the music industry often outperforms the general economy, all too often escapes airlines and airports which tend to leave marketing, promotion and other activities to tourist boards or their equivalent.

SAS is one of the most active airlines in using popular music as a marketing tool, along with the likes of Icelandair and WOW Air (Iceland Airwaves and Secret Solstice festivals respectively), and to a lesser extent Aer Lingus, which promotes a traditional Irish Folk Music festival in Dublin each January, in the off-season.

Many airlines, though, have little or no interest in the medium, even those that you might think would have on account of the background of their founders.

In the airport sector, the most active by far is Austin Bergstrom Airport in Austin, Texas, home to the SXSW and Austin City Limits events. It features in-terminal performances around the year while Canada’s Montréal Trudeau Airport does much the same in support of Jazz and other festivals.

The Faroe Islands’ Frum qualifies for finals at the Reeperbahn Festival Anchor Awards

Faroe Islands’ songstress Frum became the first to represent her country at the prestigious Anchor Awards, part of the annual Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany, on September 23rd. Her genre is electro-pop, interplay between dreaminess and the rough wildness of the country which she said makes her often afraid to step outside for fear of being blown away.

While she didn’t win, her presence may have been enough to prompt the Faroe Islands to send a small delegation to the festival, which was bracketed with another small country, Luxembourg. The two countries already have a ‘joint act’ in the form of the duo When ‘airy met fairy’.

Could a Katzenjammer reunion be on the cards?  

Fan Club Facebook pages are buzzing at the news that the all-female band Katzenjammer, which went on hiatus at the end of 2015, will play a set at the 15th anniversary Red Bull Festival in Oslo on October 11th – 13th although there is no actual confirmation of those arrangements on the Festival FB page at the time of writing.

The news did originate however from their record company, Propeller Recordings.

The multi-instrumental Katzenjammer, often referred to as ‘The Female Beatles’, hugely popular in their home country and more so in Germany, are not known to have played together since going their own ways. Only one member, Sol Heilo, has attempted to get a solo career going, releasing a high-class debut album but with mixed results, and she has just been appointed Musical Director for an animated film based on ‘Captain Sabretooth’, a popular Norwegian cartoon figure. Anne Marit Bergheim has joined the band TeleGram, which is featured in this edition. Marianne Sveen is believed to be working on a solo album while Turid Jørgensen Holerud is not known to be active presently.

Under these circumstances talk of a reunion looks to be hopeful at best. Attendance at Red Bull may merely be a contractual requirement with the record company and the ‘set’ might amount to no more than a couple of songs.

Nevertheless, anticipation is high that a band regarded collectively as one of the most musically talented on Earth might be at least heading back in that direction. 

Two of the many sides of Katzenjammer. The first video is of ‘Wading in Deeper’ which references the suicide of Virginia Woolf, followed by the rumbustious ‘Hey Ho on the Devil’s Back’. 

 

Videos

(Sweden) First Aid Kit – Rebel Heart

On September 8th, First Aid Kit released the official video for ‘Rebel Heart.’ Directed by Mats Udd, the eerie visual depicts the duo as the ring leaders of an entranced group of women while highlighting the song’s haunting harmonies. It’s a new take on sisterhood and on First Aid Kit.

First Aid Kit says: “We wanted to create a dreamy and mysterious world. It’s homage to old 1970’s horror films and the aesthetics of that era. ‘Rebel Heart’ was written in the desert after a night of experimenting with an Oujia Board and other occult themed board games. We thought the video should reflect that. It’s a song about identity and femininity. It’s about the destroyer we all have inside of us, that dark force that wants to take over. We wanted to only feature women in the video – the red moon represents a sense of sisterhood.”

The Söderberg sisters released ‘Tender Offerings’ on September 14th via Columbia Records. The 4-track EP features songs that were recorded during the Ruins album sessions and will be available both digitally and physically as a limited 10”.

In speaking about the EP, Klara and Johanna reflect: “When we went into the studio to record ‘Ruins,’ we had a lot of material. Ten songs ended up on the album, but these four were left behind. Thematically they didn’t fit on a break up record. However, these songs are very precious to us. It was important to make a home for them, physically and online, so here we are. We hope you enjoy these tender offerings.”

First Aid Kit kicked off The Rebel Heart Tour on September 6th in the U.S. and it continues until 3rd October.

8/10

Down Memory Lane

(Denmark) Choir of Young Believers – Hollow Talk

This song isn’t that old – it is from their 2008 debut album (of three to date) This is for the White in Your Eyes but it might not be known at all by many people were it not for the fact it became the theme tune to the Scandi-Noir police drama The Bridge, filmed in Copenhagen and Malmö, which concluded its fourth and final series this summer. Or did it conclude? We’ll never see the Porsche again – it was sold for charity. But Saga? Time will tell.

Legend has it that the song was commissioned for The Bridge but the three-year gap between filming of the first series and the release of the album does not support the supposition. It is truer to say that while Choir of Young Believers is not a one-hit wonder by any means this is probably their best song and without doubt their most famous.

The mover and shaker is Jannis Noya Makrigiannis who, despite his Greek-sounding name, is described as “from Copenhagen”. However, writing credits for ‘Hollow Talk’ are also given to Anders Rhedin, who is no longer with the band, in fact he left after the first album. Makrigiannis had moved to the Greek island of Samos after his previous band Lake Placid broke up in order to get his solo project going and formed the COYB on his return. It was, and is, a fluid entity, with many supporting players; there are currently seven.

From the off, Makrigiannis/COYB have been writing and performing what is often described as “haunting” music and ‘Hollow Talk’ is an excellent example. He uses strings, his own voice, multi-tracked, and percussion played on the off-beat to produce a chamber pop sound that is unique.

Many, including GIITTV’s own albums editor, have commented that they did not know for a long time that the lyrics are sung in English. Perhaps Makrigiannis does that deliberately to add a bit of mystery, along with the way he lets vocal notes hang in the air.

The lyrics are, frankly, mostly nonsensical. The first verse is copied below.

“Echoes start as a cross in you
Trembling noises that come too soon
Spatial movement which seems to you
Resonating your mask or feud
Hollow talking and hollow girl
Force it up from the root of pain”

But they undeniably contribute to the atmosphere which builds progressively to the instrumental finale.

The critical lyrics meanwhile appear twice, to the plaintive notes of a cello:

“And then you cut
You cut it out
And everything
Goes back to the beginning”

I’d be willing to bet that it was those words in particular that sold the song to the drama’s writers, Hans Rosenfeldt and Camilla Ahlgren as its theme tune. It was just so appropriate, so right, on so many occasions. For example at the end of the final episode of Series 2, when lovable Danish detective Martin is shopped by Saga, and is driven away under arrest, his eyes locked on hers, filled with confusion, questioning “Why?” as the mid-section of the song plays out to its climax (1:30 to 3:05 on the video below).

Incidentally, though it is off-topic, I have to say the last 20 minutes of that episode were the best television I have ever seen, anywhere.

Or more pertinently still, at the end of the final series, when Saga, having gone back to her own beginning by accepting that it is her guilt over her younger sister’s suicide that prompted her to become “Polis” in the first place, throws her police badge off the bridge, where it all started, into the churning Øresund strait below then drives away into her future, and to the same musical passage.

It is a little sad that in years to come, this song will be known as the theme to The Bridge, rather than by its title, but the fact it will act as a consistent reminder of possibly the best TV drama ever made more than makes up for that.

9/10

Main image of First Aid Kit at Cambridge Folk Festival 2018: Simon Godley

1 thought on “Nordic Music Scene #7 – News and Reviews from across Scandinavia and the Nordic countries

  1. As always: Great writing and an excellent report from our Nordic Countries! SO happy to see this series of interesting articles grow – especially in a great UK music blog! ;o) All ze best / Claes O

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