Lerche+Dydahl= Norwegian pop sophistication on American stages

The New York based Norwegian melody crooner Sondre Lerche will soon be joined on his US tour by fellow Norwegian subtle-pop alchemist Thomas Dybdahl. Lerche's fifteen-date tour kicked off this week and will terminate in New York on April 7th.

Sondre Lerche 2007

These two artists have a lot in common. Both hail from the western part of Norway, Bergen and Stavanger respectively, and both have had quite remarkable careers as singers, songwriters and innovators of pop music. They even debuted at more or less the same time; Lerche’s classic first album Faces Down was released in Norway in 2001, while Dybdahl’s equally hailed That Great October sound was released a year later, but had been preceded by two EP’s in 2000 and 2001. So the careers follow parallel lines; in terms of releases –both have made four LP’s- and in terms of international success and renown. Because the most important likeness is the quite remarkable quality they have introduced to the realm of pop music in Norway: At roughly the same point in time, at the very beginning of the new millennium, they entered the scene in the form of young musical sages, -a species of artist that we have not been used to in Norway. From out of the blue there appeared all of a sudden all this talent, independence and originality and unique self-determination. There was suddenly a depth back in pop: artistic magnitude, no less.

But all this being said, and true, the actual music they make is quite different, and that is what makes a joint tour all the more interesting. Dybdahl has worked conceptually, and his October Sound trilogy is one of the magnum opuses of recent Norwegian art as such. Reaching ever wider audiences for each record released the trilogy is a gem in people’s record collections across Europe. His most recent release, last year’s “Science”, is the first post-October release, and it turned out as a more summary, and light-footed collection than the autumnal hue that characterised the trilogy. Yet the calm, insistent melodies are the same, as is the hushed, low-brilliant instrumentation, and not least Dybdahl’s trademark vocals; shimmering sweeps between warm whispers and transparent falsetto. His music is dreamy and liquid and accords with the alluring shyness of his artistic persona.

Lerche is in many ways the converse: He is a crooner and sophisticated, jazzy character of clever musicality and complex melodies. He is much more reminiscent of “Ocean’s Eleven” and ballrooms and cool glitz; much more American, it would be fair to say, than the dreamy, sylvan moods of Dybdahl. Lerche is one of those people that always seem one step ahead, with an instinctive talent that lets him play out his subtleties and withdraw, in a way, before he becomes the content of his songs. Thus he is a enigmatic character that fuses clever sophistication with a youthfulness, which makes his art seem somehow liberated from destiny and sincerity. Rather they seem to be free-flowing, above life, and thus they are haughty in a very fascinating way.
The cool sophistication and whimsicality of mind has earned Lerche a dedicated audience in America. Frequently likened to Elvis Costello, he has become something of a favourite among many of the most influential critics and media.

Thus when Lerche now has brought Dybdahl with him on tour -after both having performed at the SXSW festival in Austin- it is two quite different pop-musical states of mind that will present Norway around the America. But the two poetics share the most essential thing namely originality and unquestionable quality. And of course America is not a homogenous place, so the European glow of Dybdahl’s music will surely strike home –as it also has done already, yet not as in Europe- and it will blend into Lerche’s cool sophistication like a share of low-sunny warmth and dreamy drowsiness in Gatsby’s Martini.

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