Monday, 28 June 2010


Above: setlist from L’Espace vert Desjardins

More on FrancoFolies de Montréal in due course.

The chance to see Arnaud Fleurent-Didier live and catch up with the man was pretty special. I’ve gone on about the album La Reproduction elsewhere, so here’s a snapshot of the Montréal experience:

There’s no doubt that La Reproduction is a benchmark album, and it intrigued to find out how it might come over live.

Some feel that it’s a bit deliberate, the result of an experiment cooked up in a laboratory. But a listen to the album reminds that this is more than that: it’s living, breathing. And live – whatever the effort and stress involved with recasting, rearranging – it was stunning to hear these pared-down, newly-energised takes on the songs. Didier acknowledges that this is a work in progress. It can only get more striking.

Friday, 25 June 2010


Above: Efterklang’s Casper Clausen in his Slaraffenklang guise (photo by Thorsten Overgaard)

Here’s the gen on SPOT 2010:

Space in the review meant a bunch of bands seen couldn't be mentioned, so here’s a few more in random order.

REBEKKAMARIA (Denmark): She used to go out as As In RebekkaMaria. Reflective electro pop, melodic and a bit glitchy. Works well live, but a bit reserved. Charming. Tunes sound great live. Slightly Icelandic. No reason at all why she shouldn’t go over anywhere.

EFTERKLANG (Denmark): Big Magic Chairs show in the main concert hall. They are at a peak.

WHEN SAINTS GO MACHINE (Denmark): Dance electronica crossed with harmony-influenced indie. Hugely enthusiastic, samey though and didn’t win me over.

THEE ATTACKS (Denmark): Saw them at SPOT 2009. Heavy mod attack, with leanings towards 1965 Who, but no covers and clichés. Powerful and convincing live. Tougher in 2010 than 2009.

KELLERMENSCH (Denmark): Rock take on Nick Cave. No fun at all.

UNDERWATER SLEEPING SOCIETY (Finland): Pointless sub/post-Coldplay. Singer does Thom Yorke neck movements.

MARIE-LOUISE MUNCK (Denmark): Piano-centred singer songwriter. Some of it was exceptional, touching even. But overall the songs were a bit timid. Might want a collaborator?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Above: Susanne Sundfør at SPOT 2010 (Photo © Martin Dam Kristensen, thanks to Henrik Friis)

More on Denmark's SPOT Festival in due course.

But the live show which shut everything else down was by Norway’s Susanne Sundfør. I’d heard beforehand that she was good live, and was also familiar with The Brothel, her latest album (issued in Norway in March). This was something else – the intensity of her delivery and total command was benchmark stuff. Her band was at one with the music: strings, backing vocals and a jazzy, pin-sharp drummer It came back to the songs and how she puts them over – total avoidance of anything that might seem familiar. Fender Rhodes piano washed over everything, bringing an almost church-like atmosphere. Pedal steel drove this further still towards the unusual. Yet, this was accessible.

The Brothel is a great album. As songs unfold they veer off in unexpected directions. Sepulchral overall, there’s little point here in going on about the specifics of the music as it’s probably out there on the internet.

However, the themes of The Brothel do bear examination. Susanne Sundfør has told the Norwegian press that the album is about where the beautiful and the perverse meet, how she wants to take the dirty and perverse in man and make it into something aesthetic and beautiful. The Brothel appears to be a series of allegorical vignettes set in a brothel: seen from the view of a woman. It’s grounded in cultural references: the line ‘restless nights in cheap hotels’ is a quote from TS Eliot’s The Love Song Of J Alfred Prufrock. Employing Lilith as a song title references both (Jewish) biblical imagery and feminism. Throughout, both religion and death are specifically conjured up, along with images of submission and disjunction. There were hints towards this in the lyrics her first album’s (released in 2007) Day Of The Titans, but The Brothel is fully-realised, a thematically fully-formed work.

The approach is underpinned by her acceptance speech after being awarded a Norwegian Grammy for her debut: “I am first and foremost an artist, not first and foremost a woman.” Naturally, that caught the attention of the Norwegian press.

And the link between her music and other arts has continued from her debut with The Brothel being a "creative project between Susanne Sundfør and Kristin Austreid.” Visual artist Austreid was responsible for the artwork seen in the package of the 2007 debut. That debut was obviously problematic as Susanne Sundfør largely re-recorded it in a stripped-down fashion, leading to the release of Take One in 2008.

Musically, both versions of the debut album are probably closest in tone to Laura Nyro at her most baroque. The Brothel is beyond this, both in the arc of individual songs and arrangement wise. Jaga Jagist’s Lars Horntveth produces and plays various (many) instruments but the keyboards, various percussion and string arrangements are Susanne Sundfør’s. This must be seen as a collaboration. Most strikingly, vocals on six tracks were recorded in the Olso tomb of Norwegian artist Emanuel Vigeland.

There is no doubt that Susanne Sundfør is major artist. The Brothel is an outstanding album. The live show confirms that.

Sunday, 13 June 2010


Tages were as big as The Beatles in Sweden in the ‘60s. Studio was their Sergeant Pepper, but instead of drawing on the music of India, Tages found inspiration in traditional Swedish music – this psychedelic has a unique slant.

Studio, their fifth album (from November 1967), has never previously been issued outside Sweden and it’s a treat to be able to give it a wide release. I’m a confirmed Tages fan, from their early beat-styled singles to their last releases in 1968. Everything they did was well-conceived, tight, melodic and enthralling. Hip and constantly evolving, they were musically sensitive to the changing times and inevitably leant towards psyche. This issue of Studio supplements the rare original album with all the non-album singles they recorded in its wake and it’s a must for anyone with even a passing interest in music of the era.

Here's the promo film for the exceptionally controversial single/album track She's Having A Baby Now, a rare - probably unique - commentary on unwed motherhood:

The album's peak is The Old Man Wafver. Other songs from the album are quoted by slurring woodwind and strings, traditional brass kicks in, paving the way for an accordion that gives way to a woodwind fantasia. It all breaks down under stabs of concrête brass and strings.

Release date is the last week of July.

Here’s the tracklist:
1. Have You Seen Your Brother Lately
2. It’s My Life
3. Like A Woman
4. People Without Faces
5. I Left My Shoes At Home
6. She Is A Man
7. Seeing With Love
8. Created By You
9. What’s the Time
10. It’s In A Dream
11. She’s Having A Baby Now
12. The Old Man Wafwer (1-12 Studio, Parlophone PMCS 316, 11/67)
13. There’s A Blind Man Playing Fiddle In The Street (A-side, (Parlophone SD 6024, 2/68)
14. Fantasy Island (A-side, Parlophone SD 6036, 5/68)
15. To Be Free (B-side, Parlophone SD 6036, 5/68)
16. I Read You Like An Open Book (A-side, Parlophone SD 6054, 11/68)
17. Halcyon Days (B-side, Parlophone SD 6054, 11/68)

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Iceland, US x 2 (Chicago and Ohio via Alabama), France and Australia (Sydney).

The Hjaltalín album is quite something.