By:Larm 2016 - Saturday Review

After staying out until 3am dancing to all manner of funk and soul in Mono, I’m actually surprised I’m capable of running ten miles early on Saturday. I decide to run to Sognsvann Lake and take in some beautiful views and its frozen lake. After running four miles straight up hill that is. It’s fair to say I wish I checked the course profile before starting! I get the tram back rather than slalom down and watch some Premier League football - there's quite a few Man City fans in Oslo for no apparent reason it seems - before starting the final night of By:Larm. It’s flown by.

 

Saturday. The Prettiots. Mono

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Saturday night starts exactly the way Friday finished, with US trio The Prettiots and in Mono. The stage here is much smaller and intimate than last night's, the chemistry between the band is apparent throughout and their personality shines through as the crowd lap up their witty, youthful, self-deprecating tales of high school woes wrapped up in pretty harmonies and boundless energy.  

Holly Macve. St Edmunds Chruch

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To church next, for a quite brilliant run of acts at St Edmunds.

This is the first time I’ve seen Holly Macve after posting about her here last year with the stop you in your tracks demo "The Corner Of My Mind". The performance matches her and the venue, bewitching. A picture of timeless beauty as over the next half an hour Holly transports the listener with her mystical, darkly hued atmosphere. Her voice is incredible, a devastating tone that quavers slowly, deliberately around twanging country melodies and later against striking keys as Holly makes use of the venue’s piano. Let's finish with a cliché, If you were looking up the definition of gorgeous, you’d probably find a picture of this set.

Siv Jakobsen. St Edmunds Chruch

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I’m not sure there is much else I can say about Siv Jakobsen. Her show at Mono two days earlier (which I wrote more comprehensively about here) wins my ‘show of the festival’ award because it’s the first time I get to experience Siv backed by a string quartet. The environment here at St Edmunds is much more suitable and the result is beguiling. I’m often closing my eyes to take in every exquisite note.

The good news is that on my on return home Siv announces a set of UK dates (dates over on GFP to save me typing!), I cannot imagine them being as incredible as these two backed by this string quarter but you should go and see her nonetheless. This is real talent.

I'm posting an exquisite new remix (you probably know I don't like remixes) of one my favourite tracks from her EP, The Lingering, "Bullet". This though is beautiful, it's Siv of course, but it's sparse, crystallize and the ending has strings which makes you want to release your every inner feeling. It sums up these two sets just lovely.  

Monica Heldal. St Edmunds Chruch

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I leave the church after Siv to go to the bathroom – it’s the finer details – and there is a massive queue to get back in, so I miss perhaps a track of Monica Heldal before I’m finally back inside and have a view near the back of the exquisite venue. The acoustics are great though and I’m intoxicated once more as Monica weaves through tracks taken from Boy to the North and her forthcoming follow-up.

Both the familiar and the new are divine with her pure vocals entwined around intricate guitar melodies. It’s the same duo set up I’d seen Monica play last year in London, apparently the day before her show was with a full band. The church setting though calls for simplicity and the result is magical.

Emma Acs. Revolver

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Just around the corner in Revolver is Emma Acs. I actually head here because it’s right next to the church, my schedule has a gap in it and I’m intrigued about the act that followed Emma (I actually left after two songs of them – naming no names!). She is a complete unknown to me but quickly has me shuffling near the front of the small stage for a better view – Norwegian men are tall and seemingly like to be front and centre!

The show is nothing short of a revelation, as I put on my Twitter account, a bonkers, nostalgic psyche, alt-pop sound filled with cascading instrumentation and off-kilter vocals – it’s haphazard, messy and brilliant. The six of them on stage (I think) are packed in close because of the small stage but they are having fun. A lot of fun. Emma the most. She reminds me of Bowie’s Ziggy with her red hair, piercing stares and never still exuberance. She threatens to spill into the audience on more than an occasion, its infectious, smile-inducing and I’m wondering quite how I’d never heard of Emma Acs until this very moment.

When I get back to the UK I work out why, sure you can get a few tracks on Youtube and Soundcloud but there is nothing officially available here from the Copenhagen artist. I hope it’s part of a scheme for a launch here at a later date, this is the sort bat-shit, brilliantly crazy pop that is ready made for British audiences. Listen to “Magnetic Field” if you don’t believe me. A vinyl has been ordered! 

Alice Boman. Rockefeller

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Later at Rockefeller it’s Alice Boman, I’d earlier expressed concerns about the venue placing to my friend. 'Alice should be playing in a church or small venue and not at half midnight on Saturday night in a huge venue' I said (to be fair she did play the church the day before but I was elsewhere) and when just Alice comes out to play a solo version of “Waiting” I am further worried but then I take a glance behind and there is sizable crowd and on the whole they pay Alice the credit she deserves and don’t turn into the rowdy rabble that you’d expect in the UK.

Soon a full band joins Alice and they play tracks taken from her two EP’s and some new ones from a release we’ll hopefully hear about soon.  Sure it would be better in the aforementioned venue, her sparse and intimate music is suitable to dimly-lit, flickering venues and not million pound light shows but she pulls it off creditably and provides a pleasant ending to my inaugural By:Larm.

In quick summation, a rather apt photo. See you next you Oslo?

By:Larm 2016 - Wednesday & Thursday Review

Over the next couple of blog posts I will write about the favourite acts I saw during the four-day festival By:Larm held annually in Oslo, Norway. This was my first trip to Norway and obviously the festival and I'm already hooked.

I'll briefly start at the end by saying By:Larm was an absolutely fantastic way to experience new Scandinavian music and that Oslo was a fantastic city (bloody expensive mind, everything you hear about it is true – 7 pound beers – ouch to my wallet!). Thankfully the flights and accommodation were relatively cheap. 

My friend, who I talked into coming with me last October/November when I had the urge to book tickets after seeing the initial line-up, said it reminded him of The Great Escape about five or six years ago and that analogy is spot on. It's smaller, more compact, less commercial, less crowded (over the weekend there was only one show I wanted to get into that I didn't and that was in a 95 person capacity venue that I turned up-to just as it was starting, so it's hardly surprising) and incredibly high in quality, diverse artists. There's no male-centric lines-up here and By:Larm revels in its buzzing, positive atmosphere and its focus on exciting new music (although, boy, Norwegian men are tall!). 

Wednesday. Virgin Suicide. Pokalen

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For me at least, Virgin Suicide were head and shoulders above are any other act playing on Wednesday evening, the launch event for the festival held at Vulkan and its neighbouring Pokalen.

It's impossible for me to write about the Copenhagen band without referring immediately to Suede, the unmistakable tone of the vocal, the shimmering, jangling guitars, that blight sing-along choruses, it all reminds me of them in their swaggering pomp. Clear, energetic pop that brought a smile and dance to all listening down the front.

I'd not heard of the band before but the UK, it seems, is already taking notice of the band with them receiving The Guardian new band of the week (and an amusing review which said very much what I said last Wednesday) just days later. don't be surprised to hear a lot more from this promising young band.

Thursday. Siv Jakobsen. Mono

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I have to be careful here, I'm probably posting about Siv Jakobsen more than is justifiably allowed and I wouldn't be surprised if I received a knock at my door from the police with a restraining order any time soon! That said however, oh my fucking god, this show is incredible. What a way to start the festival officially. 

I'd seen Siv play before last year at The Great Escape in Brighton (twice in fact) playing solo acoustically and that was beautiful but the addition of a gorgeous string quartet and impeccable keys add a dimension to the tracks, primarily taken from last year's The Lingering EP that simply took my breath away. 

I'll be honest and say I was worried when I walked inside the venue and saw a darkened spit and sawdust sort of place, the sort you'd expect to be hosting rock acts but the second Siv and band start playing I forget all about that and am instantly transported to somewhere magical. The sensation was similar to that I had when I saw Broken Twin in Copenhagen a fortnight ago, it makes you want to close your eyes, soak in every emotion and hug the person nearest. You will be glad to know I managed to restrain myself!

The half-hour set disappears almost in the blink of an eye and I'm left longing so much more (I do see Siv again on Saturday -  so that will be me writing about her again soon then!).  Highlights are difficult to pick, "Bullet" is one of my favourites from the release and the strings here were especially well-placed, swooning and seductive it pulls on every heartstring and "How We Used To Love" will remain one of those songs that touches me every time I hear it. There's a new track and it stands up brilliantly with a stronger, more forceful vocal that is reminiscent of Laura Marling on Once I Was An Eagle, it hints at even more exciting future ahead, as if we needed that.

Unnveig Aas. Verkstedet

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I've heard the name said a handful of times now and I still have absolutely zero idea how to pronounce Unnveig Aas but I can safely say that I was blown away by their set and this coming directly after the incredible show I'd seen at Mono just before.

I obviously have blogged about Unnveig Aas so I was familiar with her material but still, I wasn't expecting her live sound to be quite so vast and grand, with a pedal steel, a super tight band and a completely unexpected commanding stage presence I was truly reminded of the Country gallop of Caitlin Rose and you should know how much I love Caitlin... 

The music fluctuated from bounce to croon giving plenty of time for toe-tapping rhythms before soothing with gorgeous ballads as Unnveig stared wide-eyed into the crowd and danced in unison with her exemplary band. It was something to saviour and sitting back here in the UK now and knowing what I know about what I saw, I regret not seeing her other show on the Saturday. For sure, those that did were in for a treat.

Ary. Rockefeller

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I keep thinking Ary is one of the hyped Scandinavian artists at the minute and this years Aurora, well after seeing her twice live over the weekend in By:Larm I'm removing the Aurora comparisons. The sound really isn't that similar...

Ary is more experimental and exotic, the synths and beats are firmly placed high in the mix (perhaps too high at times) and she comes backed by two male backing singers - the first time I've seen them since Hurts years ago (do they still have a solo male backing singer?). Anyway, the result, especially on the incredible "Telescope" is nothing short of exceptional and the crowd in the packed venue respond accordingly as Ary shows herself to be a natural in front of a huge audience, swaying and smiling in equal measures as her tracks show why she's destined to spend much more time in the limelight during 2016.

Dagny. Rockefeller

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If I was unsure how good Dagny was after hearing just one track, now I know for sure, she is set to be an absolute star. Sure the familiarity of "Backbeat" is undoubtedly the set highlight but the material played during her half-hour set stands firm around it and I, for one, am fully appreciative of the tight backing band she employs around her. A traditional four piece set up that adds sheen and gloss to her ready made pop aesthetics.

Track after track is filled with glistening pop melody complete with a clever, infectious style and lyrics and it's apparent to all in the room, even more so after "Backbeat" sends the crowd in rapturous applause that Dagny will soon have room after room singing along to her every word (once further tracks are released of course).

Dolores Haze. Verkstedet

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The undisputed never heard before highlight of Thursday and probably the entire festival are Swedish quartet Dolores Haze. It wasn't until after their set that I turn into their Facebook and see that nine my friends already like them, clearly I'm just late to the party. But what a party it is.

The set is filled with hard hitting drums, grungy riffs, punchy bass-lines and brattish vocals that hiss and delight in equal measure. Sure it's punky attitude that we've all heard before but something sets the quartet apart. The feisty energy and enthusiasm throughout the well rehearsed set is the sort that you can only get soaked up within and soon I'm nodding my head in agreement to each distorted guitar line and squealing vocal yelp.

There's more mellow moments too but the cover of Peaches "Fuck the Pain Away" sums up the set, growling with intensity that is raw and certainly divisive but for those who sign-up it guarantees a fun, frenetic experience. I'm completely sold and plans are made to see them again the next day. 

As you can tell, Thursday at By:Larm was really quite spectacular. 

By:Larm 2016 Preview - Ten Acts to See

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I'm very much looking forward to my maiden trip to Norway next week. The reason is simple, By:Larm 2016 has a quite incredible line-up of talent. I’m excited to see lots of acts I’ve never seen before and a few I have amongst some no doubt new, spur of the moment discoveries in venues and a City that is new to me but looks sensational. The festival runs from 2nd – 5th March around Oslo and I’m hoping beer comes priced reasonably!

I'm sure I'll get my fill of sights in too - a boat trip on Oslo Fjord and Sognsvann Lake are my current essential trips (if you can do them in freezing conditions that is - the forecast is set as cold and snow!). As a newbie it would be great to know of any treats that I must do during my four days in Oslo so if you’ve visited Oslo before please let me know of anything.

The rest of this post will list ten acts I have down to check-out at the festival next week. Most will come as no surprise to long-time readers of this blog. I could easily have listen more too such is the depth of the line-up. There's a few unavoidable clashes ahead! 

If you've any further recommendations, shout-out below. Hopefully see you in Oslo?!

ARY - FACEBOOK

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Thu, March 3, 10:30 PM > 11:00 PM

·         Drømmeteltet

Sat, March 5, 1:30 AM > 2:00 AM

Ary, surely a potential future star armed with an intriguing, show-stopping vocal and music that could just as easily fill a dance-floor as a late-night neon-lit drive. Her gorgeous, icy and emotive vocal will no doubt see her billed as this years Aurora (including by me) but if you listen to “Telescope” you can truly sense the magic, a glistening glow of shimmering, atmospheric bliss. I can’t wait to sample it and more live.

MONICA HELDAL - FACEBOOK

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Thu, March 3, 8:30 PM > 9:00 PM

·         St. Edmunds Church

Sat, March 5, 10:00 PM > 10:30 PM

One of the acts I’ve seen before in London, Monica Heldal has this style of guitar playing and vocal that will totally enchant you. Her voice is filled with an exquisite tone and delivers emotion by the gallon, her tracks vary from country-leaning folk to rocking blues riffs with flourishing instrumentation and the result is simply devine. Her playing in a church promises to be a must-see. 

DAGNY - FACEBOOK

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Thu, March 3, 11:30 PM > 12:00 AM

·         Drømmeteltet

Fri, March 4, 10:30 PM > 11:00 PM

Dagny’s debut single "Backbeat” catapulted her to the attention of many blogs around the world, a ridiculously infectious pop song full of vibrant, upbeat melody, captivating vocals and youthful exuberance. 

PALE HONEY - FACEBOOK

·         Mono

Thu, March 3, 9:00 PM > 9:30 PM

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Fri, March 4, 8:30 PM > 9:00 PM

Last years’ Youth was Pale Honey’s debut album and after missing a couple of London shows I’m looking forward to breaking my live duck in Oslo. That release was a collision of part introspective darkness and propulsive (yet minimal) pop melody that draws you into a dreamy, idyllic world before hitting you with the odd thud of abrasive noise. That’s exactly my sort of thing.

SUSANNA - FACEBOOK

St. Edmunds Church

Fri, March 4, 7:00 PM > 7:30 PM

I’d not heard of Susanna before a few weeks ago and the track “Burning Sea” (although she has a comprehensive discography behind her). The track is the first heard from her forthcoming LP Triangle but I love what I heard straight away, wrapping me up in a similar sense of foreboding darkness to Anna Von Hausswolff (well the track does start with the line ‘I belong to the darkness’) as droning keys and howling instrumentation collide with Susanna’s crystalline vocal. If it’s all this good, consider me smitten.

SIV JAKOBSEN - FACEBOOK

·         Mono

Thu, March 3, 6:00 PM > 6:30 PM

·         St. Edmunds Church

Sat, March 5, 9:00 PM > 9:30 PM

Siv Jakobsen, as I’ve documented here before, was one my favourite discoveries of 2015 and the Norwegian singer-songwriter's track "How We Used to Love" one of my favourite tracks of the year, easily one of most beautiful, affecting tracks of recent time. Each carefully placed space and each finger-plucked melody adds to its emotional power, complete with bruised vocal and strings drenched in sadness, the result brings tingles each and every time I hear it – and that’s been often this year.

On her seven track EP The Lingering Siv has clearly taken influence from the beautiful yet chilly landscapes that surround her home, a sparse yet natural beauty and intimacy that pulls you deep into a magical world of romanticism and memories that you never want to leave. 

EERA - FACEBOOK

·         Revolver

Thu, March 3, 9:30 PM > 10:00 PM

·         NRK P3 Sentrum Scene

Fri, March 4, 9:00 PM > 9:30 PM

EERA is the new project of Anna Lena (formerly recording under the name Anna Lena and the Orchids) who re-imagines herself with "White Water", a track which is both familiar and new to fans of her earlier project and one that offers a bewitching introduction to newcomers.

Anna is blessed with an evocative, haunting vocal that seeps into your consciousness, natural and melancholic it slowly unwinds amongst chugging guitars, steady percussion and beautifully poetic lyrics. Nothing too much seems to have changed, that's until we reach the end of the verse and searing guitars transport the listener to St Vincent territory before calming once more, this bubbling flow continues until the tracks conclusion offering a confident, polished introduction to an artist whose time to step out of the shadows has surely come.

CHINAH - FACEBOOK

·         Gamla

Fri, March 4, 9:30 PM > 10:00 PM

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Sat, March 5, 9:30 PM > 10:00 PM

I’m absolute sucker for glistening, cinematic electro pop filled with a gorgeous vocal and that’s exactly what you can expect from Copenhagen’s Chinah. "We Go Back" is speckled with smouldering vocals and glittery, restrained synth pop melody that harks straight from the eighties. It's irresistible too, add kaleidoscopic guitar licks and retro keyboards to sweetly alluring choruses and the result is this smooth, nostalgic triumph. 

ALICE BOMAN - FACEBOOK

·         St. Edmunds Church

Fri, March 4, 9:00 PM > 9:30 PM

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Sat, March 5, 12:30 AM > 1:00 AM

Alice Boman is one of those artists I seem to feature here every time she releases a new track, if you press play on any one of her tracks you'll soon understand why. Her voice is a killer. Alice’s music heads straight for the heart. Her two EP’s far offering stark and fragile piano-led ballads full of haunting, echoey atmosphere and Alice's sweetly-hushed vocals, the result is an intimate, bare-boned experience capable of bringing you close to tears.

SARA HARTMAN - FACEBOOK

Drømmeteltet

Fri, March 4, 11:30 PM > 12:00 AM

Sara Hartman, a Berlin-based, US-born singer-songwriter hits the ground running on her immaculate single “Monster Lead Me Home”, a flawless piano-pop gem which propels rich, powerful vocals and sparkling instrumentation to results that excite for the teenagers’ future ahead.