Online music magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark

Monthly archive

February 2015

LIVE REVIEW: Iceage, Jazzhouse, 26.02.2015

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Iceage, Hand of Dust and Less Win should be no strangers to our readers or Danish music fans in general, yet it is still impressive that the former should be able to sell out a venue like Jazzhouse two nights in a row. Only 16 months ago, for my very first review at Here Today, I saw Iceage showcase their sophomore album, You´re Nothing, to a crowd half the size.

Iceage (Photo by Tom Spray)
Iceage (Photo by Tom Spray)

The intervening time saw the release of Plowing into the Field of Love, perhaps the bands most critically acclaimed album. However, the band that I hear on that record, and see tonight, is not the buzzing hive of originality their fans like to present. Though talented in their own ways, and certainly possessing remarkable and abstruse tastes, Iceage appear to suffer from a desire to live up to their own images. Tracks like “The Lord´s Favorite” are admirable imitations of the likes of Nick Cave and the Gun Club, but no amount of stumbling around on the stage is going to transform them into their idols.

While the rest of the Copenhagen punk scene is under the spell of gothy Americana, Less Win combine the best elements of British post-punk in the Bunnymen tradition, with fast and technical American post-hardcore. Their energy is way above most of their peers, steamrolling through their set.

Iceage (Photo by Tom Spray)
Iceage (Photo by Tom Spray)

Unfortunately Iceage spent a large part of the first half of their set trying to fix technical difficulties with the guitar. It´s a revealing moment, as the band hug each other, whisper, and generally do their best to ignore the audience. I can´t blame their diffidence towards an audience whose first rows are barely pre-pubescent. Despite being disappointed by the lack of commitment on the part of the band, I am convinced Iceage still have the potential to ignore the adulation and use their tastes and talents in a more creative way.

 

A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Koncertkirken, 21.02.2015

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A Winged Victory For The Sullen played their first-ever Copenhagen show at Koncertkirken as part of the Frost Festival. The Belgium-based duo of Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran stand at opposite ends of the altar, O’Halloran at a grand piano with synthesizers laid out on top of it, Wiltzie with his own synths and a guitar in hand. Their line-up is fleshed out with a violinist, violist, and cellist sitting between them, and the two full-time members occasionally nod to one another.

It’s a very understated performance. Despite synthesizers, despite an electric guitar, the most noise at any given time comes from the piano, and even then there’s something startling about its clarity. There is a huge disconnect between seeing Wiltzie play guitar and hearing what is expected of a guitar. His style is so muted, so delicate, that the tiny, sparkling little notes he plays seem more in keeping with some of the electronic arrangements. But in a room so quiet you can hear people opening their beer cans, it works.

And the room is beautiful. Koncertkirken is lit softly with strangely bright blue lights, and the stage area is dotted with Edison bulbs from behind a gauzy curtain. More of the soft blue and some green lighting do little to obscure Jesus on the cross looming over the musicians (hey, why not? It is Lent).

But these settings aren’t flawless. The first problem is that the altar is low, which means that unless you’re in the first row or two or up in the choir loft, your view is obscured. Not necessarily a problem in itself, but when everyone cranes their necks for a better view — and everyone is seated in pews that aren’t bolted down — something is taken away from the serenity of the experience.

That being said, the church has the perfect acoustics for AWVFTS. Their music, their style, is the same tone and timbre as a church organ. In fact, it seems like a wasted opportunity that they don’t incorporate the church organ. At the music’s loudest, there is never any echoing, just a pleasantly humming reverberation. And it is moments like that that separate bedroom music from a real live experience. Because ultimately, recommending AWVFTS live depends on where they’re playing. The performance of the band’s atmospheric music hinges on an equally atmospheric setting.

LIVE REVIEW: Alt-J, Tap1, 19.02.2015

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Alt-J (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Photos by James Hjertholm

Figuring out how to describe Alt-J can be tricky. Simon & Garfunkel with a sampler? Their latest critically acclaimed album, This Is Yours, endlessly mutates from art-rock to folk harmonies to bluesy riffs. At a sold-out Tap1, in the shadows of the Carlsberg buildings, the quartet highlight their rhythmic and anthemic sides.

Wolf Alice (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Opener Wolf Alice is a confusing listen. Stuck behind two obnoxious giants, I become temporarily convinced that I’m listening to Elastica. The North London band, fronted by Ellie Roswell, accumulate a wealth of sounds from 90s British indie rock, processing it through a vaguely shoegaze filter. Their live set emphasizes the raucous elements of their sound, but while their take on 90s nostalgia is expertly handled on songs like “Moaning Lisa Smile”, I spend most of the time trying to figure out what songs they are pastiching.

Alt-J (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Arriving in Copenhagen at the tail-end of a European tour, Alt-J are clearly in good form. Starting with “Hunger of the Pine”, they shift between registers and moods with confidence, giving the set a more coherent feel than the album does. Tracks like “Every Other Freckle”, with its weird medieval-esque interlude, and the bluesy “Left Hand Free” have an added swagger to them, aided by the idiosyncratic drumming of Thom Green.

Alt-J (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Though the close harmonies between Joe Newman and Gus Unger-Hamilton are not always completely in tune, even their odd little mistakes have a vulnerable charm. It helps that almost the entire audience seems to know every lyric, particularly on songs from their debut album like “Matilda”. No small feat, considering the phrasings of songs like “Bloodflow pt.II”.

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

 

PHOTOS: Alt-J + Wolf Alice (support), TAP1, 19.02.2015

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Alt-J (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Photos by James Hjertholm (jameshjertholm.com)

Alt-J (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Alt-J (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Crowd (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Alt-J (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Alt-J (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Wolf Alice (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Wolf Alice (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Crowd (Photo: James Hjertholm)

Ólafur Arnalds, Koncerthuset, 13.02.2015

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Ólafur Arnalds is trapped somewhere in the worlds between modern classical composer and electronic artist, and he doesn’t really fit the profile of either. He opens the show at Koncertsalen by asking the audience to sing a note (“E flat, or D sharp, depending on what kind of person you are”) for him to record on his iPad and loop through his song, so the evening is already more interactive than most before he’s even played a note.

Accompanying him on stage is a string quartet, two French horn players, and one fellow  stood in the center of the stage penned in by stacks of synths, drum pads, and on some occasions, a trombone (he’s also the only person who has to stand all evening, so he gets a bit of sympathy). Arnalds himself sits between two pianos, his synths laid out on top of a grand piano.

With this setup, it’s striking how minimalist some of Arnalds’ music is, emphasized as he plays piano with one hand and swipes at the electronics over the keyboard with restrained flourishes from the other. When he’s only playing piano, the intense concentration melts away from his face and is overtaken by a dreamlike expression. And the minimalism in turn tends to be usurped by bigger arrangements, a swelling of atonal noise.

Forty minutes into the set Arnór Dan, who appears on Arnalds’ albums For Now I Am Winter and Broadchurch, comes out for a few songs, and it changes the atmosphere of the show. Suddenly, it’s a pop concert, and not even an especially avant-garde pop concert. The mood lighting gives way to flashes from the long fluorescent beams behind the stage. And now with a singer center stage, it’s easy to forget — in that very Nordic way — whose name is actually advertised (a sentiment aided by the fact that Dan is Danish, he is speaking Danish to the audience, and he is pleased as punch that his mother is in the audience). But Dan leaves the stage and the tone shifts back to, if not a classical concert, something out of step with the mainstream holiday we’ve taken.

And finally, it is just Arnalds on stage, playing the piano that forces him to keep his back to most of the audience. His final song is a tribute to his grandmother, the woman who “made me listen to Chopin when I wanted to listen to death metal.” The backing tracks are so faint they’re almost a figment of the imagination, and as his fingers leave the keys, it is only these fading sounds that keep us all from sitting in complete, awestruck silence.

LIVE REVIEW: Viet Cong, Loppen, 12.02.2015

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Viet Cong (Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh & James Hjertholm
Viet Cong’s debut album opens with thundering drums that fade into something less prevalent as the album progresses. Thank goodness that isn’t the case for their live show. The Canadian quartet’s set at Loppen brings out all of the extremes of their album.
Their more precise moments have more of a math rock feel; their frontman’s voice is raw like an open wound; their technical abilities are blatant. You simply can’t fake your way through playing a 12-string guitar. But they aren’t a band built solely on this ability; they have a clear sense of intent. As mesmerizing as their finger work can be, the people behind it –sweaty messes with bad jokes — never disappear.
It takes deeper feeling to transform the extended intro of “March of Progress” into the droning wave it becomes. The synths rattle ever so slightly through the floorboards and a hypnotic drum loop brings a trancelike state to the room. For a few minutes, everything is perfect.
Viet Cong photo by James Hjertholm
But they almost ruin it. The repeated down stroke/rest, down stroke/rest of “Death,” which should indicate the end of a song carries on for what feels like minutes, teasing the way an older brother does a younger sibling without understanding that he’s the only one having fun. It’s a case where not being faithful to the recording might have helped. They do pick up the song again, but it’s a shame to be left after an otherwise energetic set with a feeling of restlessness.

LIVE REVIEW: Interpol, Store Vega, 03.02.2015

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Photo by Tom Spray  (Roskilde Festival 2015)

Looking like a couple of cool kids entering a class they think is ridiculous, the supporting act, Health, saunter on stage without a sound just around eight. Next thing I know, I am blown sideways by the wall of pounding bass and drums ejecting from the sub-speakers. The band’s noisy death-disco is a monstrous blast of unpredictable sounds and rhythms. It’s hard not to be impressed. After 40 minutes of this Californian frenzy, my ear canals are, if not healthy, at least thoroughly cleansed and ready for the main act.

Even though it is Interpol’s second performance in a row at Vega, the room gets stuffed wall to wall. The audience is a mature one, but so is the band after releasing five albums. The newest long player, ‘El pintor’ (Spanish for ‘The painter’, and an anagram of ‘Interpol’), has its cover projected onto the backdrop, as Paul Banks and co. head on stage.

Playing as tight as the suits they’re wearing, Interpol turn on the bright lights with ‘Say hello to the angels’. The straight-out-of-Mad-Men drummer, Sam Fogarino, keeps a rock-solid post-punk beat under the jarring guitars and the notorious dark vocal lines, as an ecstatic fan jumps like a maniac at the edge of the stage. As the bass-intro for ‘Evil’ begins, hands are raised in the air, and the single fan is joined by the entire audience.

After a parade of hits including the fresh ‘My desire’, it strikes to me how great Interpol still are. ‘Hands away’ is a master stroke from the band and ‘Pioneer to the falls’ is a personal favorite that comes off sharper and with a whipping nerve this night.

Interpol is a perfect mix of mechanical order and profane weakness – there is enough perfection to make you accept it and enough cracks to make you believe it. For the grand finale we get the old classic ‘PDA’, and it’s Interpol par excellence. By now I’m getting tired of clapping like a monkey, but it’s hard to stop.

 

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