Online music magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark

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Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas has 24 articles published.

LIVE REVIEW: Julian Casablancas + The Voidz, Store Vega, 16.12.14

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Julian Casablancas is one of those 00’s indie heroes stuck between rock god status and being an unfortunate, talented soul desperately trying to cling onto the hype of the past by offering up repeatedly sub-standard new material. And who can blame him? When you write the record of the decade, maintaining your rep can be tricky. Casablancas’ latest effort with The Voidz (slightly impudently called Tyranny) feels rather like this, with unmoving melodies and only glimmers of promise that feel distinctly Strokes-esque. But as the unkempt and floppy haired band take the record live, Casablancas manages to convince me a little bit more, albeit slowly, of the record’s validity.

The attraction of The Strokes is their raw energy, the ability to shout and power up their audience and listeners. It is strange and perhaps even uncomfortable to see Casablancas play without this backdrop, to a record that is, for the most part, messy, incoherent and dull. On a Tuesday night, his chances of rousing a sleepy Danish audience are tested. Casablancas himself seemed confused at the lack of enthusiasm, asking “What, is it Sunday night with you guys, or what’s going on?” It’s at this point that some of the crowd inside Store Vega sheepishly look at the shoes, and feel obliged to get a bit more into proceedings, whilst others look pissed off and go and wallow their sorrow in Tuborg. Tyranny highlight ‘Where No Eagles Fly’ excites the audience a little more, but it is ’11th Dimension’ from Casablancas’ 2009 solo album Phrazes for the Young which really sees the band and audience express the energy expected for this kind of artist. Suddenly the pocket of die-hard Strokes fans (wearing merch, of course) who are putting their arms above their heads and falling over spread through the front of the venue. The crowd looks like it’s really enjoying itself for a brief glimmer. “Mange tak” says Casablancas, before suggesting they “get back to business” by performing ‘Business Dog’ from the new album.

The Tyranny tracks have received a much needed small injection of energy. It seems as though this is a record which works far better live when the band makes an effort. The frontman suddenly changes his tune to tell the audience that it’s an “honour” to play for them. But it’s still not much. Many exit the venue before the encore, which features The Strokes track ‘I’ll Try Anything Once’. Casablancas and a synth express some half-hearted feeling to complete a half-arsed gig, and the band bow out of their European tour.

LIVE REVIEW: The New Spring, Jazzhouse, 25.09.14

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There is nothing less rock and roll than a sit down concert with chairs and tables, light jazz interludes, cocktails and a twenty minute intermission. However, as The New Spring’s music is not particularly rock and roll in the first place, this set up works splendidly. The New Spring, otherwise known as Bastian Kallesøe, put on a concert unlike any other I’ve attended in Copenhagen. A ‘concept concert’ as he described it before starting his concert, the concept being that he would play recently released album Late Bloomer in its entirety, followed by a second set of a whole new, as yet unrecorded new album, A Thousand Songs Fell From The Sky And Clearly It Was A Sign. Though it wasn’t a traditional set-up, the result was the atmospheric and thoughtful environment that Kallesøe had clearly hoped to achieve as a platform for his music.

Armed with only an acoustic Spanish guitar, a pianist and a tuba player, Kallesøe created rich sounds with an overarching sense of calm and purpose. His brand of simple but warm folk music was entirely absorbing, so much so that the candle on my table seemed to flicker and hypnotise in line with the intricate and winding melodies of the guitar strings ahead. Title track ‘Late Bloomer’, like so many of the songs that followed, constantly teetered between comfortable major chords and ones that felt slightly awkward, but this juxtaposition excited the senses. Intensity and poetry pervade Kallesøe’s lyrics, which, in the grand tradition of folk music, are pastoral to their core. Kallesøe’s voice, a sweet and soft sound which whispers, quivers and rings out with confidence even sounds like snow fall as it lands on the guitar and piano lines. The microphone fuzz, whilst usually unwelcome, sounds suitably retro for the artist’s voice, making them a surprisingly good match for one another. However, its this delicacy at the heart of everything that’s performed which makes the music more intriguing and beautiful, even, than the artist’s earlier work.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Pharrell Williams, Forum, 12.09.14

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Pharrell Williams is like a Zen guru for thirteen year olds. He looks into the audience with a deep, brooding passion whilst the weird bunch of keys on his jeans clatters around him. He makes the heart shape with his hands repeatedly and likes to offer little nuggets of wisdom and philosophy to his audience members. The relentless expressions of gratitude are as predictable as you’d expect, but over the course of the concert, the verbal and spiritual connection with his audience changes from affected to genuine.

‘Come Get it Bae’ is the first track to play in the sold-out Forum. His bow at the end is solemn and serious, although the expression does seem somewhat at odds with his reputation as a man famed for his happiness. This is followed by ‘Frontin”, one of Williams’ multiple Jay-Z collaborations. After a few more tracks from the artist’s latest solo album G I R L, released earlier this year, Williams stops and addresses the audience with his first inspirational quote of the night. “I’m so happy to be in a room full of people who love the world, and their lives, and being different, other. We’re gonna go something different tonight. We’re gonna play some songs that I had something to do with, because you made them hits and I was lucky enough to tag along.” This translates into a medley of the best pop tracks of the 00s, songs produced by The Neptunes, of which Williams forms one half. ‘Hot in Herre’, ‘Milkshake’, ‘I’m a Slave 4 U’ and ‘Shake Ya Ass’ all feature. Williams’ live contribution to this medley is minimal, and it’s a pattern that gets repeated at intervals. ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ and, in the encore, ‘Hollaback Girl’ are played to the common delight of audience members. This is not a solo concert as such, but a playlist of top 40 hits for which Pharrell doesn’t really need to be present at this post production stage. But as someone who is usually at best bored and at worst irritated by the artist’s solo work, I’m glad the chart hits are there.

“What we have to recognise tonight is that in this life, for everything that happens, there are many variables.” Whoopie! More nuggets of Pharrell wisdom! “Many years ago I was involved in something called N*E*R*D.” At this point my ears pricked up. A few minutes later and Williams is performing ‘Lapdance’ with fellow N*E*R*D member Shae Haley. “N*E*R*D for eva!” says Pharrell, with yet another hand heart sign pinned to his chest.

But as cringe worthy as all that stuff is, it seems to come genuinely from the heart. For his encore, Pharrell plays ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Get Lucky’ before turning to ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’ and ‘Happy’. These are songs that, over the past year, even if you were a larvae that lived under a rock in the depths of the Amazon, you’d have had difficulty avoiding. These songs are the latest chapter in a career that has lasted over twenty years and made Pharrell one of the most important men in pop and R&B. And for the very first time since its release, I actually enjoy ‘Happy’. “Who here is sick of feeling afraid of what comes to them on their phone and tablet and TV in the news?” he asks. “You’re not going to be afraid anymore… because the best way to kill fear is what?” The audience responds with deafening volume: “BE HAPPY”. Whilst the artist performs an extended version of the track, he invites a little boy from the audience onto the stage. When Pharrell reaches the chorus, the boy starts performing the worm dance move. Canons fire confetti. You’d have to be an icy person not to find this a surprisingly beautiful and moving experience. This artist doesn’t just spurt out a load of bullshit for the sake of it; he seems to believe every word, and really is a joyful, believe-in-yourself kind of guy. Maybe I was emotionally manipulated by the confetti, but whatever. I’m converted. I like Pharrell now, and I came home happy.

 

Roskilde Festival 2014, Sunday 6th July

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Deerhunter

After several days of stage theatrics and moody band introductions, it’s a surprise and a pleasure to see Deerhunter conducting their own soundcheck. Frontman Bradford Cox’s awkward charm does more to connect with the audience than any set of laser displays or smoke machines. As the band launch into “Agoraphobia”, the refrain of “comfort me” seems particularly apt, a love letter to the warmth and comfort of the shoegaze bands that inspire it. But Deerhunter replace the ethereal quality of bands like Slowdive with a certain degree of quirkiness which is clear in Cox’s stage banter as much as in his music. After regaling us with a description of a 4th of July celebration chez Deerhunter, the band launch into “Nothing Ever Happened”, drawing out its motorik energy until it starts to melt into a cover of Patti Smith’s “Horses”. A moment of brilliant free-association genius, and a great begging to Sunday at Roskilde.

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(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Julia Holter

The warmth and energy of Deerhunter are replaced with an almost unbearable heat and humidity inside Gloria, where we wait for Julia Holter. But that same discomfort put this reviewer into a mind frame that perfectly suited the David Lynchian-quality of Holter’s music. The avant-garde singer-songwriter is accompanied by a drummer, a cellist, a violist, and a tenor-saxophonist. The effect is altogether different than that of her latest record, Loud City Song: the noise, reverb and general swirliness of the album are replaced with a crisp, stripped-back sound, as intimate as it is unsettling. “Maxim’s I” is transformed from the kind of song you’d expect to be heard in a Twin Peaks road bar into something closer to jazz or minimalist classical music. The intimacy is helped by Holter’s approach to her audience: offhand questions about what wine people in the front are drinking turn the affair into a secluded, friendly if off-kilter microcosm.

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Julia Holter (Roskilde Festival 2014)

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Kasabian

I have this image in my mind of Kasabian sitting around a few weeks before a tour or album release. Guitarist Sergio Pizzorno turns to frontman Tom Meighan and says “mate, why are we still doing this? We’re not even that great.” Meighan puts his hand on Pizzorno’s shoulder and says “Serge, it’s because we’re massive LADS!” They then discuss ‘banter’ or something. At Roskilde, the vision becomes reality as Meighan makes exactly the same motions with his (relatively sparse) audience. It’s about half an hour before their set is due to start, and they’ve summoned only a few dozen to wait in line for the pit. This is the same band who closed Glastonbury. Why have they failed to crack Denmark? The majority of the small group waiting are all British. The lone Dane standing next to me says his friends didn’t even want to come with him to watch. Maybe Danes don’t really go for lead singers who look like Eye Ball Paul from Kevin And Perry Go Large, but it’s entirely their loss.

Meighan is unashamedly confident and cocky, but he justifies his behaviour onstage, introducing the band as ‘The Mighty Kasabian’. He engages with the audience by pointing and waving his tongue at them, and between songs stands pouting triumphantly on the edge of the stage, beckoning the crowd to shower him and his band with all the woops and claps they can muster. Basking in praise comes naturally, he relishes it, and shows enough vitality in everything he does to make it work. Who gives a fuck if his audience is only half full; as long as a few people are enjoying it, he can hype them up enough to adequately rub his ego.

From opening track ‘Bumble Bee’ taken from new album 48:13, to closing number ‘Fire’, which is extended and dedicated to Leicester, the performance is unfailing. The final track sees Meighan and Pizzorno telling everyone to bounce on the ground for the guitar riff, before jumping incessantly for the rip roaring chorus line. It’s got even more energy than the actions for ‘Vlad the Impaler’, which followed a similar routine. As the rest of the band depart, Meighan sings, surprisingly well, the chorus line from ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ a capella. A few punters are still screaming the riff from ‘Fire’ after the band have left and the hosts have stepped on. The only disappointment is the lack of encore.

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Kasabian (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Kasabian (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

 

MØ: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love your plait and scrunchie combo. I love the tennis skirt and dirty trainers you’re wearing. I love your complete disregard for the ‘No Crowdsurfing’ rule. From kangaroo jumps three feet in the air to sprawling onto the ground and singing from the floor, watching MØ perform is a visual spectacle. It’s tiring just looking at her, as sweat drips from her forehead. Always in control, her voice never once falters or fails; it stays completely powerful and enchanting, as she accompanies herself with looped “huh”s and high pitched “ow”s. She’s a beautiful clash of soft feeling and urban style, both in look and sound.

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MØ (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

MØ (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Stevie Wonder

If there’s a place for legends, the Orange Stage is it. From The Rolling Stones on Thursday, to Stevie Wonder on Sunday, it was the performance space for two entirely different but well loved acts, and the latter’s evening set brought the festival to a joyous end before a few thousand punters stayed on for Jack White. Wonder’s band is so extensive it takes several minutes to credit them all. For the entirety of the two hour set, the singer remains enthusiastic, engaging and encouraging of the audience to partake in his soul celebration. He introduces all his tracks with an invitation to “sing this”. The chorus forms the base of a hit track for him to sing over. This is not Wonder’s show alone; he ensures it belongs to the tens of thousands of tired, dirty spectators too. As he moves into ‘Ebony and Ivory’, the musician asks the crowd: “can you imagine how much people have missed out on because of the prejudices we have in this world?” and once again beckons for Roskilde to join him. “If you agree with me, sing… You can’t just talk about it, you have to be about it.” Whether the subject matter is love, adultery or racism, for Stevie Wonder, music is the channel through which people should come together and reach greatness, solidarity and power.

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Stevie Wonder (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Forest Swords

If Forest Swords’ Matt Barnes feels hard-done-by in his allocated slot—playing Gloria at the same time that Stevie Wonder and Moderat are playing the Orange Stage and Arena—he certainly doesn’t show it. The space that isn’t occupied by the scattered but enthralled audience is instead filled up with the Liverpool-based producer’s approach to dub music: lung-fizzling bass, unsettling samples, sharp keyboards and even the odd spaghetti-western-influenced guitars. Barnes is accompanied by a bassist, and divides his time brooding over the sampler, hunching over the keyboard or swaying around with his guitar. Tracks like “Thor’s Stone” and “The Weight of Gold” from his debut Engravings are without doubt some of the standout electronic songs of 2013, and are even more effective live.

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Forest Swords (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Forest Swords (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Jack White

Those of us who watched clips from Jack White’s set at Glastonbury last week knew what to expect for this, the concluding set at the Orange Stage: an expansive retrospective of his work, from the White Stripes to the Raconteurs and his solo work. His band band, including a fiddle-player and a lap-steel-guitarist, help to reinvent as much as they reproduce the sounds from his back-catalogue, adding a certain amount of country twang to the overdriven swagger of much of his later work. A slight hint of reserve blends in with the excitement as White begins his set with a drawn out jam of the White Stripes’ “Icky Thump”: is this going to be a display of utter indulgence, an artist at the height of his success revelling in his apparent freedom to do whatever he likes? That reserve is also to be found in White himself, who largely refrains from talking much in between songs except to get a little annoyed when the crowd doesn’t seem to know the lyrics to “Hotel Yorba”. “You guys speak English, right?” This is going south fast, but a split-second later White recovers by making some quip about his own level of English. Thankfully, the experience seems to humble him enough to really begin engaging with the crowd, rather than taking their adulation for granted. The extended jams end, and are replaced by a quick series of White Stripes medleys that drive the audience forward through slower songs from Lazaretto.

Throughout White pays tribute to fellow Detroit-native and predecessor on the stage, Stevie Wonder, and even makes the odd joke about sharing his doctor with Drake. It is clear in these moments that Jack White’s ability as an entertainer take precedence over his sometimes rather insular and self-aggrandizing approach to his “art”, and that on stage he is able to fully embrace that. A festival crowd might not know the lyrics to all his White Stripes songs, but they can end Roskilde on a jumping high with set closers “Steady as She Goes” and the obligatory, perennial “Seven Nation Army”. But even in this last instance, White doesn’t rest on his laurels, but reworks the song in such as way as to work best with a band of six rather than one of two. We can only apologize to poor Londoners, from whom apparently we snatched him at the last moment. Such is the power of Roskilde.

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(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

(Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Roskilde Rising 2014: Wednesday 2nd July

in Live Reviews/Roskilde Rising by

Karl William

Smooth, soulful vocals and simple drum loop backing were Karl William’s offering to the Rising Stage, a welcome respite from the rock guitar of the past two days. The fresh faced 19 year old seemed rehearsed, but as teenagers often are, slightly awkward. William’s R&B backtracks carried him through ‘Foruden at Forgude’ and ‘Kostumeramt’, with high synths and low bass, he managed to pack a 2,000+ strong crowd in the Rising field, as the crowd mouthed his lyrics from the front to the back.

Karl William (Photo by Tom Spray)

Narcosatanicos 

If there’s one thing you can be sure of in life, it’s that bands who describe themselves as “intense, fucked up psychedelic noise rock collapsing into a distorted, rhythmic mindfuck of saxophones, guitars and LSD,” are utterly terrible. Such is Narcosatanicos’ Facebook description. But with an attitude of open mindedness and positivity, I went to see the acid fans perform. The band powered through their 45 minute set with a light mainly shone on their critically acclaimed self titled album. The crowd certainly wasn’t the largest at the Rising stage but those who were in attendance we’re a dedicated fan base they’ve grown from their early days on the psych scene. 

Narcosatanicos (Photo by Tom Spray)

Narcosatanicos (Photo by Tom Spray)

Narcosatanicos (Photo by Tom Spray) 

Hexis

The extent to my experience with metal music is limited to watching half of the Metallica set at last year’s Roskilde. Consequently, I feel a bit of a fraud reviewing Hexis. But judging by the full crowd of Roskilde Rising’s only black metal band, I would say that a lot of people are quite keen on them. I was stood a fair distance from the crowd in order to prevent all my bones from being crushed in the 30m circle mosh pit of death, but from my totally naïve perspective, I observed: 1) Hexis were totally sick, 2) The moshing was nuts, 3) I could totally get into this and 4) people actually head slam?

Hexis (Photo by James Hjertholm)

Hexis (Photo by James Hjertholm)

The Awesome Welles

Lights, relentless energy, and an incredible amount of power made The Awesome Welles’ performance forceful to the very end. Frontman Adam Nyborg Allen’s unshaking, loud vibrato vocals, and the smashing of the band’s classic rock drum lines made tracks like ‘Out of the Woods’, with a chorus line that falls flat on record, suddenly have the anthemic strength they were always intended to have. As the final act to perform at Roskilde Rising 2014, The Awesome Welles made sure the warm up went out with a bang.

The Awesome Welles (Photo by James Hjertholm)

The Awesome Welles (Photo by James Hjertholm)

Photo by Tom Spray

Roskilde Rising 2014: Tuesday 1st July

in Live Reviews/Roskilde Rising by

Communions

Denmark is no stranger to cool Doc Marten wearing punk artists with bowl haircuts instead of mohicans. Whilst Communions have a bit more melody than their studio neighbours Iceage and Lower, the harsh and wailing vocals, (and the upturned skinny jean look) are just the same. The audience, littered among empty nacho pots, are, if a little grubbier, matching the band. However, as the clouds clear and the sun beats down in full throttle, most heads seem to have sunk heavily into their owner’s hands, rather than being used to smash bodies against one another. A few punk loyalists down the front are moshing happily, but the crowd is otherwise relaxed, drinking beers rather than throwing them. From where I’m standing at least, it doesn’t feel much like a post-punk concert. And Communions don’t seem to think so either. The tracks are well executed and confident and the skill of the band members is evident, but their energy is not travelling further than the first row. The atmosphere is markedly flat. I know it’s probably their custom to look moody, but a little more charisma (and a later slot) wouldn’t have gone a miss.

Communions (Photo by Tom Spray)

Communions (Photo by Tom Spray)

My Heart the Brave

Three hours later, the fiesta seems to have finally reached the Rising Stage. Producer Caspar Hesselager, the man behind My Heart The Brave, is joined by Aske Bode, Jacob Haubjerg and Ask Bock to allow him total freedom of movement when singing into the mic. He seems slightly awkward in this environment, away from the piano or synth, but his blatant energy and excitement is enough to bring the music to life and generate a genuine party feeling out of his electronic backing. His tracks are impossibly catchy, and even those just stopping by find themselves mouthing words they don’t know and, at the very least, nodding their heads and tapping their feet. 45 minutes of pure, unadulterated, summer fun.

My Heart The Brave (Photo by Tom Spray)

My Heart The Brave (Photo by Tom Spray)

My Heart The Brave (Photo by Tom Spray)

Förtress

I hate dick rock, prickish behaviour and bad tattoos. Förtress have all of these, and then some, but there’s no denying they put on a fucking good show. “People were moshing to our soundcheck!” says one band member earlier in the day when we meet for an interview. And when you see Förtress in front of their crowd, this comes as no surprise. They seem to have the most solid fan base of all the Rising acts, cheering and chanting before they’ve even entered the stage. The drummer, known as ‘Vildsvinet’ for his somewhat round body shape, walks onstage wearing nothing but a pair of stars and stripes speedos and shoes. Guitarist Simon plays a guitar riff from behind the curtain before filing himself and the other band members in and revving the crowd into a frenzy. The riff gets repeated as the band disappear and return for the encore. These lads are revelling in the experience, like a group of School of Rock graduates. They even copy Get Your Gun’s performance by bringing on a women’s choir for the denouement of the set. They may only be on the Rising Stage, but Förtress perform like they’re facing a crowd of 100,000 on a comeback tour.

Förtress (Photo by Tom Spray)

Förtress (Photo by Tom Spray)

Förtress (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Roskilde Rising 2014: Monday 30th June

in Live Reviews/Roskilde Rising by
Get Your Gun (Photo by Tom Spray)

Heimatt

Being the first musician to perform at Roskilde Festival 2014 is not the easiest job in the world. The Roskilde buffs who wait for hours for the gates to open before flooding in and throwing up in a scummy tent that’s already been pissed on are a little too busy to take notice. The remaining crowd can be divided into three categories: the slightly hungover, the very hungover, and the super keen. And for those looking to take off the headache with a little music, Heimatt’s brand of light indie folk is perfect. Yesterday’s performance by frontman Magnus Grilstad’s had soaring vocals that were clear cut and reverberating, with lyrics about Scandinavia, love and sin, blending smoothly with Amalie Kjældgaard Kristensen’s violin.

Heimatt (Photo by Tom Spray)

Get Your Gun

Get Your Gun is a bit like a dark, apocalyptic version of The National, which serves for a nice bit of antithesis when the sun is beating down at what feels like 30 degrees and everyone is gradually declining into a pile of sunburnt skin. However, this didn’t stop singer Andreas arriving in practically head to toe black attire and trench coat. It’s clear that Get Your Gun are a band with a clear idea of their sound and image, but they’re unafraid of making purposeful experimental choices. The band played two tracks with the ‘Shameful Choir’, a men’s choir, a decision they made only a few days prior. Get Your Gun had clarity and clout as they made their debut at Roskilde Festival.

Get Your Gun (Photo by Tom Spray)

Blaue Blume

Blaue Blume’s falsetto vocals and stripped vintage pop sound were in full force as the four piece took to the Rising Stage yesterday evening. After attention from DIY and NME earlier in June, the band seemed wholly at ease with the Roskilde performance. Melodious riff lines and low, steady or spangled guitar underlay the gig to allow light, whispering vocals to grow, harmonise and waver. Effortlessly, the audience got swept away in Blaue Blume’s sound, and prepared for the party night ahead.

Blaue Blume (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Article: Ice Cream Cathedral

in Blog by

About a month ago, I got on a bus to what felt like the middle of nowhere. I was taken about twenty minutes out of central Copenhagen to the industrial area, and then to the mysterious final stop, Refshaleøen Island, that looked a lot more like a set for an episode of The Killing than the venue location for the Eurovision Song Contest. After fifteen minutes of attempting to find the rehearsal space among the abandoned looking shacks, Anders, Ice Cream Cathedral‘s unexpectedly chatty drummer, let me in to a building with multiple soundproofed booths and a familiar weedy odour. The band are crammed into half a booth with notably messier neighbours, and a coffee stand and kettle in the corner. No pot in sight.

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This seems a pretty appropriate set up for the band. They’re focused, concise and at least appear to be pretty clean living. They’re also really, really nice. They sit forward as though they’re slightly nervous, but super eager to tell me all about their band and their new musical direction. Despite being one of Roskilde Rising’s most successful acts last year, and a recent US tour that involved playing SXSW, they are still tangibly humbled by the attention they receive, but they have a clear sense of self belief in their brand of airy dreampop.

Yesterday (12th May) saw the release of their second album, Sudden Anatomy, the follow up to 2013’s The Drowsy Kingdom. Arguably the biggest challenge in an artist’s career, the dreaded sophomore album can make or break you, label you as a one off, or mark you as a band that’s just warming up. But this Danish dreampop trio is young and ambitious, and are moving forward with their musical instincts. “I think we’re all really eager to explore and not stand still in a creative manner,” says Anders. “It really shines through on this new album because we’re experimenting a lot with the concept of Ice Cream Cathedral. The first album really went song by song. We were focused on the melody and a more accessible way of thinking. With the new album we wanted to keep that stuff melodically, but we wanted to do some more with textures and rhythmics. We were kind of experimenting with our own concept. When you do that, naturally you get some kind of reference to yourself. It’s a self referential album.”

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The more I talk to the band, the clearer it becomes that Sudden Anatomy is about reaction to the old form, and has a clear goal of development in mind. Anders is the first to answer when I ask about the beginnings of the new album. “The first album was written like a layer cake and recorded in the same way. It was recorded to a specific grid and template that was pre-determined electronically. The experience of transferring that rigid material made us want to transcend the feeling of the grid and play the songs more like a traditional rock band would do. That triggered the feeling of wanting to transfer back to the compositional phase. That was pretty interesting to experience; from the beginning of our gigs we said we didn’t want to play with pre-recorded stuff playing from a computer. We didn’t want a backtrack. We wanted to play live, even though we have a lot of electronics. Then from playing that way live we realised it was also fun to write that way, to have that much freedom. Even though from gig to gig things would fuck up.” Anja, the band’s vocal lead, adds: “We would’ve been quite doomed if we had used backtrack. It’s only because we didn’t that we had that possibility. It felt strange that the new way we wanted to write in was suddenly up against what we did on the old album. That was pretty hard to get around.”

Kristian, the guitarist/keys, tells me about the first ideas. “We knew that we wanted to do something different to The Drowsy Kingdom, but we didn’t exactly know what to do. We had a serious headache about what to do in the beginning. We just knew that we wanted to be more energetic. We recorded some really funny stuff in the beginning.” Anders chimes in “it really sucked,” to the nods and laughs of the others.

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And they haven’t just developed sonically either. Anja is keen to stress the changes to the lyrics that have taken place. “There’s definitely more storytelling on the new album. I’ve been experimenting more on this one; I’ve been reading about historical stuff and really concrete subjects. The last album was more abstract in a way; it had abstract universes… At the time that we started to write for the new album we were still at school in the conservatory, and I took a lot of classes in lyrics writing. I talked to a lot of poets and found inspiration for that kind of songwriting.” Anders says “The new lyrics are more in your face, whereas the old lyrics were more veiled. I don’t know if it’s more political than the old album… there’s definitely more social stuff there.” Anja nods. “Yeah you could say that. A social consciousness.”

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The new album has also seen the band’s first large scale music video release and on screen debut, for the seven minute long debut single, ‘The Swans’. Set on a spaceship, it takes the concept of “space pop” to a tongue-in-cheek level. “I think it’s very related to our old material, where we included a lot of space influences, and the visuals of the old material as well. But Carl [Marott, the Danish director of the video] really wanted to take the idea far out,” says Kristian. The video sees the band play on synthesisers and soundboards rather than a control panel. For Kristian, this made him feel at home: “You really felt in your element with the synthesisers and stuff. We had a whole day in the location with the pictures outside, and that was the main acting part. That was quite funny.”

Anders takes a more critical eye to his acting prospects. “The hardest part about acting for a camera is the facial expressions. For me, I really felt as a first timer in front of the camera that my facial expressions had to include some kind of apathy. You should look like you don’t care. If I had to show any feelings or emotions it would have sucked.” Anja is practical. “It was really cold inside the spaceship, which made the apathy thing really hard.”

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The band are all in agreement when I ask if dreampop has a naturally cinematic quality as a genre. As his bandmates nod, Anders says “it’s in the music. Dreampop tends to be dramatic in a way. If you listen to real dreampop bands like Beach House, it’s really all about the cinematic total music effect. It gets this scored, written down feeling. It has this organic feel like it’s a whole. In a lot of dreampop music, there isn’t one element standing out. It’s more like a sausage of sound.” That has got to be the best dream pop analogy I’ve heard. “I think our music is kind of a mixture; there’s a lot of things standing out sonically, but it has this cinematic feel to it because the vocal plays as big a role as the drums.”

I finish by asking the band whether the genre will be as timeless as rock and roll. The music students are quick to dissect the question to find the answer. Kristian starts. “Maybe it’s not actually a genre in itself. Maybe it is just rock music. I know what you mean, but I think the genre has developed into other things.” Anders turns the question. “It depends how you define timeless, and the definition of how music moves in time. That’s the beauty of music. It’s bounded by time, metrically and sound-wise, so I guess that if timeless is a metre of reference, as in, ‘will people still listen to Ice Cream Cathedral in twenty years’, then I would definitely say yes. Some people will. But if it’s asking whether there will be some kind of revolutionary vibe surrounding dreampop as there is around rockabilly, then I would say no, because it is in itself a hybrid of milestone genres like rock and pop, that have had their moments.”

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“I remember we said in another interview that the time of idols was over. I remember saying that I really missed Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson; social figures like that. But it’s not the time for that right now, because of the market and the way people regard music. It’s become a thing for every man, because of X Factor etc. It’s become ordinary, and that destroys the glow. That destroys everything that’s special about the people onstage. If I go to a show I don’t want to see someone like myself, or someone I can relate to. I want to see someone who I can look at and think comes from a different planet. That part of music is timeless. I hope some people see that in the stuff we do. I don’t want people to think ‘I can totally relate to the way the drummer moves’. I would really like for people to say ‘I really get inspired by the way he performs’, or the way Anja sings is like nothing else. When Kristian plays guitar it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before.’ Everything we play is bounded by time, and bounded by tradition. I guess the timelessness develops itself in the moment where you release yourself from the way society regards music today. I think the way society regards music today is destroying music. I really wish that some alien would land on the planet and do some fucked up stuff that people could understand, but not relate to.”

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It’s a slightly morbid note on which to end, but Anders makes a convincing argument, even when I ask whether Lady Gaga might be an alien (for the record, in Ice Cream Cathedral’s view at least, she’s not). In this small rehearsal space in industrial Copenhagen, I wonder about music and revolution, and whether the two go hand in hand, as this band so desperately hopes it does, even if now isn’t the best time to prove it. The band seem eager to spread something with their music, to inspire others as they’ve been inspired, and see a wealth of possibility with the power of their performance. They’re smart, driven and positive. Revolution doesn’t need to be taking to the streets or making your controversial lyrics hit the Top 40. Maybe it’s about something smaller; the desire to be inspiring. This band’s got it in heaps.

LIVE REVIEW: MØ, Store Vega, 11.04.14

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There are very few artists who could get me on the verge of tears of joy after their set. There are even fewer that I’d ask to pose for pictures with. MØ, AKA Karen Marie Ørsted, is one of them, and I have the #sorrynotsorry selfie to prove it. Ladies and gents, it’s time to grab your scrunchies and braid your hair, and bow down to the her royal highness, the Danish Princess of Pop. MØ unashamedly embraces the pop star persona, but does it on her own terms. She refuses to be manufactured, and thus becomes the perfect pop star; confident onstage presence, relentless dancing, a distinct but not unattainable image, brilliant back up band, and no dance routines or meat dresses, just the star quality that now seems so rare.

She enters the stage in a furry black 90s raver jacket. In a state of Mean Girls-esque awe I make a mental note to also get a black 90s raver jacket. ‘Fire Rides’ opens the show with spangling guitar and an electronic pulse that Ørsted takes as an instant opportunity to punch the space in front of her and leap and bound around the large stage, framed by a projected backdrop of looping greyscale lips opening and closing, a loop recognisable from Ørsted’s videos. She follows this by a rendition of ‘Maiden’, where she effortlessly dominates the stage, the audience, the ceiling, the balcony, the sound desk and the toilet, to create a fucking brilliant party. A party that only intensifies as ‘XXX 88’ is played.

She jumps into the audience for a remixed and sped up ‘Freedom (1)’, from Bikini Daze, where her disciples clamour around to listen. As she sings “freedom is like this, we can go anywhere” to the group around her, it’s like watching a revolutionary leader talking to her followers; her charisma is tangible. It also looks like MØ saw the party from above and couldn’t resist the temptation to join in. A few tracks later, she momentarily disappears from sight and reappears on the balcony to perform the pseudo-ballad ‘Never Wanna Know’ whilst making a walking tour of to upper tier. Taking her initial bow after ‘Walk This Way’ and ‘Glass’, Ørsted returns for an encore of her Spice Girls cover ‘Say You’ll Be There’ and ‘Don’t Wanna Dance’. “Nu skal vi have lidt Spice!”

As her body rocks from side to side in the slower moments, and her long plait reaches ridiculous heights on the faster ones, it is clear that I am watching the coolest performance thus far this year. Every member of her almost all-female audience wants to, in descending order of how awesome it would be, either a) be her b) be her BFF c) help her form a new girl group. But in a way, it’s like she already has one. Her proximity to her fans is unique. It’s easy to say how much you love your fans, or Little Monsters, or whatever, but MØ’s dedication to and love of them is incredibly believable, just as everything else about her is. There is no affectation, just pure, unadulterated stardom.

And yes, I am seriously fan girling. HRM MØ.

LIVE REVIEW: Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit, Lille Vega, 30.03.2014

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Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit are not particularly slick, but then again, I don’t think they intend to be. Johnny tunes up on arrival onstage and after almost every track; he plays the occasional dumb note, and his accordion playing ‘Sussex Wit’ sister Lillie loudly asks “Joe” to “turn down the cello”, rather than doing the pointing down routine usually favoured for communication onstage. This, along with the straw blonde hair of the frontman and the amount of enthusiastic arm and hip movement coming from the audience, all gives off something of the village hall/local pub/dress rehearsal feel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s neither professional nor dynamic. From the folk band’s opening with ‘The Ghost Of Donahue’, to the awkward encore finish of ‘Eyeless in Holloway’, am I remotely spell bound or in any way captivated by the performance? Nope. Does that matter? To me, yes, but to the hysterical middle aged women beside me (two of many) wailing in approval, absolutely not.

Of course, if you put all that aside, it’s rather a nice show. The folky tracks are feel good and Flynn’s voice is powerful. He proves his talent at multiple levels, not only as a singer, but as he swaps from electric guitar to a trumpet for a chorus riff on the blues infused ‘Howl’. In ‘Barnacled Warship’ he moves effortlessly between violin and vocals. Despite being only around two thirds full, the Lille Vega audience are loud and enthusiastic. The hand clapping is a near constant, giving the gig a cosy, positive vibe.

But after a while, it all gets rather tedious. Flynn’s tracks are repetitive, and there’s nothing that deviates from the typical folk pop formula. There is no experimentation or interesting solo, the melodies all sound the same, and after not too long, I’m seriously struggling to determine one song from the next. The copy cat nature makes them all turn into one long blur of vocals, drum and cello. It’s a 90 minute set with a three track encore, and I’m really starting to fidget after an hour. A spirit deficient gig might work at the pub, but for a group that’s been recording and performing music since 2007, the Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit show is seriously lacking in spark. It is, with the best intention, ‘nice’ (boring might be a bit harsh). But then who am I to judge? Looks like the howling female fans are two steps away from taking off their knickers.

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