Online music magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark

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Thomas Balslev Brandt

Thomas Balslev Brandt has 9 articles published.

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.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Goat, Store Vega, 19.09.2014

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Goat is a pretty unusual encounter of a band. They hide their identities behind decorated masks and fluttering tribe-dresses, they’ve created a unique musical platform as colorful as their costumes, and they’re named Goat! The Swedes caught the attention of listeners and critics on a large international scale with their debut World Music in 2012. Continuing their ritual the band is now touring with the sequel Commune.

On stage the band kickstarts the evening with the funky and familiar ‘Let it bleed’ from World Music. The song is stuffed with hooks and groovy rhythms which makes it impossible not to dance. Or maybe it’s the two shaman-lead-singers who cast dance-spells on the crowd with their magic maces. Anyway, I watch the crowd moving like boiling cauldron from the back of the room. The lead singers are constantly dancing – I can’t help wondering how many litres they’re actually sweating out during a night like this.

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The songs are streched into long transcending improvisations with myriads of hypnotising solos, all swept in wah and fuzz. And just like the dancing the rhythm never stops – the drummer and the percussionist bash their drums fast and untiringly throughout the concert. Some songs even merge with the next one with no pause in between. It is a trippy experience that opens the doors to what Jim Morrison named the other side – an invitation that is reverently accepted by a couple of rebellious guys who freely share a spliff.

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“Run To Your Mama” is the closest thing you’ll get to a real hit from the band’s repertoire, and it is a true crowd pleaser. But Goat isn’t done yet. The live version of ‘Det som aldrig förändras/Diarabi’ is so heavy and dictating that the crowd and their crazy dance movements immediately morphs into an army of nodding silhouettes. A perfect end to the ball.

The positive things to say about this band are plentiful, in short, go buy their albums and purchase some tickets – it’s highly recommended.

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LIVE REVIEW: Angel Olsen, Lille Vega, 17.09.2014

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After experiencing Angel Olsens last performance at Ideal Bar HT writer Amanda Farah forecasted that she wouldn’t be playing a small venue like that again. She was right. Tonight, Olsen is standing higher from the ground on the stage of Lille Vega. When looking at the solid mass of people huddling in front of the stage curtain, the stage-upgrade seems like a wise decision.

Already from the second track ‘Hi-five’ Olsen reveals her impressive voice – effortlessly sliding through her vocal register she instantly mutes every talking head in the crowd. The honesty is shattering when she sings, and though you could make a list of musical references, it’s unnecessary since she is very much her own. But not only while singing. The laughing and smiling between the songs is natural and shows a charming soul. Maybe it’s the drinks from the day before that made her so easy going, however she seems strangely unaffected by the fact that she’s actually playing a show. And the same thing goes for the drummer who sneaks up his phone from behind the drum kit to take a picture. “Josh! We’re doing a show, dude!” Olsen laughs.

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Bursting into another song from the newest album Burn Your Fire For No Witness, the performance of ‘Stars’ convinces me that the band is not only a bunch of soft ballad-ambassadors. The song is crafted with a great sense of songwriting and executed with sharp accuracy. And Olsens lyrics are equally sharp and precise in their brevity. Combined with her numb facial expressions the words gain further meaning when she sings “To scream the feeling until there’s nothing left”. A feeling that a couple of younger girls at stage edge seem to relate to – with their gazes fixed on Olsen the helplessly frustrated girl mind is reflected in their faces.

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But Angel Olsen’s fan base does not only consist of young girls with their hearts broken – I see plenty of older people as well as guys like myself, who have been mesmerised by the voice of the angel (or the positive critical acclaim – after all we are herd animals). With a distorted veil blurring the guitars, hit single ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’ shows the band from a raspy and dirty side. It’s a short and effective two-verse rock tune that reaches into a noisy climax, before the band leaves Olsen alone on stage to sing the last song.

The lights are turned on as a signal for us to leave, and I’m already standing in the door way as the band comes back on stage. A cover version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ certainly surprises me, but if someone ever is to deal with an old classic like that, Angel Olsen is definitely worthy.

LIVE REVIEW: Jonathan Wilson | Lille Vega, Copenhagen, 19.08.2014

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Normally when visiting Lille Vega you’d think of it as a decent venue, not particularly small despite the name. But this day as Jonathan Wilson and his band stand on stage it seems strangely small, I’m not sure if they’re unusually tall any of them, or if it’s just their musical greatness that generates this contraction of the surroundings.

One thing is for sure, they are great musicians (tall or not) and it feels almost unnecessary to notice because they know it! Starting off with the opening track from Wilson’s second album ‘Fanfare’, including a long dramatic intro, everyone is faced against the stage. The spartanic lights allow Wilson to remain strange and incognito in the shade of his Stetson, but when the first lines gently slip off his tongue he is naked as ever: “Uh let me love you, it’s all that I can do, I’d like to touch you, Uh I’m in love with you”. Somehow this lyrical pathos makes the audience stop breathing for a while though it’s just on the tip of being too banal.

Like his lyrics Wilson’s music is just really classic. And American. He has not been afraid to step into a musical folk-country-blues- rock tradition alongside immortalised fellas like Dylan and Young whom to many are the only true rulers of the sacred American rock lands. But the gentle spirit (!) of Wilson adds new blood to these old fields and a sold out show in Copenhagen is a proof that spiritual and classic rock songs still have cultural relevance. For sure the bass player has not given up on the old days looking as if he just wandered out of Woodstock ’69 – the long hair on top of a tie dye t-shirt together with an electric bass really completed the look.

There’s not done a lot of talking between the songs, mostly guitar changing and tuning to get the sound right, which for the band has great importance – you can see they are perfectionists. The bringing of an monstrous lesley for the Hammond B3 tells the same story. And the sound is impeccable, every detail reaches the eardrums from the stroked cymbals to the twelve stringed guitar. However, the sound has to be perfect for a guitar virtuous like Jonathan Wilson who during every song reveals his magnificent guitar playing in long solos. The organ player shows off some pretty remarkable skills on the brown B3, and it’s not only a language for connoisseurs that’s spoken from the old wooden box, you can tell by the overwhelming applauses at the end of each solo. Especially ‘Angel’ comes off beautiful in an extended version spiced up with various crescendo solos.

Time flies by when you’re entertained and the set’s two hours duration doesn’t strike me as a long time at any point. The slow and riff based ‘Valley of the silver moon’ closes the evening as a manifestation of Jonathan Wilson and his band’s superiority. I am standing close to the stage, yes, but the final applause is the loudest I’ve heard at Lille Vega so far.

LIVE REVIEW: Mac DeMarco | Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, 18.08.2014

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”It’s impossible. People love him. It’s been sold out for months”. A friend texted me right before the show because he wouldn’t be able to make it. And he was completely right – people love Mac DeMarco. It couldn’t be said more accurate. The courtyard of Pumpehuset is filled with people an hour before the show and as Schultz & Forever take the stage a loyal crowd congregate to listen to a small set of songs before the main act.

Schultz and Forever (Photo by Tom Spray)

Schultz & Forever’s psychedelic pop tunes soothes the listener into a cool and dreamy universe where twangy guitar melodies and playful porno-synth intricate the characteristic voice of lead singer Jonathan Schultz. The five guys have their guitars hanging tight under their chins, but they play with a loose attitude without losing the grasp of performing well. An ideal choice of support.

Mac DeMarco (Photo by Tom Spray)
The entrance of Mac DeMarco and his bandmates suggests that we’re going to have a party – with armfuls of beer and the cap turned backwards on top of a grin DeMarco proclaims that this is a rock n roll show. Opening with a couple of newer songs and instantly kicking off a vibrating vibe in the crowd his words suddenly gain meaning (despite the actual musical gap between DeMarco and rock n roll in a generic sense). The joy of playing music is evident when looking at the band dancing around onstage while bursting out abrupt screams of joy.

Mac DeMarco (Photo by Tom Spray)

There is something very infantile about Mac DeMarco, both his music and his being – he maintains an unspoiled and somehow naive approach to being a musician, though his career is a professional one by now. However, it seems like it’s his kind of artistic credo to just have fun and so far it’s been enough for everyone.
The setlist consists both older songs and songs from the newest release Salad days. His tracks live are very similar to the record but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you just want to hear good songs played well. One of the older ones ‘Ode to Viceroy’ comes of as this night’s favorite with a reverb surf-guitar phrasing around the mantra of Viceroy cigarettes. But DeMarco is not an inresponsible young kid who glorifies the choice of smoking, he enlightens us about its sad consequenses just before lighting up a smoke. (No remarks!)

Mac DeMarco (Photo by Tom Spray)
Demarco’s show’s are known for being unpredictable and free spirited, so when a young guy is invited on stage to crowdsurf it doesn’t surprise me, neither does it when DeMarco does the same thing all the way to the bar and back again. But that he managed to bring a full pint to the stage while crowdsurfing is just magnificent.

As the audience yells for an encore and the band rejoins us undressed with sweaty torsos I don’t know exactly what to expect for an encore, but Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ surely wasn’t on my list. The band’s weird version of Bob Marley’s ‘Jammin” earlier in the show is nothing in comparison to these last fifteen minutes – guitarsolos en masse and Hetfield “yarling” coalesced in a noisy inferno. It is true what they say about Demarco’s shows; they are controversial and everything but conformal. I don’t know what more you could ask of rock concert on a Monday night, if anything maybe a little less guitar solos at the end!

Mac DeMarco (Photo by Tom Spray)

LIVE REVIEW: The War On Drugs, Store Vega, 21.05.2014

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Before arriving at Store Vega it’s like the show has already begun. As the sun shines from a clear blue sky, the heat puts you in a snug and dazy mood – the same that vibrates in the universe of The War On Drugs. The tunes on their newest release Lost In The Dream seems to be the perfect soundtrack to the sunny season that is approaching. Being relocated from the smaller stage at Lille Vega to its big brother Store Vega, is a proof that a lot of the Copenhageners feel the same way.

The lights are dimmed as the six piece band walk onstage to the simple rhythms from a drum machine. The band falls into the groove and opens the night with ‘An Ocean Between The Waves’ from the new album. When the song ends its difficult to raise my hands for applause; the room is simply packed to the rafters. The first part of the show consists mostly of songs from the new album with a clear and loud vocal at the forefront. Lead singer Adam Granduciel is known for his way of slipping out of tune from time to time (in a charming way), his performance this night is flawless. And so is the guitar playing – numerous of guitar solos appears here and there through out the concert and at times it is so epic that even the guitar heroes from the 80’s would fall behind.

The band seems to enjoy their spot on the big stage and the energy is evident, especially while performing hit single ‘Red Lights’, colouring the entire stage in a sharp red veil in the process. As a part of a daily ritual Granduciel brings his polaroid camera on stage and takes a photo to immortalise the evening. Although that turned out being a useless act as Granduciel shows the audience the pictures – theres nothing but blurred lines! This little break isn’t the only respite during the concert – guitar tuning and amp adjusting takes up quite some time which at a point makes Granduciel so frustrated that a firm kick sends his amp to the ground. “I’m sorry for my little..eh.. everything’s alright now” he says after finishing the melancholic and slow ‘Suffering’.

The set is a long one, around two hours, which is plenty of time for the band to play a bunch of songs from the previous album Slave Ambient. Particularly ‘Your Love Is Calling My Name’ works strikingly well. The backing band deserves some credit for a tight and well played performance, of which the saxophone player is worth mentioning as the creater of a beautiful soundboard in many songs. But it is not up for discussion that Adam Granduciel is the main figure in The War On Drugs. When the band finishes the last encore and makes a sincere “Thank you!” the room is filled with a warm ambience (partly caused by the high temperature) and I feel a special appetite for taking over the summer with The War On Drugs as my soundtrack.

LIVE REVIEW: Cults, Lille Vega, 04.04.2014

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Cults almost run onstage, and grab their instruments, as if competing with time itself. Four screens alight in the background, leaving the band members in a wash of blue light, revealing only their silhouettes. Then as lead singer Madeline Follin starts singing, a blood red spot light lights up her face.

It’s a shame that the sound isn’t equivalent to this visual efflorescence; the vocal is simply too low and the drums and bass are too loud. Follin is drowning in pounding drums and thick bass notes – it feels like removing the driver from a Formula One car: the engine produces maximum power but it’s heading nowhere. And since Follin very much is the core of the band, then her presence is a necessity if the songs are to work. It’s obvious.

Fortunately the sound picks up during the concert and the performance of ‘I Can Hardly Make You Mine’ turns out being a greater pleasure live than on tape. The simple 4/4 beat generates dancing feet all over the floor, and especially a couple of guys in front of me seems to be more than satisfied, as they empty their beers in an ecstatic hands-over-head-dance.

Encouraged Follin says ”Now we’re gonna play a slow song”, but the slow verse is only a prelude for the majestic chorus of the retro-idyllic ‘You Know What I Mean’. Follin bursts into the chorus while moving like an exotic belly dancer. The visuals contribute to this ambience, casting a colourful veil over the entire stage. But the feeling of warmer climes doesn’t last long nor does the nostalgic vintage feel in the music. Tracks like ‘Keep Your Head Up’ are more of a rave-party experience than of an indie-pop concert, which the band however seems to enjoy, as opposed to myself standing in front of the stage. The intended fusion between musical cultures seems strange and misplaced. Cults has a sharp style, with charming references to the girl-group pop from the 1960’s, so why not just stick with that and forget about the rave?

After a short set of 40 minutes the band walks off stage without having played the hit that made a ton of critics excited: ‘Go Outside’. So it’s no surprise when they come back for the three encores. Even though ‘Go Outside’ catch the attention of everyone, it’s a punctured version of the happy sunshine-tune that fills the room. Follin looks as if she’s been singing that tune too many times and the former glow has faded from her face. The other half of the original duo, Brian Oblivion, is still in good spirits though, and he encourages the audience to dance and have a good time for the final track. Yet the general vibe throughout show is manifested by the silent Follin who, when the last note fades out, silently slides off the stage.

LIVE REVIEW: Sun Kil Moon, Lille Vega, 01.04.14

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It must be a satisfying feeling to be Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek, walking on stage and being welcomed by a sold out Lille Vega. Sun Kil Moon has been visiting Denmark regularly during the last couple of years, but his audience is as loyal as ever. The queue in front of the venue snakes its way far down the streets of Vesterbro as the time draws near nine o’clock.

Inside, Mark Kozelek opens the evening accompanied by his drummer, Eric Pollard, with one of his more classical tunes. The sound is so crisp that every tiny movement on the nylon strings cuts directly through the air towards my eardrums. The rest of Kozelek’s band mates joined the duo for the second track, ‘Carissa’ – the mournful but beautiful opener from the band’s latest album, Benji. You wouldn’t think that an album like Benji, with its lyrics about the lives and deaths of Kozelak’s family and friends, would make a hundred people smile and move their hips. But Kozelek is not as grave as you might expect from listening to his music; he’s  funny and takes advantage of every break to tell jokes, mostly about sex and getting older. Maybe it’s the date, the 1st of April, that put him in this mood.

”This is a song about the two things I love the most: sex and oral sex.” The introduction for ‘Dogs’ spreads a laugh and the song itself is definitely one of the highlights of the evening. There are a handful of songs in this genre, including ‘Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes’, with a deep bass and a  groove that stand out and work as a nice parallel to the quieter songs.

Even though Kozelak is self-deprecating about his getting older, his voice doesn’t show any signs of rust or ageing. His singing is dynamic, and at times you might mistake him for a young chorister rather than a middle-aged indie rock musician. Eric Pollard’s backing vocals  lift the arrangements and create sequences of pure and divine singing. The backing band do a good job, but there’s no doubt that Kozelek is the main attraction.

The first part of the show consists mainly newer songs, and is more energetic than the last part, but Kozelek adds new energy at the end as he stands up from his chair. ”I’ve been sitting down too much today” he says, while raising his rigid body with a deeply felt, but also possibly ironic, sigh. After more than two hours the band leaves the stage, but they still manage to meet the loud applause and perform a couple more songs for an encore. Impressively, they aren’t sucked dry of energy, and I don’t think they will be in the near future either.

LIVE REVIEW: Get Your Gun, Loppen, Copenhagen, 13.02.2014

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The room is well attended this Thursday evening at Loppen. People might have been tempted to show up due to Get Your Gun‘s recent single release ‘Black Book’ – a very promising pre-taste for their debut album The Worrying Kind, which is to be released this spring. The trio silently grab their instruments without a glance at the audience and the guitar riff for ‘Black Book’ starts chopping through the speakers.

With a long black trench coat, shadowing hat and a huge beard lead singer and guitarist Andreas Westmark, looks as if he just wandered in from the wilderness. The howling sounds of bass and guitar surrounds Westmark as he walks forth and back on the stage, while staring down on the audience. There is a certain anger in the expression that creates tension and suspense from the very beginning. In a quiet passage he walks into the audience and sings directly into peoples faces without a microphone. A strong an brave move that almost intimidates the bystanders.

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But Get Your Gun is not only an energetic live act – they’re masters of dynamic which is proven in ‘The Sea of Sorrow’: A tuneful track with polyphonic vocals that reminds me of ancient monk ensembles in vast cathedrals. The slow pulse sucks in the listener while bassist Søren Bøgeskov firmly dictates you through the track. The drums and the bass are at the heart of the band’s simple expression – it works as a strong backbone that allows Andreas Westmark to move and play like a man possessed without losing track.

Only ”thank you” is said between the songs until an humble announcement of the band’s visit on this year’s Roskilde Festival sends a victorious applause through the venue. An old favourite in the band’s repertoire ‘Death Rattle’ is proclaimed as the last track of the evening and the stoner inspired riffs and heavy beat force both bass and guitar players down on their knees as they begin to abuse their pedals.

The encore ‘Rage’ from the coming album was a superior statement that sets the expectations for the full length debut on high.

Shrouded in stroboscopes Get Your Gun silently walk off the stage.

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