BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 1

BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 1

For years, I’ve been writing about the Nordic Wave scene, which is, without doubt, one of the most eclectic and vibrant in Europe. During that period, I’ve witnessed the rise and rise of the Nordic Wave. There’s no sign of the bubble bursting. Quite the opposite.

This latest wave of groundbreaking musicians continue to  create ambitious, innovative and influential music in Norway, Sweden,  Denmark, Finland and Iceland. This music ranges from ambient and avant-garde to folk, improv and jazz to psychedelia, progressive rock and space rock. The only problem was what to call the music made by this new wave  of Nordic musicians?

What made this especially problematic was the sheer eclecticism of the music.  There were musicians all types of music. Then one day when someone asked what I called this new musical movement, I came up with the name Nordic Wave. It was simplicity in itself. Here was music being made my a new wave of Nordic musicians. What better name than Nordic Wave? Since then, when I’ve complied my year end best of lists, there’s always been a best Nordic Wave albums. 
Each year, that list has grown, more and more of  this new wave of Nordic musicians create ambitious, groundbreaking, innovative and influential music. The following are the best Nordic Wave albums of 2016.

Black Moon Circle-Sea Of Clouds.

April 2016 saw Norwegian space rock pioneers Black Moon Circle make their debut at the prestigious  Roadburn Festival. This was prefect timing. That day, Black Moon Circle released their fourth album Sea Of Clouds via Crispin Glover Records. It was a much anticipated release, that also featured bassist Øyvin Engman vocal debut. The result was a album of melodic and anthemic songs. They were also hard rocking.   

This is what we’ve come to expect from Black Moon Circle. They revisit their hard rocking brand of psychedelic, space rock on Sea Of Clouds. It’s a fusion of heavy metal, Krautrock, avant-garde, free jazz and post rock. Black Moon Circle have also drawn inspiration from everyone from Black Sabbath, Can and Deep Purple to Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind and Motorpsycho. These disparate musical genres and influences were fused to create Sea Of Clouds.  

It features music that’s dramatic, futuristic, moody, otherworldly and gloriously rocky. Sometimes, Sea Of Clouds features Black Moon Circle at their hard rocking best. Sea Of Clouds is also “intense.” There’s always been an intensity to Black Moon Circle’s music. It’s as much a part of Black Moon Circle’s music as the layers of fuzzy guitars, spacey, lysergic synths and futuristic sci-fi sounds. That’s the case throughout Sea Of Clouds, which shows another side to space rock pioneers Black Moon Circle. It’s their most accessible album and is a glorious assault on the sensory system from  genre-melting innovators Black Moon Circle,

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Black Moon Circle-The Studio Jams Volume 2.

In mid-November,  Black Moon Circle released The Studio Jams Volume 2 via Crispin Glover Records. It’s the second in a  trilogy of Studio Jams and Black Moon Circle’s second album of 2016. Just like the Trondheim based psychedelic space rock pioneers’ previous albums, they fuse musical genres as they push musical boundaries.  

The basis for Black Moon Circle’s music is the classic rock of the sixties and seventies, psychedelia and space rock. To this, Black Moon Circle add elements of avant-garde, electronica, experimental,  free jazz, Krautrock and post rock. Seamlessly, these disparate musical genres and influences merge into something new and innovative. It’s cinematic, dramatic, futuristic, moody, rocky and as Øyvin Engan says, “intense.” This intensity is deliberate. It comes courtesy of the four members of Black Moon Circle. They deploy layers of fuzzy guitars, spacey, lysergic, futuristic, sci-fi synths and a mesmeric rhythm section. They create two “lengthy jams” which features  “heavy riffage and the extensive use of effects.” They’re used extensively and put to good use by Black Moon Circle. 

They’re one of the most exciting, talented and innovative Norwegian groups. They remind me of their fellow countrymen, Motorpsycho and Moster! However, Elements of Can, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind, early Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing shine through on The Studio Jams Volume 2 . This hard rocking opus, finds the Trondheim-based psychedelic space rockers Black Moon Circle, reaching new heights on The Studio Jams Volume 2.

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Building Instrument-Kem Som Kan Å Leve.

Just over two years have passed since Norwegian trio Building Instrument released their eponymous debut album in March 2014. The album was released to widespread critical acclaim, and great things were forecast for Building Instrument. Since then, Building Instrument have been working on their much  anticipated sophomore album, Kem Som Kan Å Leve. After nearly two years,  was released 

by Hubro Music, on the 2nd of September 2016. Kem Som Kan Å Leve marks a welcome return from the Nordic sonic explorers, Building Instrument.  

They continue create inventive and innovate music, that’s ambitious and adventurous. That music is also beautiful, dreamy, ethereal, hypnotic and melodic. Partly, that is because of Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s vocal. She switches between the Molde dialect, and an invented language that only she can understand. That doesn’t matter. It plays an important part in On Kem Som Kan Å Leve, where Building Instrument followed in the footsteps of Kurt Schwitter. 

Building Instrument: “go further in the direction of expanding or erasing the meaning of language, just as Schwitters did with his sound poetry.” This was an ambitious project, but the results are fascinating and captivating. They can be heard on Kem Som Kan Å Leve, which finds Norwegian sonic explorers at their inventive and innovative best. Kem Som Kan Å Leve is Building Instrument’s musical Magnus Opus, which features six soundscapes that are ambitious and adventurous, but also beautiful, dreamy, ethereal, hypnotic and melodic.

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Bushman’s Revenge- Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen.

After spending twelve years touring and recording,  Bushman’s Revenge decided to take a much needed break. After enjoying some downtime, Bushmen’s Revenge were raring to go. By then, they had decided to change direction musically. They felt that for the time being, they had taken their fusion of “jazz, progressive and rock as far as they can.”  This opened up all sorts of new and exciting possibilities.  Eventually, Bushmnan’s Revenge decided to record their “first proper jazz album,” Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen, which was released by Rune Grammofon.

It shows different sides to Bushman’s Revenge. Lola is a  languid and wistful slice of late summer Scandinavian jazz.  The listener is transported back in time to the sixties as Bushman’s Revenge became a jazz trio. Seamlessly, they adopt to the change of style, before the album heads in the direction of electric blues. Just like Jimi Hendrix, this is starting point for 0500, Bo Marius and Gamle Plata Til Arne. They heads in new and unexpected directions, combining electric blues with rock, psychedelia and jazz. There’s even diversions into avant-garde, blues rock and free jazz.  

Mostly, electric blues, jazz and rock are to the fore as Bushman’s Revenge fuse disparate musical genres. They create ambitious, inventive and innovative music on Fritt Etter Hukommelsen, which isBushman’s Revenge’s “first proper jazz album.”  Maybe this will be the start of a new chapter in the career of musical pioneers Bushman’s Revenge? Only time will tell.

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Caus Sui-Return To Sky.

Since forming Caus Sui in Odense, in Southern Denmark in 2005, the band has released eleven albums. Their latest was Return To Sky which was released on El Paraiso Records.  Return To Sky references four decades of music. Elements of classic rock, Krautrock, psychedelia, progressive rock, stoner rock and space rock. Ambient and avant-garde have also influenced Causa Sui. So have Can, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Michael Rother and Pink Floyd. The result is a heady brew and musical genres and influences, Return To Sky.

It’s an album that veers between dark and dramatic and hard rocking to lysergic, dreamy and wistful to  mesmeric and melodic. Return To Sky is all these things and more. It also features four hugely talented musicians as they reinvent their music yet again. This is a constant process that ensures that Causa Sui are one step ahead of the musical crowd. 

Causa Sui are always one step ahead of the listener. They’ve always got a surprise in-store for the unwary listener. At any given moment, Causa Sui could throw a curveball that transforms the track. Suddenly, hard rock becomes lysergic and wistful. It’s a case of expect the unexpected throughout Return To Sky, where musical chameleons Causa Sui keep the listener on their toes during what’s a career defining album.

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Dalindèo-Slavic Souls

When composer and guitarist Valtteri Laurell Pöyhönen, decided to found Dalindèo in 2003, he decided to recruit some of Finland’s top jazz musicians. Since then, Dalindèo have released their four albums. Their latest album Slavic Souls was released by BBE. Slavic Souls was no ordinary album. Instead, it was described as a: “surf jazz Tango extravaganza.” 

To create their: “surf jazz Tango extravaganza,” Dalindèo combined contemporary jazz is with traditional Finnish Tango music and even northern schlanger. There’s also a psychedelic sound to Slavic Souls. Sometimes, the darkness descends and music becomes moody, broody and gloomy. Other times, the music is atmospheric. Occasionally, there’s a sense of melancholia during Slavic Souls. However,  Dalindèo’s cinematic sound shines through. It’s been part a key part of Dalindèo’s sound since 2003, and plays an important part in Slavic Souls. It’s an album that somehow, manages to be all things to all people. That however, isn’t surprising. 

Dalindèo feature six of Finland’s top jazz musicians. They were joined by a trio of talented guest artists. Finland’s premier coloratura-soprano singer Anna-Kristiina Kaappola joined trombonist Heikki Tuhkanen and pedal steel player Olli Haavisto. They play their part in the sound and success of Slavic Souls, which is the best album of their twelve year career. Indeed, Slavic Souls, ’s “surf-jazz Tango extravaganza,” is a veritable musical feast,  that’s fit for a King or Queen.

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Erlend Apneseth Trio-Det Andre Rommet.

It was in 2013 that the members of the  Erlend Apneseth Trio first met. Drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde and guitarist Stephan Meidell played on Sommarflukt, the final track on Erlend Apneset’s album Blikkspor. The three men hit it off, and decided to form Erlend Apneseth Trio, who released their debut album Det Andre Rommet on Hubro Music during 2016.

On Det Andre Rommet, the Erlend Apneseth Trio use folk as a starting point. From there, they add elements  of avant-garde, improv, jazz, musique concrète and even rock. The result is music that veers between beautiful to cinematic, to dramatic and eerie. Other times, the music is elegiac, ethereal, elegiac, melancholy and melodic.  Sometimes, the music is full of sadness and is heart-wrenching. Always, though, the music on Det Andre Rommet has the capacity to captivate and spring surprises, as the Erlend Apneseth Trio take the listener in a new and unexpected direction.

Every member of the Erlend Apneseth Trio plays their part in this musical magical mystery tour. Sometimes, it’s Erllend’s fiddle that takes the listener on this emotional roller coaster. It plays an important part on Det Andre Rommet, and in Erlend’s hands, proves a versatile instrument. One minute, he’s playing the fiddle in the same way as countless generations before him; the next, the maverick musician rewrites the rules, by unleashing a Hendrix-esque performance. In doing, he plays a part in what’s a groundbreaking, innovative album Det Andre Rommet.

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Fire!-She Sleeps, She Sleeps.

Back in Fenruary, Fire! released their fifth studio album She Sleeps, She Sleeps on Rune Grammofon. Just like previous albums by Fire! and the Fire! Orchestra the music on She Sleeps, She Sleeps was groundbreaking, influential and innovative. It was also captivating, progressive, genre-melting music.

The music on She Sleeps, She Sleeps veers between moody and broody, to dark and dramatic, through to hypnotic and mesmeric. Other times, the music is akin to a soul-baring confessional, where pain, hurt and heartache pours out of Mats Gustafson’s saxophone. Then his playing is akin to a musical equivalent of Primal Scream Therapy. Once he’s seemingly exercised of demons, it’s all change, and often, the music becomes beautiful and melodic. Always, though, Fire!’s potent and powerful musical cocktail continues to captivate, and proves to be just as progressive and innovative on their latest album She Sleeps, She Sleeps.

Key to the success of She Sleeps, She Sleeps is Fire!’s ability to seamlessly combine elements of avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, noise and psychedelic rock. Fire! are like a musical shaman, combining an eclectic and disparate selection of musical genres and influences. Playing a leading role in their potent musical potion, are mesomorphic rock rhythms and a braying free jazz saxophone. They compliment each other perfectly on She Sleeps, She Sleeps, which is Fire!’s finest hour.

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Fire! Orchestra-Ritual.

For their fourth album Ritual, which was released by Rune Grammofon,  the Fire! Orchestra “slimmed” their lineup down to just twenty-one members. The newly slimmed down  lineup of the Fire! Orchestra . Still, The Fire! Orchestra features some of the most talented musicians Sweden, Norway, Denmark and France has to offer. This pan European supergroup recorded Ritual in just two days. 

The result was an album that sounds as if everything the Fire! Orchestra has been leading up to Ritual, It Ritual features the five part Ritual suite. It’s a captivating album where the Fire! Orchestra combine avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, funk, jazz and rock. The music veers between restrained and understated to urgent and dramatic. Other times, the music is mesmeric and hypnotic, before becoming melodic and soulful. Occasionally, the music becomes moody, wistful and cinematic. Always, the music is ambitious, experimental and progressive.

Just like previous albums, Ritual is imaginative, inventive and innovative. It’s also joyous and uplifting, with the Fire! Orchestra playing with freedom and spontaneity, as they examine mysteries and rituals, not just in life, but in music. This five suite exploration is a  musical tour de force from the Fire! Orchestra, Ritual which proves that when it comes to lineups, size isn’t everything.

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Hedvig Mollestad Trio-Black Stabat Mater

During July, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio released two albums on Rune Grammofon. This included their much anticipated fourth album Black Stabat Mater. It’s a glorious reminder of the golden age of rock. Indeed, it’s possible to imagine the Hedvig Mollestad Trio playing at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles or Fillmore East in New York. However, the similarities between some of the legends of music and the Hedvig Mollestad Trio is no coincidence.  

Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen who founded the Hedvig Mollestad Trio in 2009, grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix. Their influence can be heard throughout Black Stabat Mater. So can the influence of early Hawkwind, Cream, Santana and West, Bruce and Laing. Closer to home, maybe Moster! and Motorpsycho have influenced the Hedvig Mollestad Trio? These bands have a similar genre-melting sound to the Hedvig Mollestad Trio. 

To create this genre-melting sound, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio fuse elements of rock, psychedelia and space rock with avant-garde, improv and jazz. Sometimes, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio seamlessly switch between musical genres mid track. Other times, these disparate genres melt into one on Black Stabat Mater. Occasionally, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio spring a series of surprises, and take the listener on a magical mystery tour. Mostly, though, Black Stabat Mater is an album of über hard rocking music which is finest album of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s career. They reach new heights on Black Stabat Mater.

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1 Comment

  1. This is such a great post! I love many of these bands and now you’ve introduced me to some new ones!!

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