THE TWENTY BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2015-PART 2.

THE TWENTY BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2015-PART 2.

GORAN KAJFES SUBTROPIC ARKESTRA-THE REASON WHY VOLUME 2.

For the last three decades, Goran Kajfeš has been a key figure in the Swedish music scene.There’s a reason for this. Goran Kajfeš has constantly been  releasing groundbreaking, genre-melting music. To do this, Goran has pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. This resulted in Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra’s The Reason Why Volume 1 being nominated for a Swedish Grammy in 2013. Goran Kajfeš’ “acid rock with horns” was winning friends and influencing people. Two years later, and The Reason Why Volume 2 was released on Headspin Records.

The Reason Why Volume 2, which was out on April 6th 2015, on Headspin Records, surpasses The Reason Why Volume 1. That took some doing. After all, The Reason Why Volume 1 was nominated for a Grammy Award. However, two years later, the multitalented Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arekestra have come of age on The Reason Why Volume 2. They seem to have matured as a band. What’s more, the music on The Reason Why Volume 2 is even more eclectic and almost flawless. That takes some doing. However, Goran Kajfeš is a musical innovator. With Goran at the Arekestra’s helm, they’re definitely destined for greater things.

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HUNTSVILLE-POND.

For nine years, musical alchemists Huntsville have been creating groundbreaking, genre-melting music. They released their fifth album Pond on Hubro Music.  Pond was a Joycean sonic voyage of discovery, where Huntsville combine disparate musical genres and influences on four epic tracks.  With Huntsville supplying the music, all the listener needs to do is  let their imagination run riot. 

What follows is akin to a four part play, where Huntsville supply a musical backdrop. The music can be melancholy and thoughtful. Other times, it’s moody and broody, but can just as easily become crystalline, elegiac and ethereal, as musical influences and genres melt into one. 

This includes  elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental, free jazz, industrial, post rock, psychedelia and rock. Huntsville also draw inspiration from some of their musical heroes, including Miles Davis, Steve Reich, Ennio Morricone and early Tortoise. Other influences include Brian Eno, Can, Harold Budd, John Martyn, Mind Over Midi, Neu! and Pink Floyd. That’s an eclectic mix. However, all these influences can be heard on Pond, a truly captivating and innovative album from musical alchemists Huntsville.

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JOHAN AGEBJORN-NOTES.

Since 2006, Johan Agebjörn, has released a quartet of albums and a dozen remixes. Each of these releases are very different. Johan has refused to stand still, constantly reinvents his music. Johan it seems, is a musical shapeshifter. That’s been the case since 2006, when Johan released his debut album. Nine years later, and Johan Agebjörn released his fifth album Notes on the Paper Bag label on February 2015. It’s the latest 

Throughout his career, Johan has constantly reinvented his music. He’s released he’s everything from ambient and electro, right through to Italo disco, 8bit and classical piano music. Eclectic, it seems, is the best way to describe the Gothenburg based musical chameleon. This is the case on Notes, Johan’s fifth album.

Notes is best described as cinematic, dramatic, dreamy, ethereal, melancholy and even, mesmeric. Sometimes Notes is beautiful, emotive, sensual and sultry. Other times Notes is bold and dark. Always, Johan Agebjörn’s fifth solo album, Notes, is a captivating and compelling album, that, full of surprises aplenty. 

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LABFIELD-BUCKET OF SONGS.

Five years after the release of their sophomore album Collab, LabField, one of the leading lights of the European improv scene make a welcome return. They returned in 2015 with their genre-melting third album, Bucket of Songs. It was released on Hubro Music. Bucket Of Songs marks the start of a new era for LabField. Not only have they changed direction musically, but Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach had joined the band. Bucket of Songs was his debut.

And what an album Bucket of Songs was. LabField combined elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental, free jazz, industrial, Latin, post rock, pop, rock and world music. However, at the heart of Bucket Of Songs’ sound and success, was LabField’s trademark brand of improvisational music. As LabField improvise, they visit a variety of disparate musical genres. Somehow, though, this fusion of all these disparate musical genres hangs together, and make perfect sense on what’s akin to a magical musical mystery tour.

LabField take their music in a new and unexpected directions. That’s why you should never, ever, try and second guess LabField. That would be impossible. They’re mavericks, and sonic explorers who manipulate sound, and take their listeners on other groups can only dream of. In doing so, LabField create music that’s variously ambitious, challenging, cinematic, dramatic,  inventive, innovative minimalist and urgent. It’s also music that’s guaranteed to make you think. Sometimes, the music on Bucket Of Sounds sets your mind racing. Don’t fight it, enjoy the ride. LabField will take you to places you’ve never been before. Just let your imagination run riot. If you do,  LabField will richly reward you, as you experience Bucket Of Songs’ nine captivating and groundbreaking soundscapes.

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MORTEN QVENILD-PERSONAL PIANO.

Over the last twenty years, Morten Qvenild has been at the heart of the Norwegian music scene. The thirty-seven year old pianist and keyboardist is one of the most versatile and creative musicians of his generation. That’s why, when anyone in the Norwegian music scene was looking for a pianist or keyboardist, they gave Morten Qvenild a call. This has resulted in Morten Qvenild playing on over fifty albums. However, he hadn’t released a solo album That was until he released Personal Piano on Hubro Music in September 2015.

Featuring seven improvised soundscapes, Personal Piano is a mesmeric fusion that’s guaranteed to captivate and compel. Morten Qvenild takes the listener of a seven musical adventures. The sonic sorcerer throws musical curveballs, before springing a series of musical surprises. Nothing is it seems. Using a myriad of effects, sounds are transformed. They become something very different. As a result, one minute the music is  dramatic, the next it’s dreamy. Other times, it becomes moody and broody. Then the next, it veers between pensive and understated, to melancholy or melodic. Constantly, the music changes direction. It’s a case of expect the unexpected. Subtleties and sonic surprises are constantly sprung, as musical sorcerer and explorer, Morten Qvenild takes the listener on magical mystery tour, while expanding his sonic palette on his long awaited, and groundbreaking debut album Personal Piano.

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MOSTER!-WHEN YOU CUT INTO THE PRESENT.

Ever since they made their debut at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in 2010, Norwegian supergroup Møster!’s star has been in the ascendancy. So much so, that Møster! are now regarded as one of the biggest bands in the Nordic music scene. Møster! released their third album When You Cut Into The Present in November 2015 on Hubro Music.

Hard rocking, but genre-melting describes Møster! However, When You Cut Into The Present shows that Møster! are much more than a rock band. They combine avant garde, classic rock, experimental, free jazz, funk, jazz, Krautrock, progressive rock and psychedelia, with the classic Norwegian jazz sound of the sixties and seventies. It’s best describes as a fusion of Can, Alice Coltrane, King Crimson’s Red period, John Coltrane and the Nordic jazz pioneers Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, Arild Andersen and Jan Christensen. Sometimes, it sounds as if Møster! have been influenced by German musical pioneers, Birth Control, Guru Guru and Neu! It sounds like the four members of Møster! have eclectic taste in music.

That’s definitely the case with guitar wizard Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan. The virtuoso seems to have been influenced by Jimi Hendrix. Sometimes, it sounds like Hans is channeling the spirit of Hendrix in the studio. Other times, Hans’ licks sound as if they belong on an Iron Maiden or Judas Priest album. Just like the rest of Møster!, Hans is a versatile and talented member of this supergroup. They’ve made huge strides on When You Cut Into the Present. The Trondheim groove-meisters have created a career defining album of hard rocking music. They kick loose from the opening bars of Nebula and Red Giant, and never let go until the closing notes of Soundhouse Rumble. In between you’re treated a glorious assault on the sensory system which unleashes endorphins aplenty.

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SIDSEL ENDRESEN AND STIAN WESTERHUS-BONITA.

One of the most eagerly awaited albums of 2015 was Sidsel Endresen and Stian Westerhus’ sophomore album Bonita. It was released on Rune Grammofon in January 2015. Bonita was the followup to Sidsel Endresen and Stian Westerhus’ debut album Didymoi Dreams. Just like Didymoi Dreams, Bonita is another album of groundbreaking, innovative music. However, unlike Didymoi Dreams, Bonita is a live album. 

On Bonita, Sidsel Endresen and Stian Westerhus pickup where they left off on Didymoi Dreams, renewing what’s an almost telepathic relationship. Sidsel reacts to Stian’s guitar playing, and improvises. Her music veers between dramatic, ethereal, heartfelt, sensual and urgent. Listening intently, Stian picks up on a change of direction. Straight away, he reacts, and his trusty guitar and effects take the listener on a musical adventure. He’s responsible for washes of blistering, dramatic ethereal, jagged, fuzzy, scorching and understated music. This is the perfect compliment for Sidsel’s vocals. 

Feeding off each other, Stian and Sidsel drive each other to greater heights, fusing elements of ambient, avant-garde, experimental, jazz, psychedelia and rock on Bonita, where Sidsel becomes yin to Stian’s yang. It’s no surprise that Bonita is an ambitious, captivating, and groundbreaking album from Sidsel Endresen and Stian Westerhus, two of Norwegian music’s most talented artists.

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SKYDIVE TRIO-SUN MOEE. 

For many musicians, making the step up from sideman to bandleader can be problematic. Other musicians embrace the role and seem to enjoy the added responsibility. That’s the case with guitarist Thomas T. Dahl. He founded Skydive Trio, who released their debut album Sun Moee on Hubro Music.

Sun Moee is the perfect showcase for one of Norway’s most talented guitarist, Thomas T. Dahl. His playing takes centre-stage on Sun Moee. Behind him, Olavi Louhivuori and Mats Eilertsen provide the backdrop for Thomas’ guitar wizardry.   Although they’re both hugely talented and experienced musicians, it’s Thomas guitar playing that takes a starring role on Sun Moee. The music is variously beautiful, cinematic, dramatic, elegiac, ethereal, mesmeric, sparse, stirring and understated. Elements of jazz and rock melt into one. Occasionally, elements of avant garde and experimental music can be heard. Especially on Four Words, which closes Sun Moee, Skydive Trio’s debut album.

As debut albums go, Sun Moee is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. That’s not a surprise, given Skydive Trio feature three of Scandinavia’s most talented musicians, who showcase their considerable talents on Sun Moee.

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STEIN URHEIM AND MARI KVIEN BRUNVOLL-FOR INDIVIDUALS FACING THE TEROR OF COSMIC LONELINESS.

Stein Urheim and Mari Kvien Brunvoll have both enjoyed lengthy careers as solo artists. They’ve also collaborated on a trio of albums. The latest was Individuals Facing The Terror Of Cosmic Loneliness, which was released by Jazzland Recordings  and recorded in just four days.

That hasn’t affected the quality of music on Individuals Facing The Terror Of Cosmic Loneliness. It oozes quality. oozes quality. The album is a filler free zone, on what can only be described as a genre-melting album. There’s everything from alt-sunshine pop, ambient, avant-garde, dub, Eastern blues, experimental, free jazz and synth pop. The result is an eclectic and potent mix of musical genres for two innovative artists, Stein Urheim and Mari Kvien Brunvoll.

Together, they have created an ambitious, innovative and captivating album. It’s like the musical equivalent of a magical mystery tour, where Stein Urheim and Mari Kvien Brunvoll “are coming to take you away” on. Over Individuals Facing The Terror Of Cosmic Loneliness’ nine tracks the music veers between atmospheric, beautiful, dark, dramatic, ethereal, haunting, hypnotic, melancholy, mesmeric, sparse, thoughtful and wistful. Quite simply, Stein Urheim and Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s Individuals Facing The Terror Of Cosmic Loneliness is an album that you’ll constantly return to

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THE LAST HURRAH!!-MUDFLOWERS.  

For over thirty years, H.P. Gundersen has been at the heart of Bergen’s thriving and vibrant music scene. The Bergen based singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer is a veteran of many groups, including Animal Farm, House Of Hiss, Nekken, Rust, Sensible Twins and The Stain Monster. Then there’s H.P. Gundersen’s latest project is The Last Hurrah!! They released their third album Mudflowers on Rune Grammofon in August 2015. Mudflowers marks the debut of the latest member of The Last Hurrah!!, up-and-coming vocalist Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Maesa Pullman.

For Mudflowers, bandleader H.P. Gundersen put together what can only be described as an all-star band. Everyone plays their part in the sound and success of Mudflowers.  Marty Rifkin on pedal steel and John Thomas on Hammond organ play starring roles. However, the star of Mudflowers is Maesa Pullman, H.P. Gundersen’s latest discovery. She’s a versatile vocalist who breathes life, meaning and emotion into songs. Maesa Pullman has a great future ahead of her. So does the other vocalist on Mudflowers is Rosa Pullman, Maesa’s cousin. The Pullman family it seems, is a talented family. They’ve played a huge part in the success of The Last Hurrah!!’s third album, Mudflowers.

It’s an album that’s been inspired by an eclectic and disparate selection of musical genres. Everything from Americana, blues, country, pop, psychedelia, rock and even soul shine through on Mudflowers. One influence overshadows the rest. That’s country. Sometimes, Mudflowers sounds as if it’s been written and recorded in Nashville. Instead,  Mudflowers was written and recorded in Bergen, Norway, and  is a career defining album from The Last Hurrah!! On Mudflowers, A Star Is Born, and her name is Maesa Pullman.

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That’s what I consider the twenty best Nordic Wave albums of 2105. Each and every one of these albums features groundbreaking music. These artists and bands combine a disparate  and eclectic section of music. This includes everything from ambient and avant-garde, to experimental music, folk and free jazz through industrial and Musique concrète, Then there’s progressive rock, psychedelia, rock and space rock. Incredibly, these genre-melting fusions always works. Each of these bands are different.

There’s power trios, solo artists and supergroups. Then there’s veterans, collaborations and newcomers. Collaborators include Stein Urheim and Mari Kvien Brunvolll; while Finland, The Last Hurrah and Huntzville are worthy of the name supergroup. Among the newcomers are Black Moon Circle. Their sophomore album, The Studio Jams Volume I: Yellow Nebula in the Sky is the first of a trilogy of studio jams from the maverick space rockers. If the next two volumes are good as The Studio Jams Volume I: Yellow Nebula, they’re going to be essential listening. So is another newcomer’s debut album; As The Tired Trains Cross Europe’s debut album Lucid Moments.

As The Tired Trains Cross Europe’s debut album Lucid Moments is the perfect showcase for the the multi-talented, singer-songwriter Vegard Eggum. He’s a name you’ll be hear a lot more of during 2016. Hopefully, however, we’ll be hearing a lot more of every name on the twenty best Nordic Wave albums of 2105.

THE TWENTY BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2015-PART 2.

 

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