BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 3.
BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 3.
Ever since 2010, Copenhagen based instrumental rock trio Papir’s star has been in the ascendancy. One of the men behind Papir’s success was guitarist Nicklas Sørensen, who released his debut album Solo on El Paraiso Records. He set out to experiment on Solo. However, on other tracks, Nicklas Sørensen reminds the listener’s Papir’s trademark sound. For the listener, they enjoy the best of both worlds.
With a little help from his friends, Nicklas Sørensen takes the listener on a genre-melting journey. This includes the three genres that have influenced Papir, Krautrock, psychedelia and space rock. These influences can be heard on Solo. Krautrock has been a big influence on Nicklas Sørensen. Especially Can, Neu!, Cluster and Harmonia and Michael Rother. Sometimes, Nicklas Sørensen sounds uncannily like Michael Rother, during this genre-melting journey.
Nicklas Sørensen also combines elements of ambient, avant-garde, dub and rock. The result is Solo, an album that’s guaranteed to toy with the listener’s emotions. Solo veers between blissful, euphoric and joyous, to moody and broody, through to lysergic and dramatic. For much of Solo, the music is hypnotic and mesmeric. That’s down to Krautrock influence. Other times, the music is cinematic. Often, though, the Solos are beautiful and dreamy, as trails of glistening, shimmering music captivate, and makes the world seem a much better place. Sadly, all too soon, Solo is over. All that’s left are the memories of Nicklas Sørensen’s genre-melting, sonic adventure, Solo.
After three years away, Pascal Pinon return with Sundur, which is a career defining album. Sundur is without doubt, the best album of Pascal Pinon’s career. It’s certainly their most eclectic album. Sometimes, Pascal Pinon sound as if they’ve been inspired by Astrid Williamson’s early albums, John Martyn and Kate Bush. There’s even a nod to Sandy Denny, on what’s a thoroughly modern album of folk music.
Sundur finds Pascal Pinon combining disparate genres. There’s elements of ambient and avant-garde, plus electronica and experimental, right though to folk, Neofolk and pop. Sometimes, several genres melt into one on the one multilayered song. Other times, the songs are minimalistic, with sparse, spartan arrangements. They often feature just guitars or a piano, which proves the perfect accompaniment to the vocal. There, less is more. Then on the two soundscapes, Pascal Pinon let their imagination run riot, and create captivating instrumentals. However, captivating is a word that perfectly describes Sundur, which was released Morr Music.
The music on Sundur can also be described as beautiful, cinematic, emotive and ethereal, but also dark, ruminative and wistful. Always though, the music on Sundur is captivating on what is without doubt, a career-defining album where Pascal Pinon come of age musically.
Supergroup. That describes Skadedyr. Their lineup features twelve of the most inventive, innovative and influential musicians in Norway. Skadedyr are no ordinary supergroup. Instead, they describe themselves as an anarchist-democratic band. This makes Skadedyr standout from the crowd. So does the unique and eclectic selection of instruments that Skadedyr play. They put them to good use on Culturen which was released by Hubro Music. It marks the return of one of the most exciting bands in the Norwegian music scene, Skadedyr.
They don’t disappoint on Culturen. It’s captivating album where Skadedyr create a dazzling musical tapestry. They fuse a disparate selection of musical influences. Everything from avant-garde, electronica, experimental, folk, free jazz and post rock shine through. So does brass band, industrial, jazz, and musique concrète. These musical genres become Skadedyr’s musical palette, and are applied upon on Culturen’s six canvases.
These canvases veer between atmospheric, dark, dramatic and eerie, to ethereal, joyous and melodic. Other times, they’re minimalist and understated, but can quickly, become urgent, futuristic and otherworldly. Sometimes, the music becomes melancholy and wistful, but has an inherent beauty. Always, though, Skadedyr captivate with their unique brand of genre-melting music. It’s often cinematic, and allows the listener to paint pictures as they immerse themselves in the music on Culturen. It’s a career-defining album and tantalising introducing to one of most exciting and dynamic bands in Norwegian music, Skadedyr whose sophomore album Culture is their most accessible.
When doom jazz pioneers Splashgirl were formed, they decided to combine traditional instruments and technology. This was new, exciting and innovative. The members of Splashgirl were one part musician, to one part musical alchemist as they experimented with their arsenal of musical instruments and technology. They put that to good use over the years, including on their fifth album Hibernation which was released by Hubro Music. It found Splashgirl changing direction.
This was a huge risk. Splashgirl had found and honed their sound over four critically acclaimed albums. However, Splashgirl aren’t the type of group who could or would rerecord the same album. That’s for lesser bands, not musical mavericks and pioneers like Splashgirl. So when they made their way to Hljodriti Studio in Hafnarfjördur in September 2015, the decision was made. Splashgirl would make more use of synths, electronics and processing. They play a more important part in Hibernation, which features Splashgirl at their most inventive and innovative.
As Splashgirl innovate, the combine disparate musical genres. Elements of avant-garde, classical, drone, free jazz, post rock jazz and rock. All these genres play their part in Hibernation. It veers between cinematic, dramatic, melancholy and wistful, and sometimes, beautiful, elegiac and ethereal. Hibernation is an album to embrace and cherish, where musical alchemists Splashgirl create a cinematic Magnus Opus.
After a two year absence, Bergen based, multi-instrumentalist Stein Urheim, returned with another album of ambitious and innovative music, Strandebarm. It was released on Hubro Music. Inspiration for Strandebarm, was French music of the early 1900s; American ragtime and standards of the twenties and thirties. They were a tonal departure point for Stein Urheim on Strandebarm. These he combines with both acoustic instruments and electronic elements. They’re both part of Stein Urheim’s musical arsendal, which he deploys to good effect as he recorded Strandebarm.
Stein Urheim put his musical arsenal to good use. Strandebarm is aheady brew. It’s best described as atmospheric, beautiful, ethereal, haunting, melancholy, mesmeric and wistful. Other times, the music is cinematic and dramatic. However, for much of Strandebarm, the music is ruminative and thoughtful. It allows time to reflect and consider, without being subdued or sombre. Far from it.
Instead, Strandebarm is another captivating album from one of the leading lights of Norway’s vibrant music scene, Stein Urheim. The Bergen based musical pioneer continues to innovate and take his music in new and unheralded directions. Other times, Stein Urheim springs a surprise, as he takes the listener on a musical adventure. By then, Stein Urheim is playing the role of a swashbuckling musical pioneer. Helped along by his collection of eclectic and exotic stringed instruments from the four corners of the world, Stein Urheim has created some of the most ambitious, exciting and innovative music of his career on Strandebarm.
Nowadays, Stian Westerhus is one of the most accomplished and innovative abstract guitar players. Constantly, he’s busy working as a session player and collaborating with the great and good of Norwegian music. When he has time, he works on his solo albums. 2016 saw Stian Westerhus release his fourth solo alnbum, Amputation on the House Of Mythology label. It’s the most ambitious album of his career.
Amputation features music that’s cerebral, challenging and thought-provoking. Stian wants the listener to think; sometimes about subjects that will make will them uncomfortable. That’s the case on Amputation and Amputation Part II. Stian replicates the sounds heard in an operating theatre when an amputation is taking place. It’s a traumatic and life-changing event. Most musicians would shy away from even broaching such a controversial subject. Not Stian Westerhus. He brings the subject into the open, and faces the reality head on. For that he should be congratulated. However, the Amputation suite is just part of Amputation.
The music on Amputation is also beautiful, cinematic, ethereal and melodic. Other times, it’s dark, haunting and mournful. Sometimes, Stian lays bare his soul, delivering vocals that are akin to an outpouring of emotion. When this happens, there’s a cathartic quality to the vocals, as if Stian is cleansing his soul. He breathes life and meaning into the lyrics on Sinking Ships, How Long and Infectious Decay. Always, the music on Amputation is compelling and innovative on what’s Stian Westerhus’ finest hour.
Triangle is Susanna’s eleventh album and first for four years. It was released on Susanna’s own SusannaSonata label, and is no ordinary album. Not by a long chalk. Instead, Triangle is a twenty-two song cerebral epic, where Susanna muses and meditates on mortality and religion. It’s a powerful album, that invites reflection and introspection.
Triangle features understated, spartan arrangements. They come courtesy of Susanna’s arsenal of electronics, effects, samples and instruments. When they’re combined, they help hone the stark, understated and beautiful backdrops. Often, they’re a mixture of different musical genres and influences. This includes elements of ambient, avant-garde, chamber folk, drone, electronica, experimental, gospel and indie pop. The result is music that’s cerebral as Susanna muses and meditates on mortality and religion.
As she does, the music on Triangle is variously beautiful, cinematic, emotive, expressive, heartfelt and hopeful. Especially as Susanna’s vocals take centre-stage. She breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics on Triangle. Susanna is at her best on the ballads as she delivers a series of vocal masterclasses. Other times, the music on Triangle changes, becoming dark, melancholy and wistful. This is part of what’s a captivating and cerebral album, Triangle. Its ruminative and invites reflection and introspection on Susanna musings on mortality and religion. The result of Susanna’s musings can be found on Triangle, and are what she describes as: “music for lost souls,” where “nothing is holy, nothing is sacred.”
The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Kim Myhr and Jenny Hval-In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper.
The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Kim Myhr and Jenny Hval premiered In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper was premiered at the 2012 Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival. Four years later, In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper was released by Hubro Music. It’s been well worth the wait.
The music is beautiful, ethereal, melodic and mesmeric, but also captivating, dramatic, melancholy and otherworldly. Always, the music is innovative, with surprises in store for the listener. Almost seamlessly, avant-garde, Feldmanian music, folk, free jazz, improvisational music and even elements of pop shine through.The Feldmanian, folk and pop influences come courtesy of one of Norway’s finest vocalists, Jenny Hval. Her voice is variously beautiful, despairing, elegiac, emotive, heartfelt and wistful. Sometimes, her vocal is transformed into what’s akin to a musical instrument. When this happens, Jenny joins The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and Kim Myhr in creating a truly captivating album.
It’s also an album that’s full of subtleties, surprises and nuances. That’s why it’s an album that one will never tire of. Another is the music is innovative. The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Kim Myhr and Jenny Hval push musical boundaries to their limits, and continually combine musical genres in the pursuit of musical excellence throughout In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper. They certainly succeed in doing so.
Yuri Gagarin-At The Center Of All Infinity.
Swedish space rockers Yuri Gagarin were formed n Gothenburg, in early 2012. For the first few months of their career, the five members of Yuri Gagarin concentrated on honing their sound. By 2013, Yuri Gagarin were ready to release The Center Of All Infinity. Now three years later, they released their long-awaited sophomore album, At The Center Of All Infinity on Sulatron-Records. It marks a the welcome return of Yuri Gagarin.
From the opening bars of The New Order, to the closing notes of Oblivion, it’s an almost flawless performance from Yuri Gagarin. They combine elements of classic rock, heavy metal and psychedelia with Yuri Gagarin’s unique brand of space rock. It’s fast, frenetic and melodic, as five hugely talented musicians showcase their considerable skills and versatility. Stealing the show are Yuri Gagarin’s guitarists, Crille and Jon. They both play starring roles. However, it’s lead guitarist Crille who gets more opportunities to shine. When he does, he grabs them with both hands, and unleashes a series of blistering, scorching, searing solos. They play an important part in the sound and success of Yuri Gagarin’s career defining album, At The Center Of All Infinity.
That’s what I consider to be the best Nordic Wave albums of 2016. These albums were produced by groundbreaking musicians who 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. Just like previous years, he list has grown, and there are many musicians creating ambitious, groundbreaking, innovative and influential music. However, 2016 has been the best year since I’ve been writing about Nordic Wave. Hopefully, through, 2017 will surpass it. Let’s hopes so.
BEST NORDIC WAVE ALBUMS OF 2016-PART 3.
- Posted in: Ambient ♦ Avant Garde ♦ Electronic ♦ Experimental ♦ Free Jazz ♦ Jazz ♦ Krautrock ♦ Nordic Wave ♦ Pop ♦ Prog Rock ♦ Psychedelia ♦ Rock ♦ Space Rock
- Tagged: House Of Mythology, Hubro Music, Jenny Hval, Kim Myhr, Nicklas Sørensen, Pascal Pinon, Rune Grammofon, Skadedyr, Splashgirl, Stein Urheim, Stian Westerhus, Susanna, The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra Kim Myhr and Jenny Hval, Yuri Gagarin