Welcome to the 13th 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.
This month we have a brand new husky-voiced singer from the woods of central Sweden, a bright young thing from Stockholm with a dark sense of humour, a couple of live show reviews (links), a dance troupe with a demonic edge, the return of ‘cocky’ Vera Hotsauce, a Swedish artist who’s Big in Japan, and a review of the highly anticipated debut album from ViVii.
In this edition: Ceci Noir, The Ghost of Helags, The Pillisnorks ft. The Free Voices of Indie Sweden, Deportees, Luana Kiara, Favor, YOHIO, Highasakite, Peter, Björn and John, Ida Wenøe, Hildur, Dagny, FELIN, Vera Hotsauce, Hajk, Sauropod, ViVii, Molly Hammar ft. Big Narstie, Sandra Kolstad, Ida Long & The Exorsisters/Baron Bane, August Landelius.
Sections this month: New Singles/Singles from previously featured artists/Live/Albums/News
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’.
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(Sweden) Ceci Noir – Yes, I’m feeling it
This one took me by surprise. Ceci Noir (real name unknown) is from the heavily wooded and lake-strewn area of Dalarna in Central Sweden, which borders Norway and if I’m not mistaken, is close to where the duo Ghost of Helags also comes from (see Singles from previously featured artists, below).
This is the second single from Ceci Noir, who will release her debut album after the summer. She has her roots in the alternative rock scene – but it’s her voice that really catches your attention. It’s hard to place it but perhaps there’s some Elkie Brooks in there?
She has written songs since an early age, but waited for over ten years to let her heart’s work see the light of day.
As with last year’s debut ‘Push’, ‘Yes I’m feeling it’ both starts and ends with atmospheric piano chords – but in between it’s the full-blooded rock singer that makes the lasting impression. Her boyfriend (again name unknown) supplies the guitar break.
Ceci Noir recently performed to demanding audiences in Stockholm where the feedback was very positive. Definitely one to watch.
(Sweden) Deportees – Bright Eyes
Unknown outside of Sweden, but well known in their homeland, the trio from Umeå, a remote city in the far north, have released their debut international single ‘Bright Eyes’.
Their most recent album, 2015’s ‘The Big Sleep’, was awarded the Swedish Grammy for Best Rock Album, an award the band had also picked up for their previous long-player ‘Islands & Shores.’
It is not a cover and has nothing to do with road kill. Rather, the song is an empathic plea to a friend to stop crying and start healing, and a mission-statement for the band’s forthcoming EP ‘Re-dreaming’, which follows on May 17th. A full album will follow that during the autumn.
Perhaps because of its geographic isolation, Umeå can be a perfect place for creativity. In the 1990s, its musical trademark was the vegan hardcore punk scene. Brothers Peder and Anders Stenberg alongside Thomas Hedlund, kids then, were transformed by this subculture. They discovered the power of music in mosh pits and soon began playing in various hardcore-bands themselves. When the time came to rebel against the rebellion, they named themselves Deportees and drew influences from diverse artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Prince and The Band.
Actually, the sentiments of the song aren’t that far removed from the rabbit film and the whole is couched in a pleasant electronic melody.
There are apparently some forthcoming UK shows, dates yet to be revealed.
Peder Stenberg, lead vocal
Anders Stenberg, guitar
Thomas Hedlund, drums
(Sweden – The Gambia) Luana Kiara – Trigger
Another Scandinanvian – African concoction, Luana Kiara has roots in The Gambia, not a place I’d automatically associate with music, unlike say, Senegal and Cape Verde, to the north and west.
She released her debut single ‘Trigger’ as the recently-revealed face of the New Balance International Women’s Day campaign in Scandinavia.
‘Trigger’ follows Luana’s collaboration with the Scandinavian production and DJ duo Tungevaag & Raaban, where she was a featured vocalist on their hit ‘Bad Boy’, which was released last year and has clocked up over 12 million streams on Spotify alone. This song has been created alongside the platinum selling and Grammy-nominated producers Christian Nilsson and Mårten Fohlin.
She’s described as having a “sharp lyrical tongue and sassy attitude as she addresses life’s daily struggles”. There are plenty of ‘effing triggers and guns on display and it seems to mimic, perhaps even mock, gangster rap in an R&B style, a genre which engages of course in rampant misogyny, which would make it appropriate for International Women’s Day.
While it isn’t my preferred choice of music I can see why it could be popular across Europe.
(Denmark) Favor – Call my Name
Danish pop artist Favor’s ‘Call My Name’ was released on March 8th. Favor wrote it during a hectic 2018 during which it became his ‘confession box’ and the start of appreciating the journey instead of the goal. Favor previously released the debut EP ‘Lightweight for the Heavy Hearted’ in 2018.
Favor is the alias of singer and songwriter, Jeppe Gade.
Local radio has compared him with Alphabeat and Haim. A more interesting comparison for my money is with Sigrid who asked him to support her at a sold out show in Copenhagen. There is something Sigrid-like about this song, solid alt-pop.
‘Call My Name’ is released with the second music video in a series made with director, Asbjørn Rosenlund, a narrative that started with the previous single ‘GIRL (You Got Me Good)’ and continues throughout three videos.
(Denmark) Ida Wenøe – Another Kind of Love
‘Another Kind of Love’ is the new single by Danish artist Ida Wenøe, released on 1st March via Integrity Records.
Ida Wenøe’s songs blend a Nordic Noir heritage with hints of Americana and English folk. Inspired by a scene in the ‘Twin Peaks Roadhouse,’ the new single might appeal to fans of Julia Jacklin, Daughter and Odetta Hartman.
Actually, in the week in which I wrote about Jenny Lewis I hear quite a lot in Ida’s voice that reminds me of Lewis’ debut album ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’.
If you’re anything like me it will take a couple of hearings really to get into this but she will hook you in eventually.
Ida’s new album ‘The Things We Don’t Know Yet’ (available by vinyl, CD, and download) is out on 12th April and she will play a handful of UK shows between 18th – 28th April, including some unusual venues, as follows:
18th April. Sheffield – Café 9
19th April. Cardigan – Small World Theatre
21st April. Leicester – The Musician
24th April. London – The Green Note
25th April. Sudbury (Suffolk) – St Peter’s Church
(Iceland) Hildur – 1993
1993 was the first time I ever visited Iceland though I made many visits in the following years this song from the artist who won Pop Song of the Year at the Icelandic Music Awards in March 2017 and was nominated Newcomer of the Year in the same year was always going to resonate with me.
Hildur is regarded as Iceland’s rising pop star, and is more than just a singer, being a songwriter, lyricist and professionally trained classical cellist. Hildur has a quirky personality and is also known as a women’s rights and gender equality activist, possibly the perfect material for the world’s next pop queen if you look at contemporaries across the Norwegian Sea such as Aurora.
It seems she was five in 1993 as she reflects on her thoughts about her future then, which wasn’t as a nurse, teacher or brain surgeon, rather just being “me”.
A nice song, a little sentimental (and indeed Aurora-like) but we can overlook that.
‘1993’ was released on Feb 27th.
(Sweden) FELIN – Black Heart
Stockholm-based FELIN has the sort of body shape that goes well with her elongated upper case stage name, she looks like a giant inverted letter ‘Y’ with legs that go all the way up to there, and if she isn’t representing Stockholm at netball there’s something wrong with the selection procedure.
She has many talents and has, through a collective, written for other artists as well as having visuals published in Interview Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Apparently she likes to draw on cinematic and theatrical influences, including Quentin Tarantino’s dark humour. She says, “When we wrote the upcoming album, I wanted to build it as if it were a movie, filled with dark humour, sex, revenge, love and death. The whole album is inspired by darkness, a passionate and destructive relationship with life and the constant reminder that everything is just on loan for a brief moment. There is something so damn beautiful about that. In ‘Black Heart’, I imagined what goes on in a serial killer’s head when he or she is on the hunt for the next victim. It’s a dark love story about being so obsessed that you can no longer think clearly, nor do you care about the consequences of your actions.”
Well, I have to say this is the first time I’ve ever reviewed a song about the workings of a serial killer’s mind, complete with police siren in the opening bars.
It’s got a vaguely 1950’s blues beat and riff to it, an extended musical bridge that could have been played on Ready Steady Go or Thank Your Lucky Stars on 1960’s TV and when she starts singing she alternates between Amy Winehouse and Das Body’s Ellie Linden, two polar opposites.
As a Scandinavian she might be expected to struggle with the enunciation of some words in English (many do) but there isn’t a sign of that, it’s all crisp and clear.
Probably this month’s surprise track. I also checked out another one, ‘21st Century’, and it’s equally good, with a cracking tune. I’ll be surprised if she isn’t picked up by 6Music at least in the UK.
‘Black Heart’ previews FELIN’s new album, set for release later this year.
(Sweden) Molly Hammar ft. Big Narstie – No Place like Me
Flitting between Stockholm, London and LA Molly Hammar is telling it like it is on ‘No Place like Me’, which immediately made me think of Charlene’s ‘I’ve Never Been to Me’, in which she’d “moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo”, and “been undressed by Kings and seen some things that a woman ain’t supposed to see” . Could that standard be replicated?
‘No Place like Me’ is the lead single from her next EP which is due for release in autumn 2019. She’s telling us where she is now, she’s 23, single and loving life, free to focus on what makes her feel good. Yeah, I remember that. Just.
There’s always a danger with people like me, who aren’t regular R&B aficionados, that modern R&B songs tend to sound pretty much the same (unlike for example Charlene’s effort which also has that classification) but what Molly has in her favour is a silky, sensual vocal that does grab your attention.
What the song also has is the ubiquitous rap bridge. In this case it is delivered by the “celebrated London MC and TV personality Big Narstie”, who sounds like a shady character out of Eastenders. His presence wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for some terrible rhymes: “I could see it was never gonna be like it used to be/Like you saw an April Fool in me”, then something that ends in “so c’est la vie”, then “Oh Yeah I’m BIG, everybody has a TIV, life is more than VIP”. Rhyming for rhyming’s sake? Yo, I have a TIP for BIG, have a chat with Charlene’s songwriters, ASAP.
In all seriousness, and to be honest, while Molly says she was delighted to acquire his services I don’t think they add anything to her song.
The next few months will see the release of two further singles and a second EP to follow 2018’s ‘Sex’ that finds Molly baring her soul on the dynamic within relationships, her own identity and lost nights out in London.
This year Molly was invited to perform at the Swedish Grammys after an Aretha Franklin tribute she recorded with two friends went viral. The standard of her singing more than merited that though I’m sure Aretha would never have allowed Big Narstie in her studio.
‘No Place Like Me’ was released through Cosmos Music on March 22nd.
(Norway) Sandra Kolstad – A Minute Ago
There’s a line in the PR on Sandra Kolstad and this song that caught my attention, presumably from the artist herself though that isn’t made clear. “What is so amazing about pop music is that you can sing about cruel and painful subjects within a façade of danceable, light music.”
That is pretty much my mantra and has shaped my appreciation of music over decades. She does it pretty well.
Sandra Kolstad is an artist, composer, and producer and makes electronic extravagant pop music, with three critically acclaimed albums under her belt. Now she is eager to recapture the electro-pop music world’s attention with Burning Love, her album release, out in May 2019.
‘A Minute Ago’ is about how abrupt and brutal a relationship can turn. The feeling that can arise when your “nearest” rejects you, because it is not just the relationship that crumbles, but also everything around you. You yourself cease to exist because the other does not see you anymore.
She says. “I wrote the song because I am interested in what becomes apparent in some relationships, namely that we are not as restricted in our abilities as we might like to believe. I am very vulnerable to what you do when we develop a certain bond with someone. The boundaries between the individuals can be blurred, both in good and bad.”
Kolstad is a classically trained pianist with a taste for conceptual albums (a comparative rarity these days), the forthcoming album release, ‘Burning Love’, uses her own experiences to evoke images of renewal and rising like a phoenix from the ashes after a damaging relationship.
The song starts off like a few symphonic metal tracks I’ve heard and I wondered what was coming but what turned up was a tuneful, light, danceable piece about a serious subject, just as the lady ordered. Scandi-pop doesn’t get much better.
‘A Minute Ago’ was released on March 22nd on Nordic Records.
(Sweden) August Landelius – Now
August Landelius returned from a three-year absence earlier this year with his comeback single ‘All You Can Eat’, and now previews an anticipated new album with the release of his latest one, ‘Now’.
Explaining the origin of the inspiration for this new single, Landelius says he was trying out some different sounds on synths in a studio, recorded the first thing that came out, forgot about it, and found the melody a few years later in a folder and developed a song out of that melody.
There is a strong message in ‘Now’: “It’s about young people feeling pressured to figure out their lives ASAP”. He adds, “I guess the song is a bit about the saying ‘youth is wasted on the young’ – with a splash of sloppy criticism towards the free market economy, which isn’t as free as people would like to believe it is. I think it puts unnecessary pressure on young people from places like Stockholm (where I’m from)”.
Well, the lyrics are sparse (32 words), you can’t hear them anyway, and it certainly isn’t the sort of thing you’d listen to after you’ve just put your feet up after a hard day at the office or factory. But it does have the sort of vibe which chimes in well with the subject matter and you can sense the dichotomy he sees when he says, “young people are kind of combining being too hard on ourselves with being too lazy.”
Singles from previously featured artists
(Norway) The Ghost of Helags – Nothing can stop the rain falling down
Electronic-pop duo The Ghost of Helags, originally out of Sweden but now recording on Snowhite Records in Berlin, prepare for the release of their forthcoming EP in April with this second single, ‘Nothing can stop the rain falling down’ the follow up to their December single ‘I Carry your Heart.’
Describing themselves as “A Shy Swedish Dreampop duo, Filtered Through Berlin Grit” not much is known about them and while their label has previously explained the origin of their obscure name I’ve mislaid it.
So the music will have to speak for itself and it assuredly does. It’s suitably other worldly, if not exactly ethereal, and the video, filmed in blacklight, is duly spooky. The singer, Teresa, conjures up a passable Kate Bush.
I was tempted to give this eight but I’d like to see if they can replicate this sound live, first. Tour, please.
(Sweden) YOHIO – My Nocturnal Serenade
YOHIO featured in NMS #10. I won’t repeat here his history with Sweden’s Eurovision entry or his interest in Japanese culture that has made him a big favourite out in North Asia, or his parallel acting career; all that can easily be looked up.
I will say that he has a very individualistic style. The early part of this song, the third single from his new album which will be released during 2019, sounds like it might be the soundtrack to ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’, complete with theremin, one which, if I remember rightly, was judged to be the worst film ever made.
In that sense it’s a bit risky but it quickly moves on to a full-blooded, well, serenade. Sweden’s Eurovision entry? There’s an argument it could be.
‘My Nocturnal Serenade’ was released on 01 March by Rehn Music Group.
(Norway) Dagny – Hit your Heart
Dagny’s latest single sees her pairing with producer Steve Aoki.
Once a fixture in her live set where it became a favourite, she sent a demo of ‘Hit your Heart’ to Steve Aoki, who immediately wanted to be involved in the production.
Dagny hasn’t been in NMS for a while but I recall that I’ve identified previously her ability to mix styles better than most of her contemporaries and here again she blurs the lines between pop, electronic, and dance music. And there’s something else that I’ve noted before, the ‘Norwegian Sound’ that appears to embrace not only her own style but that of others like Sigrid, Amanda Tenfjord, and even Ingrid Helene Håvik.
There’s a strong hook, a Rihanna-like “I’m coming back to you like a bullet” (repeat).
Dagny has been nominated this year for Songwriter of the Year and Song of the Year at the 2019 Spellemannprisen Awards (the Norwegian Grammys); the third year in a row Dagny has been nominated for a Spellemannprisen award since 2016. Her presence as an established songwriter and artists continues to build with close to 200 million streams to her name on Spotify.
In fact she’s been on the cusp of a big breakthrough internationally for a while now and there isn’t a million miles between Dagny and Sigrid. I’m sure she’ll make it eventually but no-one is ‘bullet proof‘, as La Roux (Elly Jackson) – also paired with her producer – discovered, so hopefully it will come sooner rather than later.
She appears to have signed to the same label as Sigrid now. ‘Hit Your Heart’ is out now via Republic Records / Island Records.
(Norway) Sauropod – I’ve seen how you smile
Sauropod haven’t been here for a while but they’re back with a new single ‘I’ve Seen How You Smile’ – the first one taken from their EP ‘Sauropod 2’, released March 7th via Propeller Recordings and which they are currently touring around Norway.
They describe ‘I’ve Seen How You Smile’ as “by far the riffiest song we’ve written yet”. It’s certainly an assortment of styles and not quite what I remember from them previously, with parts that sound a little like Fleetwood Mac and others like countrymen Pom Poko, all thrown into the pot along with their own grungy contribution.
To be honest I prefer their more frenetic compositions but it’s quite listenable.
(Sweden) Vera Hotsauce – Hey Boy
We featured “cocky” Vera in NMS #9, with ‘daddy’, her homage to her father. That was a clever little song; I described it as “being performed with real passion and an enchanting voice”, compared her to Emmy the Great, and gave it 8/10.
I wish she’d stuck with that format even if it isn’t her typical style. I’m afraid ‘Hey Boy’, from her latest mixtape ‘Red Pill’, is bobbins in comparison.
Made in Los Angeles (uh-oh), with the Moving Castle collective, it is supposed to “channel” Gwen Stefani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’ but if anything it gets stuck mid-Channel without a lifebelt and with no sign of the RNLI, along with the usual tired expletives and really isn’t in Stefani’s class, lyrically or musically.
The most damning indictment is actually her own. “I hope it makes people want to party because it’s kind of stupid since it’s not actually about anything”.
There’s a market for it judging from the number of plays and likes it got in a short time, but I’m not numbered in that market I’m afraid.
She can do much better. Tip: Listen to ‘daddy’ instead. And try to convince yourself it’s the same artist.
‘Hey Boy’ is available on all platforms since 15th March via TEN Music Group/Moving Castle.
(Norway) Highasakite – Manchester 1st March
Norway’s biggest band of the last few years dropped into Manchester as part of a short two-venue UK tour in preparation for a big Norwegian one. Highasakite has reverted to its original format of a duo to record the most recent album, ‘Uranium Heart’, which had been performed live very rarely previously.
How did this show compare with those of the previous, celebrated five-piece band? Find out here.
(Sweden) Peter, Björn and John – Manchester 6th March
Peter, Björn and John breezed into Manchester for their first show in eight years, one of only two in the UK. The crowd wasn’t huge, but the show, after a sluggish start, was, as one of Sweden’s most stylish pop bands turned on the style. Read about it here: http://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2019/03/08/peter-bjorn-and-john-manchester-academy-3-06-03-2019/
(Sweden) ViVii – ViVii (Dumont Dumont)
Swedish dream-pop trio ViVii released their self-titled debut album on 15th March through Swedish label Dumont Dumont.
Some of the tracks have been reviewed in previous editions in NMS as singles, so a quick overview of the album here.
Firstly, a brief history of the band. Describing themselves as “vulnerable souls”, Emil and Caroline Jonsson and their shy work partner Anders Eckeborn, who shuns the limelight, set off on their journey to this debut album five years ago, the pace picking up mainly because of his input. Before that the Jonssons were songwriters for many years without committing professionally.
Caroline and Emil, raised in Gothenburg, met at summer camp as children and formed a strong, life-long bond that blossomed into romance and by their early twenties they were married. A chance encounter at a gig led to a wild journey with soul sensation Tye Tribbett.
Relocating to Stockholm they had children but that didn’t derail their nascent musical ambitions, in fact quite the opposite as they were the catalyst to write and record.
They got down to business on their own sounds, fusing tones and melodies and taking inspiration from the music of their youth: the old tunes crackling on grandparents’ vinyl records, hymns from church, indie-pop jewels, classical opuses and gospel choirs. With Anders thrown later into the mix, he became firstly their producer and then a third member of ViVii.
The common thread to this album is the multiple overlays of smooth synthesised sounds, which are never overdone, always staying short of overkill, together with a sweet, high guitar sound that is also found in many tracks and which is evident in the opening one, ‘Pick me up’. Meanwhile. Emil and Caroline construct silky harmonies throughout.
They are also (and this is a compliment) songs you could listen to as ‘wallpaper’ while out shopping in Asda, but equally focus very hard on, at home or while travelling and there is something slightly anthemic as well as dreamy about many tracks.
‘Siv (You and I)’, which was reviewed as a single, is one of at least a couple of songs which appear to have a personal meaning to ViVii. This one concerns a babysitter, Siv, who looked after their children for a while, and was written on a zither that she left them, as a hymn to her.
‘End of June’ is a guitar-led acoustic ballad with a haunting chorus and perfect harmonies. It has a complex musical arrangement but one that never gets in the way of enjoyment of the song.
The problem with ‘Love Love Love’ is that there are any amount of songs with that title, for example by James Blunt and Of Monsters and Men and the original version, which featured in the film Stars on Parade was written in 1943. But this one simply drips dreamy class. And any vocalist who can remind me of Alela Diane in her Headless Heroes incarnation, as Caroline Jonsson does particularly here, is always going to win me over. (She’s also been compared to Lana Del Rey, though I would consider that an understatement).
Every album will have some filler and the bass-led ‘Wanna Fly’ plods a little but is immediately rescued by ‘And Tragic’ which is intensely melodic and there is something otherworldly about it with strong suggestions of suitability for syncing into film scores while the production is so rich it is almost overwhelming at times. And there’s a mesmerising riff, complemented by a section that sounds like it’s taken straight off ‘Tubular Bells’. The track of the album for me.
‘Suckerpunch’ (spelt deliberately I assume to differentiate it from Sigrid’s album, is a little more downbeat compared to the Golden One’s song. “Been trying to stay out of trouble our whole lives, trying to do it all right. But that doesn’t really matter when life comes around and knocks you out cold with a suckerpunch.” It could have been written for Cliff Richard. And Caroline is back in Alela Diane territory again with another powerful melody.
Two songs follow which appear to be out of context with the rest of the album.
‘Fybromyalgia’, which we all know now that Lady Gaga suffers from, causing her to cancel an intergalactic tour last year, is a strange subject to write about in a popular song. This one is more of a standard pop song, and there’s precious little reference to said disease, which perhaps is a metaphor here for (the pain of) love, reading between the lines. Beats me. The ‘Fybromyalgia Outro’, a separate track, is stranger still; a wandering repetitive piece to which the only lyrics are “all the time” repeated frequently, which at least makes sense within that context.
‘Savant’, which was the title of an earlier EP, brings us back into dream pop territory, this time with childlike voices supplanting Emil’s vocals before it trails off into an instrumental conclusion. I wonder if the ‘savant’ they refer to is of the ‘idiot savant’ type, those afflicted by autism but particularly gifted in one or more ways. If it is then it will probably be based, like ‘Siv (You and I)’ on someone they know or knew and is a brave choice of subject for a song.
The album plays out comparatively ineffectually with the six-minute ‘Lost nor found’ which showcases Emil’s and Caroline’s voices very well but which leaves you wanting a little more musically.
What ViVii is about are generous soundscapes and richness of production that you don’t often hear these days, wrapped up in a dreamy haze.
All five of ViVii’s singles have reached the top five on the Hype Machine chart, with two of them reaching the #1 spot, with international radio support and six million streams to date. There is nothing here that tells me the album won’t achieve a similar degree of success.
Occasionally while I was listening to the album I wished they’d go berserk and work through a metal-inspired jam before smashing their instruments on the floor, just for a change you know, and if there is any negativity to report it can only be that there is a degree of similarity embracing some of the songs.
But as I argued earlier, any album that can fall into the category of ‘easy listening’ and ‘studious’ at the same time has to be highly respected and there can be no complaints whatsoever over the quality of the musicianship, the melodies and the lushness of the sounds they create.
ViVii will embark on a short tour of Sweden and the Netherlands in April. There are no UK dates yet but hopefully there will be.
Catch ViVii live:
3 April – Amsterdam, Paradiso
11 April – Stockholm, Pygméteatern
12 April – Gothenburg, Oceanen
18 April – Lund, Mejeriet
(Norway) Hajk – Drama
GIITTV writer Miss BeeBee reviews the latest album from Norwegian electro-pop band Hajk.
“This is an album that will comfort you during the hardest of break-ups with songs such as ‘Time to Forget‘ and then lift you up again with others such as ‘Dance Like This‘. ‘Drama’ is versatile and Hajk should be proud of this body of work. It goes deeper than their 2017 album ‘HAJK’ and it shows that life and lived experiences are still the best subjects for brilliant music.”
(Sweden) The Pillisnorks ft. The Free Voices of Indie Sweden – Putin will teach you how to love the motherland
Back in mid-February GIITTV featured exclusively in the UK news of the recording of a single in Stockholm in support of two members of the band Pussy Riot who had fled Russia late in 2017, settled in Sweden with their family and who had recently attempted to achieve asylum status there by means of a residence permit. To the surprise of many they failed, although they were given leave to appeal and the idea for the recording was born.
Not all went to plan. Objections were raised to certain aspects of the recording by the two people concerned – Aleksej Knedljakovsky and Lusine Djanyan.
However, the producer, Claes Olson, and Fredric Ceson, the leader of veteran cult band The Pillisnorks, decided to press ahead anyway with a new subtext – as a protest against the policies of the country’s Migration Board in general – and the song was released on Wednesday 6th March.
It is based on the original version of ‘Putin will teach you how to love the motherland’ which members of Pussy Riot were attempting to perform during the Olympic Games at Sochi in 2014, when they were whipped and pepper-sprayed by Cossacks (paramilitary police, the same ones involved in the 1905 massacre on the Odessa Steps, which is widely regarded as the first step towards the 2017 Russian Revolution). Both Knedljakovsky (bloodied, in yellow vest) and Djanyan (purple dress, green leggings) appear in the video below.
Fredric Ceson translated and rewrote the lyrics into English while The Pillisnorks provided the main backing. The spoken voiceovers are by Swedish Royal Theatre actress Thérèse Brunnander and American drummer Michael Blair who has been domiciled in Stockholm for many years and who has worked extensively with the likes of Lou Reed, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello.
The choir, led by Maria Grönlund, is made up of 45 Swedish indie artists who gave their time for free. They include members of bands and individual artists that have featured in GIITTV’s monthly Nordic Music Scene, such as RÅNDA, Cure-a-Phobia, SoLBloMMa, Leigh Fitzjames, LULA, Le Lac Long 814 and The Comminor’s Johanna Berndtsson, a neo-punk female singer who might be Sweden’s answer to Keith Flint. They were supplemented by institutions in the business there such as Stefan Sundström and Miss Li.
To add authenticity, the Experimental Electronica Artist Linn Elisabeth created sound from a Russian 80-Talssynth.
Knedljakovsky and Djanyan await the outcome of their appeal.
On the anniversary of the Salisbury poisonings in the UK it is evident that, while the nuance of the song may have shifted a little, a degree of courage is needed even to enter into broad support of a cause such as this, as all the participants did. If anyone doubts the danger that activists in Russia are in (which the Migration Board rejects) it is worth remembering that while the four Pussy Riot members who ran on to the pitch during the World Cup Final were jailed for only 15 days, one of them, Pyotr Verzilov, claimed later to have been poisoned while attending a court hearing.
And Knedljakovsky claims to have been an associate of Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated within sight of The Kremlin four years ago.
(Sweden) Ida Long & the Exorsisters win Best Live Act at ‘Local Heroes’ event
While it’s perhaps a tad parochial, the fact that songstress and dancer Ida Long, together with her ‘Exorsisters’ won the ‘Best Live Performance’ Award at the Gävleborg ‘Local Heroes’ event on March 15th resonates personally with me.
That is partly because this region of Sweden (roughly in the middle, to the right, bordering the Baltic Sea), which is well known to me, is a hotbed of musical talent with more artists per square mile than anywhere else I’ve known, and who often turn up in these pages; and partly because the Kate Bush-like Long herself, who is also a dancer and choreographer, is, in my opinion, only one album away from serious international recognition, which is often out of the grasp of someone with her dark, esoteric style. That album should be released shortly.
She featured in NMS #12 with another ‘local hero’, electro experimentalist David Lehnberg, with a track from their new album ‘Collider’ as a budding duo, which has just been released.
Don’t be fooled by the Exorsisters name, which blends ‘Exercise’ and ‘Sister’, it has nothing to do with the film of demonic possession, spinning heads and pea-green soup vomit. The group arose out of a tour with Jenny Wilson, one of Sweden’s most celebrated female artists, last summer.
By coincidence, Ida Long just announced on Facebook that another of her bands, the much-missed “arty farty” indie-electronica Baron Bane released their third LP ‘III’ exactly three years ago. Their album titles are a play on numbers, such as ‘LPTO’ (LP two). I recall going to the launch party for ‘III’ and remarking on how fantastically tight they were despite different members playing their instruments, and in Ida Long’s case singing, from different parts of their studio, including precariously up on a ledge, to the live audience. Unfortunately there is no information about a fourth one and as the band members all have other interests I suspect there isn’t going to be one, which is a pity. So I’ll end this report with one of the tracks from ‘III’, ‘Wait for You’.
Main image of FELIN courtesy of her Facebook page