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 - Friday Review

After a late morning breakfast I spend much of the day sightseeing and manage to find a curry house that is very nice before heading out for the evening music session.

Friday starts with a special Sofar Sounds show, the picture might make it look like it's in someone's house but in realitiy it's the basement of a hotel. I listen to a hip-hop artist who isn't really my thing and am very happy after about ten seconds of Ida Stein is introduced as the second act...

Friday. Ida Stein. Sofar Sounds

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I'm not sure the stripped back setup that she employs here is one that Ida Stein had played with before but that doesn't matter, the pared-down, acoustic nature of the set suits her voice to the ground, allowing her ethereal whispers to silence the crowd with its blissful melancholy and intimate longing (there’s a track called “Melancholia” which sums it up).

The recorded sound I hear for the first time on my return to the UK is more electro pop in its nature but still resonates around her soft vocals and flickering synths. A new fan is found.

Sea Lion. St Edmunds Church

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For someone I first wrote about on this blog as long ago as September 2012 it’s incredibly the first time I’ve seen Sea Lion perform live and the setting, the beautiful St Edmunds Church is perfect (it’s reminiscent of St Pancras Old Church which can only be a good thing).

A short, sweet and satisfying set follows over the next twenty five minutes with tracks taken from last year’s Desolate Stars leading the way. The acoustics and the silent crowd help to bring out Linn's fragile vocal, intoxicating around naked acoustic strums and haunting melodies. 

Pale Honey. Rockefeller

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Another band I've blogged about multiple times here and finally managed to break the live duck of at By:Larm are Pale Honey, the sets a cracker too. Perfectly suited to the big Rockefeller stage the trio produce a set of punchy beats and tight guitar and the result is explosive and energetic. The highlights are arguably the tightest tracks from last year’s debut LP Youth, the title track and the propulsive “Over Your Head” and by the time it ends I’m humming the infectious riffs on the way out. 

Tina Refsnes. Crossroad Club

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This show wasn’t actually on my agenda before the festival and it wasn’t even part of the main schedule but I bumped into Tina Refsnes the day before at Siv Jakobsen’s gig and actually said hello (I’m absolutely the worst at saying hello to people, I tend not to want to impede on people’s own life – hence me walking past Jarvis Cocker earlier in the day!) and Tina then told me about the gig and I gladly tweaked my schedule to take it in.

The set is delicious and another treat, it’s great to see people like Tina, Unnveig Aas and Siv in their native country because they are playing with their traditional setups, backed by a full band of familiar musicians instead of the usual touring solo / session musician set. The full band sound here truly helps and I’m very happy with the set, a combination of twanging country blues, heartfelt ballads and stomping rockier moments that takes in all of my favourites from last year’s No One Knows That You're Lost. “I Don’t Know” and “Alaska” particuarly impress with the familiarity and association as my discovery song tingling my senses.

I don’t stop around after to say hello!

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Julia Adams. Verkstedet

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I think this is the first time I'd ever stood through an entire set in a foreign language, one that I don't even speak a word of.

Swedish artist Julia Adams is worth it though, an engaging performance of strong, shimmering electro-pop melodies and bittersweet vocals. There’s a couple of slower songs where Julia moves to a keys and these are probably my highlights although the swaggering “0400am” runs in close in this live setting.

I don’t understand the in-between song banter either and as sad as I am, I find it amusing to hear the odd English word or saying filter through. 

Pixx. St Edmunds Church

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Even though Pixx is the first UK artist I see here in Oslo, I’ve actually never heard of her before and arrive purely because of the ‘buzz’ surrounding the new 4AD signing. The church settings are certainly suited to the atmospheric blend of exotic rhythms, subtle guitars and minimal electronics and the delicious haunting vocals weave an enticing proposition. I’m not familiar with any of the tracks but I’m absorbed by the seductive combination of unhurried instrumentation and soft, hushed voice. A mental note to listen to more on my return is made.

It’s incredibly been a week since my flight already, so I have of course listened to more since, I love the floating, dreaming nature of “A Way to Say Goodbye”. The buzz seems to be justified. 

Sara Hartman. Drømmeteltet

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I think this was Sara Hartman's second show of the night, fresh from supporting Ellie Goulding somewhere else in Oslo. You can immediately tell she’s used to sharing bigger stages. An engaging lead performance from a young artist who belies her age, swaggering back and forth with gusto and armed with chorus after chorus and track after track that seems to hint at a stadium bound career.

Quite incredibly Sara starts with ‘the hit’, “Monster Guide Me Home” immediately gets the crowd going and the elation doesn’t drop throughout the half hour set.

Dolores Haze. John Dee

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Round two for Dolores Haze and it’s immediately apparent that my ‘love-in’ of yesterday was not made by alcohol intoxication. Dolores Haze are absolutely brilliant again.

At the start there’s two girls on stage with them, a Shampoo meets Clueless pairing who add even more enthusiasm to the first track, as if that was possible. Their half hour set disappears, once more, in an instant, a blur of gritty power, grungy guitars, handclaps and boundless fun. I grab a t-shirt shortly after. It costs the same price as a beer.

The Prettiots. Rockefeller

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The t-shirt buying means I arrive upstairs at Rockefeller as The Prettiots are playing but soon another new band to follow is found. I should have probably checked out the American trio before as they released a record very recently via Rough Trade. That record Funs Cool is where most of the tracks are sourced from – although a set highlight “Blow It” – which I wrongly think is called “Blow Him” until I catch the band again the next day (which changes the meaning of the track somewhat!!) is not.

I imagine The Prettiots are a bit of a Marmite band, love them or hate them, songs about adolescent boy-chasing, boy-dissing, moving to LA and so on all wrapped up in sugary harmonies, strong bass rhyhtms, ukulele and incredibly funny anecdotes. I love it.