Before wrapping it up for the summer, MIC Norway has put together a selection of some of the key Norwegian releases in June and July. We’ve compiled a list of albums that we feel are relevant for international listeners, and highlighted a few of these that really deserve to be checked out.
Elisabeth Yndestad - Polymorph (Rec 90)
32-year old Elisabeth Yndestad has virtually devoted her entire life to music and writing. Earlier this year she released her first album ‘Polymorph’, now available as a vinyl, CD and digital release. ‘Polymorph’ is a follow-up to her self-titled 2006 EP which spawned such internationally successful tracks as single Happy Twist which was featured in the popular TV series One Three Hill and in the German motion picture ‘Im winter ein jahr’, written and directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Caroline Link.
Following the release of her EP, Yndestad toured Norway and the UK. In London she struck up an artistic partnership with Ed Laurie (UK), toured with her and contributed with her trademark vocals on Laurie’s acclaimed album ‘Small Boat Big Sea’. Reviews of her EP drew comparisons with artists of Joni Mitchell, Sandy Danny and Emmylou Harris’ calibre. Still, Yndestad’s appearance comes across as broader than your average singer-songwriter. Yndestad’s approach to her creative processes often start with lyrics – akin to a female Ryan Adams she will approach the darker recesses of being through a literary universe that blends poetic caution with concrete realism.
‘Polymorph’ features Yndestad playing all instruments sans double bass/bass guitar. The outing is produced by Yndestad in partnership with David Bertolini whose resume includes bands such as Kings of Convenience and Erlend Ropstad. The recording of ‘Polymorph’ skipped the pre-production stage, resulting in several of the album’s 11 tracks being partly improvised. Bergen’s own William Hut contributes with vocals on the track ‘Scattered stones’. The sonic landscape is stripped down, leaving Yndestad’s voice as the main instrument. The legacy of artist Kate Bush and Tori Amos is clearly visible, but still, Yndestad’s songs are also unmistakably influenced by folk.
Having lost one of its two front-men, it is a focused and rejuvenated, hard-hitting outfit that now embarks on a hectic summer with gigs at home and abroad. ‘Flight Of A Dying Sun’ showcases a band that revisits its early roots, resulting in an album that is as hard-hitting as it is groovy, combining the raw aggression of their 2006 debut ‘Reaper Of Souls’ with the more organic feel of 2010’s Under Black Skies. Former vocalist Glenn Reaper contributes with his unmistakable voice on powerful anthem Iron Hands, while sole front-man Hallgeir S. Enoksen commands the mic for the remainder of the album.
In addition to Glenn Reaper, ‘Flight Of A Dying Sun’ features a top-tier list of contributors, including Kvelertak’s Erlend Hjelvik (featured on Mot Grav, the album’s first single), drone/jazz saxophonist Kjetil Møster (of Datarock, Ultralyd, Møster ), organ player Ådne Sæverud and double bassist Jens Borge (Skadne Krek), not to mention Siberian throat singer Albert Kuvezin, featured on the album’s haunting opening track. ‘Flight Of A Dying Sun’ is produced by Dane Jacob Bredahl (Hatesphere, The Kandidate) and mixed/mastered by metal legend Tue Madsen (Heaven Shall Burn, The Haunted, Sick Of It All).
Twenty years after their album debut ‘Hot Cars and Spent Contraceptives’, denim-clad deathpunkers Turbonegro return with new line-up and a brand new album; ‘Sexual Harassment’.Five years after its predecessor, 2007’s ‘Retox, ‘Sexual Harassment’ represents the beginning of a new era for veteran members Euroboy, Happy-Tom and Rune Rebellion. In addition to the new front-man, Tommy Manboy is now manning the drum-set, infusing a solid dose of vitality into the quarter-century old outfit. With roots in hardcore punk and 80s alt rock, ‘Sexually Harassment’ packs a heavy punch throughout its 32 compact minute duration.
‘Sexual Harassment’ was recorded with Gus Oberg in NYC studio Electric Lady in January 2012, produced by Matt Sweeney and finally mixed at Oslo’s Malabar Studio by Nick Terry. The album is released worldwide through Volcom Media.
Steinar Raknes - Stillhouse (Reckless Records)
Widely regarded as one of Norway’s foremost jazz-bassists and –composers, Steinar Raknes’ bold and explosive playing style has earned him comparisons with double bass legend Charles Mingus. Through his work as a player and composer in award-winning trio Urban Connection, and his artistic partnerships with heavyweights Chick Corea og Bobby McFerrin, Raknes has established himself as one of contemporary Norwegian jazz’ mainstays. Raknes is a vital member of key jazz combos The Core, Ola Kvernberg Trio and SKAIDI, in addition to leading his own ensemble the Steinar Raknes Quartet.
His most recent album, ‘Stillhouse’, features Raknes in a new role; as a vocalist accompanied by himself on double bass. The title refers to slang for moonshine and can also be seen as a metaphor for the recording process of the album which was created in the bassist’s own living room. ‘Stillhouse’ represents a unique take on the vocal/double-bass combo, featuring a deft mix of original compositions and covers.
Bugge Wesseltoft & Henning Kraggerud - Last spring (ACT)
‘Last spring’ features Bugge Wessetoft, one of Norwegian jazz’ key innovators in later years, teaming up with one of Norwegian classical music’s most in-demand violinists; Henning Kraggerud. Featuring a repertoire of Norwegian folk tunes and lullabies, the two musicians devote themselves to Norwegian traditionals that conjure up images of bright, never-ending summer nights contrasted by dark melancholia, spirited dances and romantic encounters. The two interpret the repertoire with a stoic Scandinavian calm and approach the material with a loving and moving intensity.
‘Last spring’ is produced by ACT founder Siggi Loch and recorded in Oslo’s legendary Rainbow Studios with tech master Jan Erik Kongshaug manning the mixing board. Says Loch on the final result: ‘Wesseltoft brings out the true beauty of the piano with an intimate sound language, the art of subtle variations and a pronounced dramaturgy. Kraggerud is an artist of exquisite musicianship and an innovative improviser, who combines an unusually sweet tone and beauty of expression with impressive virtuosity’.
Ellen Ugelvik - Serynade (Aurora)
Ellen Ugelvik received the Norwegian Grammy Award in 2008 for her debut CD 'Makrokosmos'. On 'Serynade', she explores further the resonance opportunities of the grand piano. The starting point is Helmut Lachenmann´s gigantic piece for piano, 'Serynade' that is rarely performed because of its extreme difficulty. The pianist plays two music pieces on top of each another, one piece reverberating out in the room, while the other piece is mutely pressed down into the musical keyboard. The result is that the mute music piece appears in the shadows of the work performed, as a deep, vibrating resonance in the distance or as large vibrations of the audible tones. The work title is misspelled on purpose; the "y" refers to the pianist Yukiko Sugawara, whom the piece was written for.
The two Norwegian pieces on this release, Christian Blom: ‘ The Poetry of Manuals’ and Christian Jaksjø: ‘Encountering the Imaginary’, go further into the timbre world of the grand piano, and are written specifically for Ellen Ugelvik. Blom hides a poetic core of the music behind a wall of staccato cluster chords in the beginning of his work. In the second part the arrangement of chords reminiscences Erik Satie. Jaksjø wants to give the listener access to the resonances we in Lachenmann´s piece only can guess. Using a ring modulator and by transmitting the sound back into the piano, the instrument itself becomes engaged in a self-modulating song. With his piano piece, Jaksjø has made the grand piano a lookout with views far into the 21st century.
Ellen Ugelvik has immersed herself into the performance of contemporary music and tours regularly as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the world. These last months she has given recitals at major festivals in England, France and Luxembourg. She has also toured in the U.S. She is one of the profiles of the Risør Chamber Music Festival this year, where she plays music by a.o. John Cage and composer-in-residence Magne Hegdal.
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