Welcome to the eighth 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: Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly, Iselin, Le Lac Long 814 feat. Magali Michaut, Aurora, A-Ha, Chez Ali, Dominique Tey, Amanda Tenfjord, Katzenjammer, Pom Poko, The Entrepreneurs, Das Body, Vivii, MØ, Illvi Mist, FRIGGA, Known as Tymm, RÅNDA, KOPS, Lennixx, MALMØ ft. Eivør, Hajk.
Sections: New Singles/Singles from previously featured artists/Live Shows/Albums/News/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’.
(Sweden) Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly – Ghost of Vanity
I’ve mentioned previously how powerful the prog scene still is in Sweden and Rikard Sjöblom is one of its main exponents. Previously with the highly respected (including in the UK) Beardfish he is now putting more emphasis on his solo project Gungfly which translates as anything from Fishpond to Quagmire in English. He is also one of that travelling band of musicians in central Sweden who support other artists, including Ida Long.
He first came to my attention five years ago with the Gungfly song ‘Rumbling Boxes’ which also featured the Diamant brothers, Rasmus and Petter, who together with Ida Long form a close-knit community. It’s a nine-minute slow-burner/climactic tour-de-force that is an excellent example of modern prog and it is well worth checking out.
Since Beardfish broke up Sjöblom has been working towards completing a new studio album Friendship, which will be released on November 9th. The first single is ‘Ghost of Vanity’.
Sjöblom comments: ”A song that really just came to me all at once while I was strumming away on my guitar one day, lyrics and all. I kept singing ‘I don’t want no part in this’ over and over at first and then started thinking about what it was I didn’t want to partake in. Well, vanity is something I’ve never been a big fan of but one way or another we’re all slaves to it. I think most people, especially teenagers and young adults, strive to live up to unrealistic expectations from TV-commercials or the superficial parts of showbiz. I remember when I was a kid and thought everything they said on TV was true, or at least didn’t reflect too much about whether it was real or not. No matter how much we try to not care about how cool, or pretty, or rich we are, I think it gets to us. The ghost of vanity is always present and I guess it takes a lot of reflecting over your own identity and a lot of courage to try to be yourself. I admire those who truly are.”
Though not quite as powerful as the aforementioned ‘Rumbling Boxes’ the track exposes Sjöblom’s multiple talents; instrumental (he plays most of them himself, in the studio), vocal and lyrical.
(Norway) Iselin – Lost
The voice of Alan Walker’s colossal worldwide EDM hit, ‘Faded’, Iselin (Solheim) is trying to forge a solo career of her own. Her first effort, ‘Bathtub’, about the personal therapy she adopted to combat stress, was a strange one but she’s back on track here with the follow-up, ‘Lost.’
In this case she talks with equal frankness about a tumultuous period of her life. She says, “’Lost’ is probably one of the most personal and emotional songs I’ve ever written. That terrifies me a bit to be honest, but at the same time it feels good to release something that just came straight from the heart. It’s mainly about letting go of something that meant a lot to you, and how it affects you in so many ways when you know that part of your life is over.”
There’s quite a lot going on musically in the background here but it will take a couple of hearings to pick it up. The song will grow on you.
I’m not sure about the “fuck it up” line though. It seems out of kilter with the rest of the song.
As we go to press an acoustic version of the song has been released, which if anything is slightly better.
(Sweden) Le Lac Long 814 – La main tendue (feat. Magali Michaut)
LE LAC LONG 814 is a Swedish music project creating a new Nordic version of la chanson française. The multi-instrumentalist Daniel Östersjö, (guitar, bass, accordion) an artist in his own right, composes music based on the poetry of the acclaimed writer Bengt Söderhäll – and together the two shape their songs in the tradition of the lyric-driven French chansons.
(Just as a side note, I’ve remarked previously on what seems to be a growing propensity to put poetry to music, especially in Scandinavia, and of the fact that another of its leading exponents, Åsa Larsson, aka Resmiranda, is also resident in this area. I’d be interested to hear what they could conjure up between them).
The duo hail from Älvkarleby, in Uppsala County, Central Sweden, within 10 miles or so of Gävle, where I attend the Gefle Gas Indie Festival each year and where I came across them this year (June).
This summer Le Lac Long 814 introduced themselves to an international audience with an atmospheric interpretation of the French artist Renaud’s classic song ‘Mistral Gagnant’. Now the duo, together with the French chanteuse Magali Michaut, present ‘La Main Tendue’ – the moving opening track from their forthcoming album Treize Chansons.
It is certainly one for quiet contemplation.
In November Le Lac Long 814 will play their first international concerts, appropriately in Paris.
Le Lac Long 814’s Treize Chanson will be released worldwide by COMEDIA.
(Denmark) The Entrepreneurs – Joaquin
The Entrepreneurs are a Danish trio who recently signed with Copenhagen-based label Tambourhinoceros and they will release their debut album Noise & Romance on 1st February 2019.
The first single release from it is ‘Joacquin’, a song “about breaking free from everything holding you back, and about those who are not breaking free from these bounds. All in all it’s a playful, naive and energetic track with heavy notes of nostalgia both lyrically and musically,” according to bass player Anders Hvass.
The video, directed by Asger Møllsøe, picks up on the themes of freedom and youth, as it follows a young skateboarder on a day completely free from hassle and responsibility. Hvass explains,”The boy is skating around — lonely, but thoughtful and trying to find a direction in life. It is a tribute to being young — having all the time in the world with no restraints and just skating around in an endless summer. It’s the portrayal of a teenager in between places feeling restless with hope and limitless freedom.”
I’m sure I recognise the location of the opening scenes. Weren’t half a dozen people murdered there in ‘The Bridge’? I’m not sure about the spitting scene though. Was it really necessary?
The music is a bit shoe-gazy. If that’s your thing it will suit you fine.
The Entrepreneurs are Anders Hvass (bass), Mathias Bertelsen (vocals/guitar) and Jonas Wetterslev (drums).
(Sweden) Illvi Mist – The Bad Ones
Illvi Mist is a Swedish pop-noir artist who came to prominence with her debut single, ‘Magnifying Us’, which featured in the Canadian-American TV supernatural Western horror series Wynonna Earp on Netflix.
The follow-up track is ‘The Bad Ones’ which was released on Snowflake Music on October 12th.
There is not much other information about her at present. All I could find was an article in ‘Warlock Asylum International News (A shamanic perspective on Life in the Modern World)’. It describes her as, “an inspiring artist that interprets life behind the scenes through song and prose…many of Illvi Mist’s fans find her lyrics filled with symbolism that we all can draw comfort and hope,” adding her music will “bring delight for lovers of ambient sound and popular music.”
I listened to ‘Magnifying Us’ first and was certainly drawn in by her seductive voice. The structure of the song put me in mind of Norway’s Frøkedal. I couldn’t understand some of the lyrics, though. “Fly as far, as close to home”. (?) And “You found reason in my season, boiling cold”.
‘The Bad Ones’ is more up-tempo and seems to be devoid of lyrical howlers. I didn’t catch too much symbolism so far though I’m sure it is there if you look for it. Both the songs are what I’d expect to hear as credits tracks to high quality TV shows and movies and that is where she resides at the moment. Which direction she takes henceforth remains to be seen but there is definite promise in these early songs.
(Denmark) KOPS – Salvation
KOPS is Oskar Kops Kronback, a serial multi-tasker who is or has been a skateboarder, DJ, composer, director and even a choirboy.
He describes ‘Salvation’ as “Like an astronaut floating aimlessly in space just waiting for the oxygen to run out”. It’s a peculiar track, starting out like something Morrissey might have written, as he frets about dying alone at home and no-one finding him but the same line then reoccurs as the song develops into a groovy disco banger. A sort of Scandi-Noir dance tune. It seems what drives him is a hotchpotch of love, death, depression, astronomy, and religion and he derives inspiration from classical hymns.
Definitely different, and something of an acquired taste. Expect him to pop up in the UK in 2019.
(Sweden) Lennixx – Traded Up
Trading up sums up what the duo previously known as Hannah and Andrea have done as this incarnation sees them tackling the perennial issue of toxic relationships, escaping them and then regretting some of the good times that went with them.
Whenever I hear a female duo’s band name like that it makes me think of Althea and Donna but these two come with a pedigree; particularly Hannah Larsson who is Zara’s sister.
The song is unusual for the way it incorporates several different styles though it hangs fundamentally on an R&B beat. The secondary harmonising vocal, almost operatic in nature, is also an attractive feature. Their voices are still young (they are 18 and 20 and met at a dance school eight years ago) but there is a maturity about the performance.
And yes, at one stage early in the song they do even sound like Althea and Donna. This duo will be uptown top ranking pretty soon. I listened to another couple of their tracks and there is a high quality consistency throughout.
(Norway) Hajk – Dancing Like This
Hajk’s songs are certainly catchy. What starts as a fairly formulaic Scandi electro-pop love affair track, ‘Dancing Like This’ builds into something more interesting. That is partly down to Sigrid Aase’ vocals, which are an amalgam of those of several of Norway’s top international female stars right now. The band actually has three lead vocalists.
What I found interesting in the press release is that they’ve been likened to bands as diverse as Dire Straits, Aztec Camera and Haim. I don’t personally hear any of those but I do hear what I’ve described as a ‘Norwegian sound’, which is common to many bands from that country now, which transcends basic Scandi-pop and which is often quite sophisticated.
They’ve attracted endorsements from some of the leading lights in the business such as Sigrid.
Hajk are currently between albums. The first, self-titled one will be followed by ‘Drama’ on February 15th.
Singles from previously featured artists
(Sweden) Chez Ali – Adore You
Chez Ali is the brainchild of Stockholm musician Elias Mahfoud. He was featured earlier this year with his debut single ‘Blue Cheese’.
‘Adore You’ is the first cut to be lifted from upcoming EP ‘Buenas Noches Club’, set for release on 9th November via Rama Lama Records.
He describes it as “looking back on an initial chance meeting with a special someone, to the point that you’re almost obsessed – and the thought of your next meeting brings excitement and energy to your life.”
His original South London roots come through quite clearly in his singing voice.
The forthcoming four-track EP features the new single, a re-imagined version of the debut single and two more news cuts.
(Sweden) Dominique Tey – Let It Out
When I introduced Dominique Tey in the NMS #6 earlier this year, with the track ‘Heartstream’ I said she sounded like she might be a French tennis player.
It turns out the former MAASAI vocalist has just been named in Paper Magazine’s ‘Top 100 Women in Pop Music’.
‘Let It Out’ is a song about facing up to and combating negative thoughts. She says, “I wrote this song when I was in a negative loop of thoughts and was trying to figure out why I kept going back to that place. I hated it but it was also a safe place, it was something romantic and bittersweet about it. Sometimes it’s easier not facing your fears and emotions, to just fall into that bad space. So this song became a process in facing those thoughts and feelings and by doing that I could own them and then let them go.”
The press release hints this is a more ambitious release than ‘Heartstream’ with bolder production and that it places her sonically alongside the likes of Lana Del Ray and Sigrid. I wouldn’t quite go that far, mainly because her voice isn’t as distinctive as theirs and she doesn’t quite catch the same level of melody, but she is definitely on the right lines.
‘Let It Out’ was released on October 5th by Toothfairy Records, and her yet-to-be-announced debut EP will arrive later this year.
(Norway) Amanda Tenfjord – Let Me Think
Amanda has appeared twice before in NMS (editions #3 and #7) but as she is regarded as “the next sensation” in some quarters in Norway another slot seems to be justified.
She explains the playful song thus. “’Let Me Think’ is a really personal song for me. It’s a song about taking the time to stop and take a minute and think about if you’re really happy with how things are. I think a lot of people are in relationships / jobs / life situations that they’re not overly happy with, but just go along because the thought of ending or changing things seems too drastic.”
Well there’s certainly some truth in that, Amanda.
The track came about in record time for the 21-year-old, who says, “It felt like all the lyrics and melody had been in my head for a long time, and when all the right buttons were pushed and chords played everything came out in just an hour or so. That rarely happens with me!”
As I mentioned in Edition #7 and the review of ‘No Thanks’ there is a definite flavour of Sigrid in her writing, particularly the beat, and her vocals. Whether or not that is a good thing remains to be seen.
I notice she has picked up the habit of pronouncing word-ending letter ‘Ts’ very precisely, along with several of her peers.
Amanda Tenfjord will play her first two shows abroad in November at Ja Ja Ja showcases in Berlin (November 15th) and London (November 29th).
(Norway) Das Body – Graceland
East Oslo-based Das Body have come to specialise in pop music that is a little darker, which is indicative of their locale in one of the capital’s greyer, apartment-block dominated suburbs. A sort of Salford-by-the-Fjords.
This song, taken from their debut EP ‘Das Body EP’, which has been released on Luminelle Records (House Arrest label group), is quite unlike the previous single, the disco standard ‘Boys’, which featured in NMS #5. ‘Graceland’ is considerably more sophisticated, with frigid synths, and builds to an almighty climax. It has strong indications of pre-Hip Hop Lykke Li about it.
Singer Ellie Linden, who somehow reminds me of Villanelle in ‘Killing Eve’, especially in 1:00 to 1:06 in the video, says, “‘Graceland’ is more of a feeling than a song. Playing it live feels like starring in a neo-noir movie with Elvis. Graceland is like a battle between the never-ending drumbeat and the unsettling vocals, held together by some simple chords. It was an intense journey to write, it’s an intense journey to play and it’s probably an intense listen.”
It is a European-standard song that I’d like to hear on UK radio, though experience tells me I probably won’t.
I can’t say the same about the video I’m afraid; it’s too voyeuristic for me and doesn’t represent the sentiments of the song. The official rationale is “The video is an attempt at a depiction of the abstract feeling of alienation, sadness and longing, but also strength and comfort, as the song so beautifully portrays.” No, it’s a girl undressing and dancing slowly while a muscle boy poses in the jungle.
Das Body are Ellie Linden, Kim Granholt, Patrik Alm, and Didrik Karsrud.
(Sweden) Vivii – Suckerpunch
It’s a little unfortunate that Gothenburg-born, now Stockholm-domiciled duo Vivii (plus partner Anders Eckeborn) should have released this track just as Sigrid does with her new single which has the same title, though that one is at least separated into two words. For some unaccountable reason the Norwegian’s song is being hailed as “the hottest record in the world” by one Annie Mac, the BBC DJ. It’s good but not that good.
If push came to shove I’d say Vivii’s dream-pop effort is better. Its melody is more consistent for starters. And any vocalist who can remind me of Alela Diane in her Headless Heroes incarnation, as Caroline Jonsson does here, is always going to win me over.
Vivii’s effort is a little more downbeat. “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.
‘Suckerpunch’ follows on from ViVii’s debut EP ‘Savant’ which was released at the end of May and features the debut single ‘Siv (You & I)’, which was reviewed in NMS #3. Both it and the title single reached the #2 spot on the Hype Machine chart and the EP has clocked up over 1.5 millions streams online.
‘Suckerpunch’ was released on October 12th on Dumont Dumont.
(Norway – UK) FRIGGA– Fiercely Fearless
Highly regarded composer and poet FRIGGA (Sasha Siem) returns with a firm rebuttal of fate in ‘Fiercely Fearless’ in which she pours ice cubes down the vest of wretched providence.
She says, “This song is born from my story, my family, my life. Having been brought down to my knees by circumstances which as devastating as they may have appeared to be to me – have become my greatest teachers; the rubble from which a new reality is born. This is a song for all those brave souls who know deep inside that no matter what, everything can be overcome, and new worlds can be built.” Stirring stuff, indeed.
Musically, ‘Fiercely Fearless’ is not as complex as her work usually is. Lyrically, it is a simple message, simply delivered. “We will not bow down easily/we will fight on for the colours of love” she sings, which reminds me of Of Monsters and Mens’ line in ‘King and Lionheart’, ”But these problems aside I think I taught you well/That we won’t run, and we won’t run, and we won’t run”. Loathe as I am to criticise it, the song is even a tad repetitive in the chorus though it will grow on you.
An album is in the works for release in 2019.
(Sweden) Known as Tymm – Serpent, Holy Serpent
Known as Tymm, who has also been Known as Beppe and who is actually Tommy Blixt, appeared in the first edition of NMS with a very atmospheric track, ‘Himlariket’ or ‘Heavenly Realm’.
He returns with another biblically-themed song, ‘Serpent, Holy Serpent’ and with it a slightly spooky low budget video which transposes the ideal setting for a holy serpent, the Garden of Eden, into a supernaturally scary wood which might be the one used in The Blair Witch Project.
It also reminds me a little of Anna von Hausswolff’s eerie video for ‘Evocation’.
He knows how to build atmosphere, both aurally and visually and a concept album or film score would probably suit him down to the ground.
(Sweden) RÅNDA – All I Know
There are several artists I’ve reviewed for NMS that I’m desperate to see in the UK. Wildhart, Ida Long, Johanna Brun and NONONO are top of the list but at the very peak is RÅNDA, whose performance at the Gefle Gas festival earlier this year was terrific.
They can reproduce, live, the Mumford-ish sound you hear in a raw acoustic version of this previously-released track with ease, and note-perfect.
Hopefully, they’ll read this and respond!
(Denmark/Faroe Islands) MALMØ ft. Eivør – The Way
‘The Way’ is from MALMØ’s recently released debut album We Come From The Stars, an atmospheric piece with the Danish five-piece teaming up with the Faroese singer-songwriter Eivør to share vocal duties with the band’s own Maria Malmoe. Apparently Eivør has appeared in a vocal capacity on TV programmes such as Game of Thrones, which is partly filmed there.
‘The Way’ is about getting lost in the woods and finding your way through the wild. Perhaps they could help Known as Tymm (above).
Such a situation is represented by ancient voices and tribal drums. I suspect this has more to do with Faroese culture than Danish, even if the first is a territory of the second. Every Faroese song I’ve ever heard has this earthy, tribal, almost shamanic feel to it; the sort of music that might accompany a remake of The Wicker Man. When the electric guitar comes in it’s almost a relief.
The song is well constructed and builds nicely to its conclusion.
(Norway) Aurora live at the O2 Ritz, Manchester, 10th October 2018
ICYMI, Aurora played the first (and sold out) show of her tour following the surprise release of her highly anticipated second album ‘Infections of a different kind’ at the O2 Ritz, Manchester on 10th October. Nordic Music Scene was, of course, there to see it. Follow this link: https://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2018/10/12/aurora-manchester-academy-2-10-10-2018/
(Norway) Katzenjammer show at Red Bull Festival, Oslo
As mentioned in the previous issue, Katzenjammer played their first ‘show’ in several years at the Propeller Recordings’ Red Bull Festival in Oslo on 12th October. As it turned out there were only three of them – Sol Heilo, Anne Marit Bergheim, and Turid Jørgensen Honerud – Marianne Sveen still distancing herself from the band – while the percussion role was filled by Heilo’s drummer in her own band, Torjus Nevland.
And they only played one song, ‘A Bar in Amsterdam’, from their 2008 debut album Le Pop.
Even so, the evening was notable for the large crowd that turned out (including a contingent from Germany and the UK), its enthusiasm, and that of the three band members, who clearly enjoyed themselves.
Enough to give hope that this will be more than a fleeting reunion.
Videos of the performance are thin on the ground. This is the only known one (redirects to Facebook).
(Courtesy of Derek Mahoney)
For those not familiar with the band the cat-faced contrabass balalaika played by Turid Jørgensen Honerud is called Akerø, rescued from its abandoned state in an Oslo venue many years ago.
(Denmark) MØ – Forever Neverland
ICYMI, MØ’s new album, Forever Neverland was reviewed by GIITTV’s Matt Hobbs on October 22nd. https://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2018/10/22/mo-forever-neverland-sony-music-entertainment/
“With all the fame and success MØ has more tools now to be who she wants to be. It’s a shame that she has lost a lot of her previous character but admittedly, we all know that musicians can dramatically evolve and change, lest everything else does…”
(Norway) Pom Poko to release debut album in February
Pom Poko will release their debut album, Birthday, on February 22nd 2019, via Bella Union.
The band marked their Bella Union signing earlier this year with the unveiling of the raucous and unpredictable ‘Follow the Lights’, which was featured in the previous edition of NMS.
Along with their debut album announcement, Pom Poko has shared another new single from the album in the form of ‘My Blood’. Living up to their mantra of never playing one note when 10 will do, there are actually two short bridges in the song in which vocalist Ragnhild Fangel Jamtveit demonstrates that she can sing restrained ballad material as well as well as the manic stuff. Other than that it is business as usual with a time signature that might as well not be there and dramatic key changes.
I wasn’t quite as taken with this track as I have been with previous material though I seem to recall it being played at the Reeperbahn Festival where it went down very well. It’s a slow burner, which is slowly gaining favour.
Pom Poko has been more forthcoming recently about the origin of the band’s name, which is taken from one of the more vigorously outré films by Japanese animation visionaries Studio Ghibli. They say, “The Pom Poko film captures a lot of what we’d like our concerts to be: high energy, fast pace, lots of stimulus for eyes and ears – and most importantly, really crazy and fun. The movie is basically the time of your life for two hours, and afterwards you’re in some state of exhausted ecstasy. Plus the raccoons in the movie, and raccoons in general, are really badass.”
Early indications are that their own brand of bad-assery fills the album, many of the tracks being an outright battle between Martin Tonne’s math-rock guitar and Jamtveit’s rebellious vocals.
Down Memory Lane
(Norway) A-Ha – The Sun Always Shines on TV
It seems only yesterday that what was a synth-pop boy band, A-Ha, fronted by every girl’s clear blue-eyed dream boy Viking, Morten Harket, burst onto the scene in the UK with ‘Take On Me,’ with its innovative Steve Barron live action pencil sketch video, which won more gongs than the song or the album it ended up on, Hunting High and Low. It was only on its second re-release that it made any impact in the charts here, being kept off the #1 spot by Jennifer Rush’s ‘The Power of Love’. Worldwide, it ended up as one of the biggest-selling singles of all time.
In fact, the first release was in 1984 and 34 years later A-Ha is still going strong.
A-Ha formed out of an original band called Bridges and Morten Harket came to the new band as a singer, not a writer; much of that work was undertaken by Pål Waaktaar (Gamst) now also known as Pål Waaktaar-Savoy.
Having rattled on about ‘Take On Me’ (because it is the A-Ha song that most people know best), I turn my attention to ‘The Sun Always Shines on TV’, another Waaktaar composition, and one which was not as successful in some countries though it was in the UK, reaching the #1 position in the charts for two weeks in January 2016.
I do this for several reasons. Firstly, because I think it is a better song, offering Harket more opportunity to exercise his larynx. Secondly because of the amazing instrumental bridge, especially in the version you’re about to watch courtesy of the string quartet. Thirdly because this video is of an acoustic version recorded last year and featuring one of my favourite artists, Ingrid Helene Håvik, of Highasakite duet-ting with Harket. I think it is sublime.
Håvik has been doing the rounds over the last few years; she turned up in a great re-recording of Alan Walker’s ‘Faded’ for the TV programme P3 Gull in 2016 for example. In this recording she seems subdued and slightly uncomfortable but that’s probably because she’s in awe of her childhood hero, Harket, still looking good for his then 58 years, who is sat about two feet away from her, singing “touch me” and “give all your love to me”. I’m surprised she didn’t faint and fall off the chair.
Pål Waaktaar Gamst, -Savoy, whatever, is, incidentally, the guitarist in the shades here. He has been named Knight First Class of the Order of St. Olav by King Harald for his services to Norwegian music and his international success, the equivalent I suppose of a Knighthood in the UK, as indeed have Harket and the other A-Ha band member Magne Furulholmen. Apart from writing most of A-Ha’s hits Waaktaar also wrote the James Bond theme, ‘The Living Daylights’ which A-Ha recorded for the movie.
As I mentioned previously, enjoy the bridge in particular. It will give you goose bumps. If it doesn’t the sun isn’t shining out of your TV.
Main photo of Aurora by Sabrine courtesy of the Aurora Facebook page