The astounding trio Ungdomskulen (which is Norwegian for middle school) have left their rehearsal space in the musical city of Bergen and emerged with an album that will not go unnoticed. Cry Baby is out on October 8th. It introduces a band so good, playing songs so unorthodox and multifaceted, that one gets the feeling of a delicious encounter with music as it would voice itself had it no need for people.
“It usually takes us four months to be able to play our songs,” says Ungdomskulen. This makes sense, for what songs they are! They come across as an amalgam of the instrumental mastery and structural intricacy of prog and jazz rock combined with the sheer snotty energy of punk. Here are clever on-off melodic strands and the droning infinities of everything that is “post.” And ‘post punk’ is indeed the label they apply themselves, along with terms like ‘progressive’ and ‘new wave’.
When they started out three years ago they decided to put into words a manifesto that would not only serve to define the music but also police the way they worked: Everything was to happen in the rehearsal space with everyone present. No ready-made ideas were ever to be brought there, and all songs were to be instrumentally challenging. Technical development was thus inscribed as a constitutional modus operandi for the band, and no element was to be allowed that did not offer resistance. Small wonder, then, that it takes them so long to rehearse new songs, and small wonder that they spent three years on the album that is now ready for release.
As one can make out from the guidelines of the manifesto these are people who take their music very seriously and put the utmost effort into retaining the most hard-earned and difficult perspective of being artists. For with Ungdomskulen it is never a question of expressing “something or other” in music – something that could have been expressed otherwise - but of delving into music itself and let it speak from within, so to speak, -from some place only reached by relentlessly pushing the boundaries of their instruments and of the format.
Life itself is a joke though: according to Ungdomskulen: you spend the day trying to make people laugh, and then you go to bed and cry. –A notion seemingly fruitful for droning instrumentalists, for they are not the first sound-expanding band to have adopted such a view. Their music, however, is not exactly humorous, nor ironic, for it is simply too engulfing to create any such emotion. The sheer energy, and the delicious precision that upholds the monumental and at times colossal songs, is, in a word, engulfing.
Cry baby, the band’s debut, has been in progress throughout the three years of Ungdomskulen’s existence. Now this baby is ready for release and will hit the streets on October 8th. -An epic, glorious colossus, according to their label Ever Records. It is likely to become one of this fall’s most memorable Norwegian releases. For with Ungdomskulen one gets the feeling of emplaning a huge soviet cold-war bomber with a pilot set on fighter acrobatics.
After playing the Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik on October 18th, the band travels on westwards to the US for a six-date mini tour including a performance at the CMJ festival in NYC. And then they will continue in the UK playing nine gigs in late October and early November.