On Thursday night I went to a few Brit Awards after parties. Which, was, kinda fun I guess, but also left me with a vague feeling of wanting to shower in bleach to rid myself of the nagging feeling that all the music industry’s strings are being held by some big slithery reptilian creature that plays real-life monopoly at the weekends with Roman Abramovich, Simon Cowell and Satan, using supermarket chains and oil franchises as the hotels in a secret cave near the Galapagos islands and crawls out once a year to gnaw battered asparagus and duck confit crackers and slurp Old Fashioneds with Brian Higgins, the rugby player-looking one from T4 and J Sainsbury.
The old fashioneds btw were delicious… I had a bit of a Pretty Woman/Holly Golightly-esque moment where, in a fit of enthusiasm I very visibly let the bar man and every one of the pseudo-famous people around me know I’d never had one before… Oops.
Oh yeah, and ‘go Florence!’ for winning the Critics Choice award n’all. She acted as a miniscule blip of goodness in a murky sea of grim (oh yeah, bar Girls Aloud, and erm, I’ve actually got a little soft spot for Perry too, and hang on, what’s this on my back? A scale? -hissssss- eeek! oh no, not me toooo!). One thing I did notice though across a crowded Claridges: is it me or does bookies fave for the NME Awards Sexiest Male, Miles Kane, spookily resemble the killer’s mask from Scream? Phwooaaar 😉
Scream maskMiles Kane
Anyways, instead of drenching myself in Toilet Duck I decided to head to a land where music is driven by two very pure, cleansing extremities: black metal, and frost-bitten elfin folk ethereality, yes, I figured a few days in Olso ought to purge my soul of lizard-visions.
By:Larm, is a massive multi-venue showcase of bands from across Scandinavia, crammed into the Norwegian capital over three days, this year in lip-chapping minus ten gales and sock-soaking five inch fluffy snow.
Across Scandinavia there seems to be this really cute sense of nurturing right from the top of the governmental ivory towers towards any kind of creative exports, I guess, cos places like Iceland have managed to squeeze out two big bands in about 30 years (but I guess those bands contain about a quarter of their population so you can’t knock ’em too hard).
So I trudged around a close-knit network of venues in the centre of town, many of which reminded me of university lecture theatres, swigged 30 quid flasks of Viking ale, and watched some seriously Aryan acts. A lot of which were fucking terrible, but a few of which were very special.
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I kinda wanted to disprove my vaguely racist perception of Norway only consisting of black metal and plinky goblin-folk, but my discoveries didn’t fulfill that goal so well. And before this gets loads of responses calling me xenophobic and stuff, I do realise this is most probably because we were just randomly wandering around pick’n’mixing our way through shows we didn’t know what to expect from, and that there’s loads of amazing other types of band from Norway and blahblahblahblah…
All the mega-Norwegian stuff we saw was pretty ace – I even got quite into this a cappella trad Nordic baritone singer called Kim Andre Rysstad, he was dressed like Brian Blessed on a Sunday afternoon park stroll, and roared out some dumbfounding numbers on God knows what.
There was however, a proliferation of truly frightful American and British sound-a-like pastiches of literally every staple incarnation possible. I know all countries have these, but somehow it’s just all the more ridiculous when it’s done by some slick, golden maned, immaculately attired Nordic babe…
Anyways, enough hate, cos when it was good, it was slap-me-round-the-rosie-reds-with-a-hunk-of-pickled-sea-bass-and-call-me-Olaf magic.
I won’t totally spoil the full scene report coming up in a fortnight’s mag, but here were my two particular fillet cuts:
Rockettothesky are everything my ignorant little British mind could ever wish modern Norwegian folk-pop to be. Melodies that trickle across the air like ice-water across some rocky brook in an remote enchanted clearing where forest nymphs flock to conduct their bi-monthly ritual troll-banishing dances. Plus, the singer was sporting probably the crispest of one of a staggering array of very crisp white linen shirts we witnessed on display at the festival. So extra props.
Rockettothesky onstage at By:Larm .
First Aid kit are two Swedish sisters, one 15 and one the grand-old age of 17 (buck-up grandma). They’re signed to The Knife’s label, Rabid, which is why we spied them out from the programme. They play acoustic country-blues in a kinda lip-quivering scatter-brain collapsing-in-love-for-the-first-time, reared-on-Neil-Young type way. It could have fallen into a Smoosh-at-the-saloon-type trap, but their voices and delivery were sharper than a diamond cutter dicing a Gillette Mac 3, and instilled with a transfixing majesty.
First Aid Kit onstage at By:Larm