Less than a week away from the Alarm show in Bergen, here are biographies of all the artists with potential butterfly problems the next few days. Will Turboneger, Supersilent or Magnet become Alarm artists? We will know on Saturday.
In kind co-operation with by:Larm, MIC English present the biographies of the Alarm nominated bands and artists. For further information, please check out the artists’ web sites or MIC’s archive.
Turbonegro: Scandinavian Leather (Burning Heart)
The expectations were enormous when Turbonegro returned to the music shelves at the end of April. Could the stray dogs from fishing stations and corporate businesses recreate the magic from their own 90’s classic Apocalypse Dudes? Yes, thousands moaned, as if a giant erection lifted Scandinavian Leather to the top of the VG chart (Norwegian Billboard). What a fine-tuned stadium-rock-sound! Such sky breaking riffs! Such wall-to-wall refrains! Such stupidity packed in glitter and glory! Turbonegro were everywhere in 2003 – not at least because of this album.
King Midas: Romeo Turn (Tellè)
The unhappy rock sons of Oslo finally found their place in the sun with Romeo Turn. Sultry urbanism, ambitious art rock, and white funk worshiped for years, made roses in a demanding audience’s checks. Through lead singer Ando, King Midas has one of Norway’s most intense personalities. He brings desperation and alienation to classic, clean melody lines. Bowie, Doors, and Stones have been guiding stars for Ando & co. Still, they have a distinct and unique sound. The beat, the vocal, the tremble in the air. They tell you that it is Midas.
Amulet: Danger! Danger! (Sony Music)
Amulet dared to take the step from tiny to grand Sony Music. The result was not huge sales numbers up front, but Danger! Danger! was clearly part of the rock agenda in 03. Knut “Euroboy” Schreiner had a fortunate hand with the band’s forceful sound. The foaming hard core was still there, but in a more disciplined shape. Agro vocalist Torgny Amdam appeared as more grown up and nuanced than before. The single Breaking News and several other stadium friendly songs showed that Amulet were not afraid of using potent hooks.
Ricochets: The Ghost of Our Love (White Jazz/MNW)
When Ricochets turned soft underarm hair into spikes at the Øya Festival in 2002, we knew it: this was a comeback that would pamper the body. The Ghost of Our Love offered subtle whispers to the soul like no other bands could do. Singer Trond Andreassen crooned about life in the swamps of love – accompanied by the characteristic, dirty, garage soul comp. Sweat, passion, and dark life more or less trickled out of the speakers. Ricochets may never become grand, but they are a beloved Norwegian band.
Sgt. Petter: It’s a Record (New Records)
Already in January, the singer/songwriter Petter Folkedal from Bergen released his debut album. Sgt. Petter, similar to gifted Sondre Lerche, Nathalie Nordnes, and Julian Berntzen, is connected to Gjøa Studio. He has a country twist on his alternative poprock. He has his arms full of catchy song, performed in a laidback slacker style, which has given an anaemic genre a blushing inspiration. This is indie rock with pedal steel, with appropriate doses of respect and honour to Nashville.
Julian Berntzen: Waffy Town (New Records)
The thin haired producer guru HP Gundersen never stops surprising. Last fall, he uncovered yet another talent in the category “the young old ones”. Julian Bertzen was already an unparalleled violinist at the age of 12. Five years later, he had written several pieces for string quartets. At the age of 21, the pop debut came, filled with delicate arranged songs inspired by chamber pop as well as the most sophisticated Beach Boys. Waffy Town was a neat concept record about a fictive city, inhabited by characters the storyteller Julian built his songs around. The songs were immediate enough to get airtime, and complex enough to end up in ambitious record collections. It was difficult to ignore Waffy Town, the album from a clever outsider.
Magnet: On Your Side (Ultimate Dilemma)
During the 90’s, Even Johansen was something as unique as a Norwegian indie hero in England. In 2003, the earlier Libido singer managed to knock a hole in the British protectionism once more. Almost the whole spectre of British music media nodded respectfully in direction of the magnet from Bergen. Johansen debuted in 2000 as the solo artist Magnet on the small, hard working label Rec 90 with the nice, but oh, so ignored Quiet & Still. At One Your Side, Magnet refined the expression, but kept the production rich and insightful – both in the direction of orchestrated parts and complex electronic sound images. At the forefront of the sound; the muffle, vulnerable voice of Even Johansen.
Ephemera: Air (Ephemera Records)
Seldom has a success had better moral than Ephemera’s. Integrity, independence, and maturity brought the group album sale and respect, seven years after they released their, so far, only album at a large label. The “Do it yourself”-sisters Inger Lise Størksen, Christine Sandtorv, and Jannicke Larsen have polished their melancholic vocal harmonies and tender pop pearls through a modest underground existence. Air is a beautiful pop breeze that fills the mind with equal doses of sadness and hope. Behind the airy and perfect balanced melodies, a gift for musical understatements are hidden. And the ability to write a song such as Girls Keep Secrets In The Strangest Ways.
Thomas Dybdahl: Stray Dogs (CCAP)
Thomas Dybdahl ran straight into studio while the debut album “…That Great October Sound” was still climbing the charts. Full of confidence, he made a record even more mellow and blue than last time. Dybdahl established himself as the country’s most emotional man on an album brimful of longings, sadness, and unhappy love. Seldom has a lyrical and musical universe been more united. Confidence is a key word because Dybdahl shows courage to develop his expression and to stretch his voice repertoire. The result confirms Dybdahl’s authority in the singer/songwriter landscape.
Karen Jo Fields: Chase The Blue (C+C Records)
The melancholy ruled the Norwegian pop year in 2003. One of them is a tender character by the name of Karen Jo Fields. With the seductive blue tones of the single Chase The Blue, she allured the Norwegian audience into her world. Here, we were met by Field’s art of song writing, and her strong presence in the performance of the same songs. Inspired by traditional American music – blues and country – the album has timeless qualities.
Dimmu Borgir: Death Cult Armageddon (Nuclear Blast/Tuba)
Just as any H&M model, Dimmu Borgir has covered commercial boards in Europe, and as one of few Norwegian bands, climbed the charts of the American Billboard. Death Cult Armageddon is a majestic peak in the band’s symphonic catalogue, which has lifted Dimmu Borgir to an even larger audience.
El Caco: Solid Rest (Black Balloon/Sonet)
El Caco and WE are Norway’s main exponents of smart stoner rock. But where WE go in direction of psychedelia and boogie, El Caco pours out surgical precise metal riffs. The Lillestrøm trio make sure we get our solid dose of groove and movement. Viva signalled that great things were waiting us, and Solid Rest is the uplifting next step for Norway’s leading metal band. www.elcaco.com
The Cumshots: Norwegian Jesus (Big Dipper/Sonet)
When Krisopher Schau play in the metal band The Cumshot, he is received with the same unsure attitude as The Darkness. “Is this for real or are they making fun of us?” Of course it is serious. Norwegian Jesus is rock’n roll Jemmy cheers for, riffs Slayer would be willing to kidnap small kids for, and a love for hard music Entombed share with them.
Enslaved: Below the Lights (Osmose/VME)
Enslave have paved the road for Norwegian extreme metal for nearly ten years now. Enslaved have showed a strong will for turning metal in new directions. The band’s flirt with 70’s prog was apparent at the Spellemann nominated (Norwegian Grammy) Mardraum, and the tendency flourish at Below the Lights, which is dynamic and challenging.
Thulsa Doom: And Then Take You To A Place Where Jars Are Kept (Big Dipper Records)
Thulsa Doom have achieved international reputation as an incredible lively orchestra, and impress foreigners with authentic 70’s riffs. Stone rock or not, Thulsa Doom’s entertaining and clever lyrics elevate the band over contemporary colleagues and competitors. And Then Take You…is commanding and innovative.
Spetakkel: Spetakkel (Port Azur)
As a polished AG3, the best-selling band from Bergen blows their ammunition through the style confidant and self-addressed debut record. With loping beats and colourful rhymes, Spetakkel challenge the music environment in the sweet city, and gives the East Front something to chew on. Much burr and little blur make Spetakkel fresher than most other in their genre.
Equicez: State Of Emergency - Generation Equiz (Pass It)
Then the black ones came with the long play. State Of Emergency - Generation Equiz is thoroughly to every detail. Equicez rewrote Norwegian music history with lyrics filled with dark-painted minds, drugs, anger, and suburbanism. They serve noticeable quotes in Norwegian, but also in Spanish and English. www.equicez.com
Diaz: Velkommen hjem, Andres (Tee production/EMI-Virgin)
Someone’s loss is Andre’s favour. Diaz knows how to show his face in all channels with this Jessheim sword, something he does well on Velkommen hjem, Andres. But who is this guy? Well, the only one you can trust and Tommy Tee’s protege, he is the Harald Hårfagre of hip hop because he gathered Norway through successful collaborations and jovial attitude.
Jaa9 & OnklP: Bondegrammatikk – The Mixtape (Tornado)
The farmer grammarian broke out of Dirty Oppland and pulls the border for well-formulated lyrics all the way up to the roof. Extraordinary Hvem faen is a teaser for the solid Mixtape album, where Poppa Lars is the man behind the patchwork. The hip hop nerds Johnny and Pål create humour as no one else, and give hope for a different Olympic Games in 2014.
Paperboys: The Great Escape (Bonnier)
Two years on radio and tv has not ruined the extremely light sound of Paperboys. Øyvind “Vinnie” Sauvik and the top producers have conquered the throne from the clowns with delicious lines and lots of references. Paperboys put pop perfection into your ear - nice and smooth.
Ralph Myerz & The Jack Herren Band: A Special Album
A strange band name, maybe, but most of us do not seem to bother. These guys from Bergen create funky, organic downtempo as if there were no days after tomorrow, but there are. They got a mini hit with Think Twice, with a refrain borrowed from Donald Byrd. As many other Norwegian electronica artists, they focus on humour and playfulness in the music. So far,
20 000 copies are sold of A Special Album, huge numbers in the downtempo genre. The band is also very popular live.
Pleasure: Pleasure (Circus)
Fred Ball from Fredrikstad has grown up. He put the indie pop on the shelf and moved his stuff to London. There, he rediscovered analogue synth and his childhood’s fascination for Prince. In addition to making smashing, melody-strong electro pop, he has attracted a list of celebrity guests to the studio, among them Cerys Matthews, Ed Harcourt, and Justine Frischman. It is still a bit indie.
Xploding Plastix: The Donca Matic Singalongs (Sony)
Cinematic cut-n-paste drum’n bass jazz is the tag often used about this duo, not far away from the truth. This was their debut album at a large label, after making success at tiny Beatservice and extensive licensing abroad. This is a collection of good songs, not a concept album as the previous, which might signalise that the duo is moving away from the cinematic. It seems like they are concentrating to find the best sounds for the best songs.
Tøyen: Did You Bring Me On National Television To Tell Me This Too? (Racing Junior)
It is easy to mistake Tøyen for joking since they are creating their music on a Playstation. But if you listen carefully, you will notice that this is more than boyish pranks. Tøyen are strong exponents of Norwegian electronica.
Erlend Øye: Unrest (Source)
The troubadour from Kings of Convenience and the voice behind Röyksopp’s Poor Leno and You Remind Me chose to wander his own ways at this album. Electro producers from all over the world, among them Prefuse 73, helped him. Unrest made little fuzz on the hit lists, and the music may seem unavailable for the masses, but it is still alluring music for electronica fans.
Atomic: Boom, Boom (Jazzland)
Pianist Håvard Wiik, basist Ingebrigt Flaten, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love: what a group! The three musicians met at the often-mentioned jazz course at Trondheim Conservatory of Music during the 90’s, and started to play together with a clear agenda. They wanted to shake the ethnic mountain jazz environment here at home, which they managed very quickly. Soon, they became exponent of the so-called young jazz. They have brought along the energy in their career, flourishing in Atomic. The team is also joined by two Swedes, trumpeter Magnus Broo and saxophonist/clarinettist Fredrik Ljungkvist. The band’s acoustic jazz is timeless, and could have been made in the golden age of jazz, just as well as in the future.
Håvard Wiik Trio: Postures (Jazzland)
With projects such as Element, Atomic, Black Beauty, Free Fall, Petter Wettres’ band, to mention a few, it was natural that Håvard Wiik took over the control. Wiik is an equilibrist behind the grand piano, and his skills as a composer is highlighted here. The album title is inspired by Carla Bley, which is an anagram for the poet Paul Celan, and the music is very lyrical and beautiful, but also resentful – not necessarily a contradiction. Wiik is also joined by bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Per-Oddvar Johansen. Excellent!
Supersilent: 6 (Rune Grammofon)
When Rune Grammofon first started, it was to give life to Supersilent. Trumpeter Arve Henriksen, sound magician Helge “deathprod” Steen, and pianist Ståle Storløkken are something unique. This release is called 6, the next probably 7, but there ends the certainty about Supersilent. Is this electronica, jazz, or impro rock? It does not matter. They are making mesmerising and challenging noise. Supersilent have punch card for panegyric reviews in British The Wire and are popular on music festivals all over Europe.
Paal Nilssen-Love & Ken Vandermark: Dual Pleasure (Smalltown Supersound)
Are we talking about the best drummer in the world? Pat Metheny is not the only who think so. The Stavanger lad has a style that reminds about boxing and surgery, and people who see him play for the first time, can hardly believe their eyes or ears. In the intense and free duo format, these peculiarities are visible. Vandermark does not stop before the last pocket of air is twisted out of the horn. They are also playing together in the bands Schooldays and FME, and harmonise well. This is a release in a series of duo project at the tiny giant Smalltown Supersound label.
Come Shine: Come Shine With The Norwegian Radio Orchestra In Concert (Curling Legs)
Popular band with their third album, collaborating with the well-known Radio Orchestra, also called KORK. Arrangement talent Erlend Skomsvoll has much of the honour for the band’s success. The pianist has worked with great names such as Chick Corea and Pat Metheny, and has a bright future. Come Shine have picked standard material, but given it new life, as it is called. Live Maria Roggen’s voice is beautiful.
Petre’s Song of the year
Ephemra: Girls Keep Secrets In The Strangest Ways (Ephemra Records)
Equices: Barnslig (Pass It Records)
Ricochets: The Ghost Of Our Love (White Jazz/MNW)
King Midas: Romeo Turn (Tellè)
Turbonegro: Fuck The World (Burning Heart)
Ralph Myerz and The Jack Herren Band
The International Tussler Society
By:Larm’s biographies were translated from Norwegian by Bente Kalsnes