BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 2.

BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 2.

Hedvig Mollestad Trio-Evil In Oslo.

In July 2016, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio released two albums. This includes the live album Evil In Oslo. It was released by Rune Grammofon and is the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s first ever live album. Evil In Oslo is a tantalising taste of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio live.

Evil In Oslo was recorded in two Oslo clubs, John Dee and Buckley’s. Playing in front of a hometown audience seemed to bring out the best in the Hedvig Mollestad Trio, They prove to be confident and assured performers on  Evil In Oslo. The Hedvig Mollestad Trio fuse elements of classic rock, psychedelia, progressive rock and space rock with avant-garde, blues, funk, improv and jazz. Sometimes, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio seamlessly switch between musical genres mid track. Other times, these disparate genres melt into one on the same track. However, for much of the time, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio showcase their hard rocking sound. 

Lead by virtuoso guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio are one of the new breed of hard rocking groups that have sprung up across Europe.  However, Norwegian trailblazers the Hedvig Mollestad Trio, are without doubt one of the best of the new generation of hard rockling bands. Proof of that is Evil On Oslo, which is a tantalising taste of the hard rocking Hedvig Mollestad Trio at their very best.

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Jenny Hval-Blood Bitch.

Autumn 2016 saw Jenny Hval released  her new album, Blood Bitch, via Sacred Bones. It was the followup to Apocalypse Girl. However, Blood Bitch was a very different album and one of the most experimental and focused album’s of Jenny Hval’s six album career.

Before its release, Jenny Hval described Blood Bitch as: “an investigation of… blood that is shed naturally…the purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood.” Blood Bitch found Jenny Hval drawing inspiration  from everything from art and pop to vampire movies and artwork made of menstrual blood. 

Jenny Hval also incorporated  elements of poetry,  prose and absurdist dialogue into Blood Bitch. She also deployed a myriad of instruments, effects, noise, samples and added vocals that convey a variety of emotions.

They’re framed by arrangements that are understated. They tinkle, shimmer, glisten and quiver. Other times, they’re atmospheric, fuzzy and spacious. Sometimes, they bristle and crackle. Occasionally, the arrangements are elegiac ooze ethereal beauty. Never do they overpower Jenny Hval’s vocal which is the focus of the listener’s attention. Meanwhile, elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental and pop combine on Blood Bitch. It’s variously  atmospheric, beautiful, challenging, cinematic, eerie, elegiac and ethereal.  There’s also an intensity to Blood Bitch, which is a ruminative and thought-provoking album. However, one thing Blood Bitch drives home and remind listeners is that blood isn’t something is a life force, a reminder of creation and  where men and women begin.

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Jessica Sligter-A Sense Of Growth.

Although Jessica Sligter was born in Holland, Oslo is where she calls home. Despite that, her third album A Sense Of Growth, which was released by Hubro Music, was recorded in Seattle. It was the most ambitious and abstract album of her career. A Sense Of Growth was an album of abstract, genre-melting soundscapes which found Jessica: “deconstructing the format of song based music.”

Having done so, Jessica wrote captivating songs. She dawns the role of a storyteller, as she combines paeans, confessionals, and social comment with songs filled with hurt and pain. This includes the heart-wrenching title-track. Just like so many of the songs on A Sense Of Growth, it has a cinematic quality. Jessica dawns the role of director, and uses instruments and harmonies to help her tell these stories. This is hugely effective, and results in a truly compelling and innovative, genre-hopping album.

Everything from  avant-garde, country, folk, pop, psych-folk and rock feature and are fused on A Sense Of Growth. Similarly, Jessica uses combinations of instruments that seem unlikely bedfellows. They work well and play their part in songs that are beautiful, cinematic, dramatic, emotive and moving. Other songs veer between elegiac and ethereal; to emotive and melancholy and sometimes, poignant and wistful. Every song is guaranteed to stir an emotion and make the listener think. That’s why A Sense Of Growth is a career defining album from sonic innovator and explorer Jessica Sligter.

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Jóhann Jóhannsson-Ophee

On Orphée, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s turned his attention to the beauty and the process of creation. Orphée features Jóhann Jóhannsson tracing a path from darkness into light. Inspiration for Orphée comes from the opéra bouffe Orphée aux enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld). It was written by Ludovic Halévy, and later, revised by Hector-Jonathan Crémieux. The score was written by Jacques Offenbach and became the first full length operetta. Its first performance came in 1858. Since then, this ancient and famous tale has been retold countess times.   

Orphéem which  an almost flawless album, finds Jóhann Jóhannsson fusing elements of classical and electronic music with ambient, avant-garde, Baroque and minimalism. Other influences includes the music of Bernard Hermann, Ennio Morricone and Michael Nyman. Then there’s the music of classical composers like  Shostakovich and Prokofiev. All these influences can be heard throughout Orphée. 

The music on Orphée ranges from melodic and mesmeric, to atmospheric, beautiful, ethereal and elegiac. Other times, there’s a degree of darkness and drama. Sometimes, there’s a sense of melancholia and sadness on Orphée. It’s an emotional roller coaster to cherish and treasure. That’s even for people with no interest in classical music. Orphée is a genre-melting album and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s debut on Deutsche Grammophon. It’s also the finest album of his fourteen year solo career.  Indeed, Orphée is a career defining album from Jóhann Jóhannsson and features ambitious, inventive and innovative music.

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Jon Balke-Warpe

When Norwegian pianist Jon Balke released Warp on ECM, it was his first album since 2009.  However, it was well worth the wait. Warp features a series of carefully sculpted soundscapes. They veer between to beautiful dreamy and ethereal, to dark and dramatic, to moody and broody. Other times, the music is melancholy and wistful. Often, space is left within the arrangements, allowing listeners to reflect. Always though, the music on Warp has a minimalist, cinematic sound. 

There’s a cinematic sound throughout Warp. The listener will find themselves inventing scenarios to each of the soundscapes. It’s almost unavoidable. Especially on tracks where Jon Balke has left space. However, Warp is also an album that listeners can wallow in. The music washes over the listener, enveloping and embracing them. Sometimes, it’s lysergic, while other times it soothes their weary soul. Other times, Warp’s slow, spacious and cinematic sound is perfect to reflect and ruminate to. Warp it seems, is all things to everyone.

That’s not surprising. Jon Balke has drawn inspiration from a variety of sources for Warp. Although he’s primarily a jazz musician, he combines  elements of ambient, avant-garde, classical, free jazz and Krautrock can be heard. This genre-hopping album is without doubt, the finest album of Jon Balke’s finest solo career. Warp is a minimalist cinematic epic, where drama, melancholia and beauty are omnipresent during Jon Balke’s long-awaited comeback album.

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Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer, Samuel Rohrer-Amiira.

Over the years, Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer, Samuel Rohrer’s paths had crossed and they became friends. They had much in common. Especially when it came to music. However, Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer, Samuel Rohrer didn’t release an album until Amiira was released as part of Arjunamusic’s acoustic series last year.

Amiira features improvised soundscapes. They’re variously moving, elegiac and ethereal, to melodic, mesmeric, poignant and ruminative. Other times, the music is a plaintive cry, and a lament for lost love. Sometimes, the music is otherworldly, futuristic and robotic. Then on Fulminate, Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer and Samuel Rohrer kick out the jams, and unite in a three man protest. In doing so, the listener hears a very different side to the pan European triumvirate of musical innovators.

This talented triumvirate of innovative musicians created cerebral and cinematic music. Amiira is proof of this. Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer and Samuel Rohrer invite the listener to let their imagination run riot and lose themselves in this cinematic opus. It’s impossible not to accept their invitation to embrace what is a wonderfully cinematic and cerebral album, Amiira.

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Krokofant-Krokofant II. 

As 2016 dawned, Krokofant released their much anticipated much anticipated sophomore album Krokofant II on Hubro Music. It was a marriage of the Joycean progressive rock odysseys of King Crimson and Henry Cow and Peter Brötzmann’s free jazz ensembles. Add to that, the influence jazz-rock pioneers like The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Terje Rypdal and Ray Russell. The result was a unique and captivating fusion of musical genres and influences.

Seamlessly Korokofant flit between, and fuse disparate and eclectic musical genres.They combined everything from avant rock, free jazz, fusion and rock, to avant garde, progressive rock and post rock. There’s even hints of experimental and psychedelia as Krokofant weave their unique musical tapestry on  a genre-melting musical journey. 

As they do, each track on Krokofant II proves unique. They’re full of subtleties and nuances. Constantly, Krokofant  throw curveballs and seamlessly change direction. Suddenly, the reveal another side to their music. That’s what you expect from musical pioneers, Krokofant who come of age musically on Krokofant II. 

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Maja S. K. Ratkje-Crepuscular Hour,

Crepuscular Hour which was released by Rune Grammofon, was one of the most ambitious projects that Maja S. K. Ratkje has been involved with.  It was inspired by the phenomena of crepuscular rays, where rays of sunlight stream through gaps in clouds or any number of other obstacles. Having discovered and investigated  the phenomena of crepuscular rays, Maja S. K. Ratkje set about writing Crepuscular Hour, which would be performed by a rather unorthodox lineup of three choirs, three pairs of noise musicians and a church organ.  

They produce a soundtrack that veers between impressive, dramatic and intense to ruminative, mesmeric and hypnotic. The listener is drawn in, and soon, is spellbound by music that’s dramatic and intense. Sometimes, the music is ethereal and elegiac. Other times it takes on a spiritual quality. That’s no surprise. The texts used in the recording of Crepuscular Hour, were discovered in Egypt in 1945, and  proved hugely important, resulting in scholars reexamining early Christian history. Sixty-nine  years later, these texts played an important part in Crepuscular Hour.

As the performance of Crepuscular Hour unfolds, the listener reflects on music that’s thoughtful, cerebral and occasionally, challenging. Mostly, Crepuscular Hour has an inherent beauty. There’s a serenity to music that’s ethereal, elegiac and has a spiritual quality. Always though,  Crepuscular Hour is captivating,  ambitious and innovative as the choirs combine with the noise musicians who push musical boundaries. The result is a sonic and visual feast.

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Moskus-Ulv Ulv. 

Last year, Moskus released their much anticipated third album Ulv Ulv on Hubro Music. Ulv Ulv features the Norwegian jazz pioneers at their innovative best, as they play with a freedom, inventiveness and intuitiveness that most groups can only dream of. The result is music that’s inventive, innovative, ambitious, bold and challenging. This is what we’ve come to expect from Moskus.   

Just like on their two previous albums, Moskus create music that continue to challenges musical norms on Ulv Ulv. Moskus continue to push musical boundaries to there limits, and beyond on Ulv Ulv. To do this, they combine elements of avant-garde, experimental, free jazz, improv and industrial. There’s also the influence of Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Albert Ayler and Sun Ra on Ulv Ulv. The result is an album that’s variously atmospheric,  beautiful, cinematic, dark, dramatic, elegiac, ethereal, haunting, hypnotic, melodic, mesmeric, otherworldly and ruminative. The result was Ulv Ulv, the finest album of Moskus’ career.

Incredibly, it took Moskus just three days to record Ulv Ulv. They eschewed a traditional recording studio, and recorded Ulv Ulv at the Haugesund Billedgalleri. With just three days to record Ulv Ulv, Moskus worked quickly and efficiently, and recorded what is a captivating, career defining album. Ulv Ulv finds Moskus one step closer to the musical Utopia that bands spent their career in search of.

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Motorpsycho-Angels and Daemons At Play.

During a career that’s spanned twenty-seven years, Motorpsycho have won an Edvardprisen and four Spellemannprisen Awards. This included a Spellemannprisen awards for their 1997 double album Angels and Daemons At Play. It was a landmark album for Motorpsycho, and marked their coming of age musically. This makes Angels and Daemons At Play one of the most important albums in Motorpsycho’s back-catalogue. That’s why it recently became the fourth instalment in Rune Grammofon’s luxury box set reissue program.    

Angels and Daemons was a groundbreaking, genre-melting, album, where Motorpsycho combined elements of alt rock, avant-garde, electronica and experimental music with Krautrock, post rock, psychedelia, space rock and stoner rock. All these genres can be heard on Angels and Daemons. Some are only glimpsed briefly, while others play a larger part in the sound and success of Angels and Daemons. It transformed Motorpsycho into one of Norway’s most successful bands.

Especially after Angels and Daemons reached number two in the Norwegian charts, and became the most successful album of Motorpsycho’s career. It also went on to win a Spellemannprisen awards in the hard rock category later in 1997. This was the third Spellemannprisen awards of Motorpsycho’s career so far. So it’s fitting that it was released as a lavish, luxurious and lovingly curated six CD box set. It’s a fitting way to celebrate Angels and Daemons which was Motorpsycho’s coming of age musically and nowadays, is regarded as one of their classic albums.

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