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Norse Code | 01.06

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From Where… is simply one of those albums blessed with a blend of sparkle and originality that makes it a pleasure to discuss. Some discs we write about because it’s an obligation or assignment; others, we want to tell listeners about. And Jomi’s record is certainly in that category.

I’ve gotten used to being teased a lot by colleagues about my obsession with Scandinavian music. One of the zingers frequently fired my way is that I won’t listen to any artist that doesn’t have an umlaut in their name. This is nonsense, of course—my musical taste runs the stylistic spectrum, and the vast majority of my CD library consists of non-Scandi discs. But I do fess up to being a little more excited and optimistic when I listen to an unfamiliar Scandinavian artist than I might with an American counterpart. And this is simply the result of being rewarded, time and time again, by fresh, compelling music emanating from the heady terrain of northern Europe. Scarcely a month goes by when I don’t stumble across some artist that thrills me with yet another formula-defying bit of sonic magic. Take Denmark’s Jomi Massage, a young woman still largely unknown in the U.S. I was intrigued by her name, read something about her on the Morningside Records website (www.morningsiderecords.dk) and requested her album From Where No One Belongs, I Will Sing…And darned if it isn’t another dazzling, offbeat Scandinavian classic. Sorry, but I can’t help it if the Scandinavians are so inspired, passionate and clever that making sublime art comes naturally to them! The evidence speaks for itself, folks. Back to Jomi, which by the way is not her real name. But it’s easier to remember than Signe Høirup Wille-Jørgensen, and the amusing story of how she adopted it can be found on her website, www.jomimassage.dk. From Where… is simply one of those albums blessed with a blend of sparkle and originality that makes it a pleasure to discuss. Some discs we write about because it’s an obligation or assignment; others, we want to tell listeners about. And Jomi’s record is certainly in that category. I’m not sure where to start in describing the music she makes, so let’s quote from her own website to get things going:

“In 1999 I felt like making music without thinking, music about tensions, in sound and lyrics. The rules were simple: don´t look or listen back and don´t think ahead. Emotional punk? I don´t know, what I found was an insisting flow of imperfect sounds and melodies, someone hunting to frame what is fragile and express what is violent.”

That’s not a bad way to kick off a review of this woman’s work, as it includes apt phrases like “music about tensions,” “an insisting flow” and “someone hunting” as well as the fragile/violent dichotomy that can certainly apply to what you hear on her record. Initially, Jomi didn’t bring to mind any comparisons at all; gradually, I started to hear things that reminded me of Kate Bush (the periodic moments of high drama and histrionics) and Canada’s Jane Siberry (the deep level of contemplation inspired by both love and landscape, an indefinable sense of yearning), with maybe a Patti Smith-like moment of dark angst here and there. Jomi unquestionably has a theatrical flair in her vocal delivery, which wrings every possible bit of tension out of a word or phrase, many of which she will repeat over and over (such as the wailed “All my life!” in “What to Pass On/What to Keep,” the unsettling “Be brutal” directive in the tune of the same name, and the plaintive “Oh my love” in the mournful “Waters of Lost & Found.” That latter tune features the interesting lyric “The truth of a cliché/Is a pearl to put in your mouth,” as well as a musical template Jomi uses quite often to great effect: minimal, evocative notes played on a guitar or piano along with some other instrument flickering in the background, never taking the focus of the voice but rather, underscoring it. Many songs here such as “”Opposite of Nothing,” “What to Pass On…” and “Be Brutal” get considerable emotional mileage from the elemental piano chords and Jomi’s clearly recorded, powerfully direct voice. She sings it like she means it, and it ain’t always pretty, but it’s always compelling. On “Longing as Lust,” her intensity level rises and falls, as though waves of emotion are rippling through her, captured effectively by her ace producer Uffe Lauesen. The steady beat keeps you hooked and there’s some sort of manipulation of guitar overtones near the end that is wonderfully evocative. An even more fascinating song is “A Detail,” which has a bit of a martial rhythm track and repeating piano chords that simply take you prisoner. “She was blinded four times by the long missed sunlight/First time when passing by, peeking at a hairdresser’s window,” Jomi sings, continuing her curious description before concluding, seemingly incongruously, “I hate her for not caring!” But it’s one of the unique features of Jomi’s music that lyrics and/or message are not always instantly decipherable or even consistent in tone. She keeps you guessing. Jomi pulls off the adventurous approach with her emotionally authentic voice, beautifully minimal arrangements (with enough quirkly adornments to keep you listening more deeply, though) and layered production. The album is not without a few straightforward rawk moments: “High Heels Ascending” features coarse, fuzzy electric guitar that approaches a punkish abrasiveness. But mostly you find piano and voice here, interacting in unique ways. My favorite song is “All the Empty Spaces,” which is just flat-out beautiful—maybe even one of the most evocative Scandinavian songs of the year. Piano and guitar playing together create a chiming pulse vaguely reminiscent of U2’s “With or Without You,” and a thoughtful Jomi delivers an ambiguous lyric worth quoting in its entirety: “I had a thought, just before I fell asleep/When I awoke, I felt a dream all day in me/I once believed it would be impossible to forget/But now I only see all the empty spaces.” Beautiful music by a fascinating new artist. With the glut of Scandinavian exports these days, it would be easy for the more esoteric artists like Jomi Massage to get lost in the shuffle. But she’s something quite special, and listeners who dig raw emotion coupled with originality should check her out. If you want your musical artists to grab you, shake you up a bit, caress you a little, then send you back out in the world with a few new insights or thoughts, Jomi definitely has a disc for you. And it’s one of the boldest, most invigorating records of the year. OR: 8.5. OM: 3. CSC.

Here’s a simple question: why aren’t Sweden’s Acid House Kings a household name yet? I’m pretty sure they are in their own country, and the reviews here in the U.S. have generally been raves, but still…this group should be on the radio, on magazine covers and on the stereo of fans of melodic pop music everywhere! Sing Along With Acid House Kings, the quartet’s latest CD, is just absurdly good. The 12 songs on this disc capture that perfect blend of timeless melodies, breezy arrangements and melancholy undercurrents that no one does better than the Scandinavians. And this is such pleasant music, it would work the same magic on your car stereo, at home while you’re working, or through headphones while listening closely. “That’s Because You Drive Me” may well be my favorite opening song on any CD this year. You get this simple minor chord strumming on an acoustic guitar, then a sweet male voice starts singing melancholy lyrics about missing his sweetheart (“I’ve kept our room in perfect order/I’ve kept your keys where you left them…”). It’s already a chillingly beautiful pop song, but then this devastating chorus comes in with the most deleriously sweet female harmony imaginable: “It takes a lot of walking/To get to know you/It takes a lot of talking/To see through you.” Add some soft strings and a flurry of soft piano notes, and you’ve got a clear example of the very loftiest heights that pop music is capable of reaching. Man, oh man! Their names are Niklas Angergard (vocals, guitars, keys), Johan Angergard (guitars, bass, keys, backing vocals), Julia Lannerheim (vocals) and Joakim Odlund (guitars). The Angergard brothers produced as well as wrote almost all the songs. Niklas and Julia trade off on lead vocals, but some of the most sparkling magic comes when they sing together. What a sublime sound! “This Heart is a Stone” is a finger-snapping classic that allows Julia to show off her breathy, heart-melting pipes; “London School of Economics” ups the emotional ante even more for this amazing Swedish lass, as she sings a tale of a hopeful time for friends back in school: “Even though we look the way we always did before/I know there cannot be a new very first time/Call me nostalgic/I never said it was better or worse.” Then “I Write Summer Songs for No Reason” (great title) comes in with more lilting male-female harmonies and a sweet, peppy rhythm. “Tonight is Forever” is a string-laden dance tune of all things, but the Kings are so gentle and understated in their approach, across the board, that it’s unlikely any serious bopping would take place to this tune. Some might be tempted to call it Abba-lite, but the crystalline purity of the sound and the melancholy aura underneath should dispense with that sort of comment. That melancholy, by the way, is so thick you can taste it on the “tell him the bad news on the train” song titled “The Saturday Train.” and the acoustic guitar-driven “Will You Love Me in the Morning,” which finds Angergard showing his amazing way with tunes about romantic uncertainty again: “He says ‘May love be,’/She says, ‘We’ll see.” There’s a sublime bit of horns in this song that is an example of this band’s unerring sense of what can make a great song even better. And the soft, subtle rhythm is a delight. Although Burt Bacharach is one stylistic touchstone for this nostalgia-laden sound (it definitely sounds like something from the ‘60s, only with a bright, modern production), and fans of Saint Etienne should love it, comparions seem sort of pointless with the Acid House Kings. These guys simply make sweet, bouncy, melodic pop music—with an extra stylistic frill or two. They make you feel their love for the tunes, and their intuitive understanding that love itself informs the best pop. Anyone in the world should be able to enjoy this engaging sound, because it’s about the things that almost everyone in the world feels. So follow their advice and Sing Along With the Acid House Kings (that should be easier than you think, too, because the disc includes a DVD so you can karaoke to the tunes). OR: 9. OM: 2. CSC. More info: www.acidhousekings.com


Iceland is getting its fair share of attention these days, and Norse Code is gonna shine its own personal spotlight on a few artists from that exotic land this month. Sigur Ros have broken out in a big way, with their new album Takk, which is garnering rave reviews across the board. We aren’t gonna do a formal review of the disc since just about everyone else has, but we will say it’s perhaps the most consistently listenable SR disc—serene and lovely, with fewer discordant moments overall. Sigur Ros seem to be relaxing these days; they certainly know that enough people love them to keep them going. Our rating for Takk would be OR: 8.5, OM: 4. Meanwhile, Icelandic artists as diverse as Leaves, Mugison and Mum (keep reading for more on them) have released records recently that garnered a fair share of press. Outside of Bjork and Emiliana Torrini, however, female solo artists from Iceland are a pretty rare commodity, so Hera Hjartardottir is quite important in the scheme of things. Hera, as she is more simply known, has just released a new CD called Don’t Play This, and I’m here to tell you to ignore that directive (actually, the title is directed more to a sleazy ex who’s the subject of the most blunt song on the disc). Don’t Play This is a thoroughly ingratiating record that may represent Hera’s best chance so far to perk up ears in America. She’s already huge both in Iceland and New Zealand, and she divides her time between the two countries. The first thing I want to mention about this record is the sound. Hera and her co-producer Godmundur Petursson have captured an uncommonly warm ambience that gives the performances a live immediacy, but it even goes beyond that—there is a crystalline purity to the sound of this record that can’t easily be described. It’s there in the clean, sweet, ringing chords Hera plays on her acoustic guitar, in the gentle resonance of her vocals and in the effortless simplicity of the arrangements. This is a healthy-sounding record, and you can interpret that however you want. Opening track “Feathers in a Bag” is already a hit in Iceland, and it’s a delightful tune. The combination of Hera’s chipper vocal, peerless trumpet playing by Kjartan Hakonarson and some economical guitar strumming is irresistable. Gosh, how nice it would be to hear something like this on American radio! The song “Chocolate” may be the most sincere love song to the sweet stuff ever written, and in my alternate universe, this tune would be adopted by Hershey or Nestle to accompany images of milk chocolate poured out of handsome silver containers. “I don’t know if anything that’s perfect can exist/But I do know that chocolate feels like…really being kissed/So if you’re feeling empty, let your worries fly away/You know that there’s something that can brighten your day,” Hera sings, adding the yummy chorus “Chocolate, it melts the pain away.” Nothing complicated here, just the kind of disarming, smile-inducing simplicity that Hera carries off as sweetly as the candy she obviously enjoys. “Muddy Shoes” is a tougher song, a basic three-chord acoustic rocker about owning up to some unspecified naughty behavior, with Hera wryly enumerating the kind of amenities she wants for her metaphorical “burial”: “Just put my coffin in the corner/And over there, the sofa and TV/And the lazyboy by the digital bigscreen/So I can see the sunrise and the sea…” Very catchy song, indeed. The title track and “You Make Me Angry” are edgy tunes dealing with deceitful lovers. There’s a Kristin Hersh-like intensity to the latter song, although the lyrics are more direct—and the former tune doesn’t even attempt to disguise its venom although it’s funny in places (“The cat has more respect for the bird/Then I do for you…If you ever get another kiss/I hope you choke on it…”). There are two achingly sad ballads about lost loved ones: “Adrian” could be interpreted in several different ways—from a mother to a son, one friend to another friend that has gone away or grown apart, a woman whose sweetheart died or fell out of love—it’s not clear, but Hera sings it like she had to practice not crying several times to get a clean performance (which she most assuredly renders here). Lines like “When I was younger he was my king/He was my angel, my everything/He rescued me, he loved me and saved me from sin” may not sound that deep, but Hera’s delivery is so disarmingly sincere that the song keeps you emotionally involved to the last. “Where is Your Baby” pushes the poignancy meter into the red; it’s nothing less than a lament for a friend whose baby died in childbirth. The acoustic guitar drips with emotion, and Hera’s vocal is loving and empathetic: “Everything was ready and everything was right/And everyone waited for that very special night/But some things just aren’t meant to be…Maybe, she was meant for another place.” No one who has been through that sort of tragedy could stay dry-eyed through this song, and I almost didn’t, myself. After that emotional wallop, Hera ends the album with one of the best “odes to my guitar” ever written, which somehow attains an even greater power by its concluding spot on the record. “To My Guitar” is a folksy stomper in the stylistic vein of Neil Young’s “Comes a Time”—a genuine love song from a girl to her guitar. It miraculously avoids cliché through Hera’s absolutely breezy delivery and the unquestioned intimacy of the lyrics, which convey that this simple musical instrument is not only a best friend, but often a lifesaver for the songwriter. And that’s another thing you take away from listening to this record: that Hera is an absolutely dedicated musician, one who lives and breathes music because she has to. Hera’s vocals never sound forced; there’s a sort of Zen-like vibe in her voice (and production!) that can take getting used to for ears accustomed to big, slicker types of singers. But Hera’s gentleness is beguiling, and she conveys gratitude for the gift of being able to share her musical self-expression. Lovely, centered, open-hearted and professional in every way, Hera is a small treasure who truly deserves to be heard outside her home countries, and hopefully Don’t Play This represents a step in that direction. OR: 7.5. OM: 2 (Production: 3). Learn more about Hera and buy her CDs from www.herasings.com

Besides Sigur Ros, the best-known group in Iceland is probably Mum. They’ve made several full-length recordings and a couple of remix projects and soundtracks, but their debut full-length, Yesterday Was Dramatic - Today is Okay was only available in the U.S. as a high-priced import until now. Morr Music/M.M. have released a remastered edition of the disc domestically, which is good news for Mum fans. Their sound has been referred to as “fairyland electronica” by more than one reviewer and it’s a pretty apt description. There’s something about the swirling sonic stardust conjured by this band that makes you think of forgotten childhood memories, dreams that you were sorry to wake up from, Christmas lights on cold December evenings, etc. There’s dancing going on in Mum songs, but it’s the dance of tiny creatures and characters from animated movies. Some kind of profound innocence and unrestrained love powers the compositions of this band, and a vast arsenal of instruments is employed to create this effect. There are synths, glockenspiel, harmonium, melodica, trumpet, strings, things that are probably made of glass, music boxes (I’d guess) and, well, maybe even a guitar or two. But there are times when the glitchy, glossy, twinkling sound is so dense that you’re hard pressed to pick out individual instruments. A typical Mum song has one or two scratchy or percolating rhythm tracks competing for attention, while layers of sweet, glimmering keys and other instruments ping and weave on top, underneath and every which way. Later CDs had a bit more vocalizing from the Valtýsdóttir sisters (Kristin Anna and Gyöa)—a whispery-soft, little-girl sound that is lulling for some, too-precious for others. But here, other than some background humming, the only full vocal is on “The Ballad of the Broken Birdie Records,” which is a thoroughly captivating tune. It’s hard to single out one Mum tune over another, though—it all tends to be one long ethereal symphony. But certainly the cinematic beauty of “There is a Number of Small Things” deserves to be mentioned—this evocative track could be the soundtrack to some European children’s film; the keys positively glow with innocent life. “Asleep on a Train” and “Awake on a Train” sort of go together; both have an energetic rhythmic thrust due to a heavier than usual percussion sound, and on the latter, hearing one of the girls hum along with the melody played on the synthesizer is nothing less than enchanting. Honestly, you have to experience this music for yourself to understand how unusual it is. “Sunday Night Just Keeps on Rolling” and “Slow Bicycle” are long songs that take their time casting a spell. And since both are instrumental, what you have here, essentially, is lush, hypnotic ambient music. Mum have carved out a unique slice of terrain where pop music, ambient and film music come together; one web site has dubbed this sort of thing “Electro ambient dream pop.” That would be hard to improve on as a stylistic tag. Although the odd mechanized sounds, pops and crackles that sometimes appear in these tunes might lessen the impact for more conservative listeners, anyone else should be thoroughly captivated by Mum. This is truly bright, enchanting, otherworldly music, and it’s one of the main reasons more listeners have developed an interest in Iceland over the last few years. Share it with someone you love, or someone who’s lost touch with their inner child... OR: 9. OM: 4. CSC.

Ever heard of Eberg? No, he’s not the film critic for the Chicago Sun Times. He’s one of Iceland’s most interesting young musicians, and a surefire contender for “Next Big Icelandic Thing,” although I hate putting it in such terms. But if it’ll help this guy get some attention, so be it. Eberg (actual name: Einar Tonsberg) is our featured interview this month, and I’m delighted to help introduce him to U.S. listeners. He’ll be releasing his sophomore album, VoffVoff, early next year on UK label Instant Karma Records. And the moment I put on his debut CD Plastic Lions for the first time, I was captivated. I’m an enthusiastic fan of anything that is both weird and wonderful, and both those adjectives apply to this 2004 release in spades. (Norse Code rating—OR: 8. OM: 3.5.) First of all, there is a singer on two cuts—“I Cannot Ask You to Live in a Flat” and the title track—with a very unusual voice. It sounds like a really eccentric female vocalist, or maybe even a child. The effect of hearing these two songs is like being serenaded by some sweet alien creature. Well, darned if it isn’t ol’ Eberg himself, having fun with pitch shifting in the most innovative manner since Ween’s Pure Guava album. He had me right there, as this technique is still hugely unexplored terrain in the world of sonic possibilities. And both these tunes are absolutely mesmerizing.

“The idea was to make a voice without sex, that sounded like a child,” said Eberg. “Most people think it’s a girl and in a way I like that. I heard this track with a London band called Hefner, and there is this vocal which I never really understood. I think it’s a guy singing having just had helium. I tried that…what a silly idea!”

Eberg doesn’t overdo the concept, of course—elsewhere, as on “Stupid Happy Song,” he sounds a bit like Beck in economical mode. And he experiments with electronica gleefully, with no real set agenda. It enabled him to come up with inspired compositions like the moody, stirring “Smoker in a Film,” which is half instrumental and half vocal and nearly subliminal in the way it affects your emotions; the Ween-like “Single Drop from the Sea” (although Eberg claimed to be unfamiliar with Ween when I asked him about them); and the all-instrumental “Snutfukana” (apologies if that title is wrong; it’s hard to read on the sleeve). This long track is one of the coolest pieces of electronic music I’ve ever heard. It’s dark and mesmerizing, rhythmic in a slowly throbbing way, and filled with strange effects such as something that sounds like a malfunctioning toy and another sound that may or may not be a faint chorus of human voices repeating some meaningless phrase. The mix on this thing is remarkable. I asked Eberg about the extent to which he was interested in experimenting with electronic music.

“I’m really interested in electronic because I don’t have a clue how it works,” he said. “I listened more to guitar-based stuff when I was a youngster, but was always aware of this magical electronica world. The idea was to use acoustic sounds and program them, and fuck them up. I didn’t follow that totally, but it was more or less the guideline. I try to keep things as simple as possible but I guess I have a habit of making things more complicated than needed.”

The listener is the beneficiary, of course, of Eberg’s wayward approach to his music. He’s the type of musician who seems to go for the overall effect of a track, not some big message that needs to be extrapolated from repeat listens. In fact, the lyrics throughout Plastic Lions are extremely minimal; some tunes only have five or six lines. And a verse like “DreamChild/Let’s take a trip through the fields now/Let’s make out we are seals, wow/This is how we swim” is clearly not aiming for the lofty poetic heights, but in the psychedelicized arrangement of the mid-tempo rocker “DreamChild” that it occurs in, it sounds just fantastic. Does Eberg believe in keeping things mysterious overall?

“All my favorite lyrics are a totally mystery to me,” he replied, “and that makes it more personal for me as a listener, as I´m putting my own experience in it and after a while the lyrics mean something to me but something totally different to someone else. I´m into mystery but even more into surprises nowdays. Just bored sick of predictability.”

He went to music school to study piano as a child at his mom’s behest, but the young Eberg didn’t care for it too much. He was more interested in experimenting on his own, first buying a keyboard, and later a bass and an electric guitar, which he started playing with different bands in Iceland.

“I didn’t start to record my own music until I did Plastic Lions. I guess I’d had enough of being diplomatic in bands by then and just wanted to do something by myself.”

A natural question for Eberg was how he perceived the common thread between acts from Iceland, especially the degree to which the extreme geography and climate influence the many musicians there.

“Yes, I´m sure the landscape and climate plays a big part,” he said. “With Iceland, though, there’s also the fact that there is little history of music. The first instruments arrived in the country just before 1900 and before that it was just the human voice, really. I think people in Iceland are faithful to the musical direction they like and respect. There’s no history of musicians making a living from making albums in Iceland. If you sell enough to go gold, it´s about 3000 copies. Now that’s just about enough for cost. So if you make an album, you better like it. You are not doing it to get famous and rich…you just have to be proud of it. In a way that’s a lot of freedom.”

Such comments are what keep me going with this column, I have to say. To experience music that is made in a place with such a different aesthetic, by creative, interesting artists that are NOT motivated by the financial impetus, is such a different and more enriching proposition than what happens in the overcommercialized American marketplace. And yet, you want to see the talented Icelanders get acknowledged. For every Bjork and Sigur Ros that garner international attention, there’s an Eberg or Einoma that must struggle to be heard overseas. Does Eberg think he can break out to a broader market with his new record?

“I don’t know, really,” he said. “It’s not gonna be easy. Plastic Lions has been released in a few countries and the reviews were good, but it did not really sell much. But I keep on going. Hopefully, VoffVoff will get better distribution and a few more sales. It has a bit more traditional songwriting, and maybe that can helpt to move the act over seas and mountains. It’s still bonkers, though…”

Although we won’t be able to review VoffVoff until February at the earliest, we’re stoked to hear another creative outing from this eclectic Icelandic studio wizard. How does he compare his second album to Plastic Lions?

“I’m told it’s more electronic, but I think the opposite. The lyrics are more obvious. It’s pop songs dressing up for a Monday night out at a pub which serves fries in lager.”

Eberg is given to putting things in a unique way like that, especially in his music. Although there are few things in music anymore that can be called completely original, it can certainly be said that Plastic Lions is filled with surprises—it’s a combination of elements that you likely haven’t heard used on many pop records before. It’s wild, wacky and, yes, weird. And Eberg doesn’t own up to any influences, although Beck-meets-early Ween would be a general starting point for a few of the tunes.

“I’m the worst listener in the world,” said Eberg. “If I don’t have a flatmate or friends that buy a lot of new exciting stuff, then I don’t hear much. I like everything that surprises me, makes me think or touches me emotionally. But my favorite CDs nowadays are blank CDs, as I can put loads of my own nonsense on them.”

Hmm, loads of odd, untamed “nonsense” from one of Iceland’s freshest new artists? I can think of many things worse than that! Learn more about Eberg at www.eberg.net.

One other Icelandic CD I wanted to talk about briefly since I’ve seen almost no word about it anywhere else, is the debut recording by Plat. Major weirdness, kids! Compulsion, an ultra-modern instrumental disc, is the work of Arnar Helgi Adalsteinsson and Vilhjalmur Palsson. They have a “compulsion,” alright—a compulsion to mutate the natural sound of every instrument they get their hands on. Not content to merely make interesting electronica, the Plat boys set out to make lounge music for the inhabitants of Zontezar 27, a planet far, far away. You’ve never heard so many buzzing, humming, blooping, galooping textures in your life. Each sound is allowed to zip along its own unique trajectory, sometimes colliding abrasively with other sounds, and sometimes melding harmoniously with them. It changes from minute to minute. But no matter how dense and impenetrable this sonic gaseousness might seem, there is always the sense that beauty and calm lie just beyond. In other words, this is definitely music, not noise. “Muse” actually has a nice ambient groove somewhere under that glitchy strangeness. “Astand (Dualism)” is like the soundtrack for looking out the window of a spaceship as you enter Zontezar’s atmosphere, and on the lengthy title track, the claustrophic aura may make you think the spaceship has gone under water. “Kverkatak (Stranglehold)” is about as funky as the music gets here—there’s definitely a convoluted rhythm going on, with a weird solo on an unrecognizable instrument low in the mix and some almost luminous keyboards a bit higher. Similarly, there’s a distinctive instrument featured on “Plat” that likely started life as a horn before it was fed into the Plat mutation machine. All this could have been just a gimmick in lesser hands to simply distort and mash up conventional sounds for fun, but there’s a real aesthetic at work here—clearly these oddball Icelanders can play, and know a good alien tune when they hear it. So if you’re adventurous and want to get your electronic freak on, I recommend Compulsion highly—just don’t blame me if your eyes grow glassy and your brain gets addled before it’s over. OR: 7.5. OM: 4. Available from cdbaby.com.

The search for Magga Stina, Month Three: “Oh where, oh where has Magga Stina gone?/Oh where, oh where can she be?/Loved An Album so much/But I cannot get in touch/Cause Magga’s nowhere to be seen.” Please, Ms. Stina, don’t make me keep singing this sad lament. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, drop me a line. Let’s chat, so I can help those who care learn about your fabulous, underrated debut CD—and why there’s never been a follow-up! I’m waiting with baited breath to find out what happened to you!

Next month in Norse Code: The Best Scandinavian CDs of 2005 and an interview with brilliant Norwegian producer Yngve Saetre.

 


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