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Roskilde Festival 2017: Day 3, 30.06.2016

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Lorde live at Roskilde Festival 2017

Mud, mud, glorious mud. Nothing quite like it for sorting out the foolish from the prepared. Tramping around the festival site has become something of an adventure for the properly shod, and a nightmare for anyone in trainers.

Because some of us have grown up with the Foo Fighters forever in our sphere, and never make a great effort to change the station if one of their songs comes on the radio, we thought they should at least be worthy of half an hour of our time. Much of this half hour seemed to be devoted to Dave Grohl just shouting, introducing his band, and recalling the time he played Roskilde with Nirvana on the day that Denmark won the Euro Cup (though he didn’t mention Nirvana by name). They did play a couple of songs as well, but as their particular songwriting formula doesn’t allow for a whole lot of variation, we couldn’t tell you exactly which ones.

This hasn’t been a festival of many obvious clashes for us. One of the few was choosing between Lorde and the Avalanches. Lorde was clearly the hot act of the night — she probably should have been given an Orange stage slot. The crowd packed under the Arena tent, spilled several rows beyond that, and across the paved path with people finding slightly elevated spots near the urinals that gave them a decent vantage point. That’s the appeal of Lorde: People are willing to stand near piss troughs to see her.

Before she strode onto Arena stage, the audience was teased and tantalised with the opening bars of Kate Bush’s “Running up That Hill” – heralding a set built on the presence of an enigmatic performer (and unique, quirky dance moves). With a show bookended by her beloved hit “Tennis Court” and culminating in the pulsating, raw single “Green Light,” each song was met with roaring enthusiasm and energy from the crowd.

While some of the tracks lacked punch in the live setting – Lorde’s trademark mezzo soprano occasionally disappeared a little under the instrumentals and backing vocals – her presence filled the room so powerfully she had need for little else beyond her minimalist, pared-down set. In contrast to her lyrics, which often make jibes about fame and pretension, Lorde’s onstage banter felt carefully crafted to seduce the audience.  “Did you know I’m a witch?” she coos playfully. “I made the rain stop.”

She didn’t really. But a spell was certainly cast over Roskilde Festival Friday night.

Some of us only stayed for four or five songs, simply because we expect Lorde to be around for a while, but there’s no guarantee that the Avalanches won’t disappear again for another 15 years. The Australian duo first came into prominence with their debut Since I Left You, a technicolor riot of samples that meshed hiphop with lush orchestrations. This time round, with Wildflower, the Avalanches have turned up the swagger.

Tonight they have Spank Rock rapping for them, as if they needed more solid credentials, and Eliza Wolfgramm, who provides most of the sung vocals, has a pliable, soulful voice that is exactly what you want delivering “Since I Left You.” The fact that she does so while wielding a baseball bat makes it all the better.

It takes a lot of chutzpah to base a sizable portion of a set on samples from the Beach Boys and the Who, but the Avalanches have the skill and the conviction to fully pull it off. Behind them are projected clips of everything from the Big Lebowski to Jean Reno in Luc Besson’s wonderfully oddball 1985 Subway, as if to confirm that that the Avalanches have truly mastered the art of crowdpleasing. At their best, they can levitate you out of the mud.

 

Roskilde Festival 2017: Day 2, 29.06.2016

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Solange live Roskilde Festival 2017

It’s still early in the festival, but having a gentle way of easing into the day is still welcome. Julia Jacklin kicks things off at noon, and there’s a surprisingly large crowd assembled for her that early in the day. The Australian artist’s take on Americana is soothing and lilting, equal parts naive and clear. Her countrified warmth and twangy vocal would make her an ideal opener for Angel Olsen. And if nothing else, she made worked the weird strain out of the Strokes’ “Someday” and turned it into a sweet, wistful song.

Prompted by the large red circle backdrop, people are asking if Solange is from Japan, which means that they don’t know the one detail about Solange that I thought was a given (she’s Beyoncé’s sister, FYI). Solange’s set ranges from soulful R&B to Whitney Houston-style pop songs, and it’s choreographed from beginning to end in a subtle Hal Hartley kind of way. Even the backing band are in on it. The moment when she lets go of the choreography is during “F.U.B.U.,” when she walks into the pit and sings directly to an audience member. The woman hugs Solange and bursts into tears. It’s a really beautiful moment that melted at least one icy heart.

At the Orange stage, The XX inaugurate the first first salvo in the bout of downpours promised for the next two days. Despite the weather, and being mostly known for their rather mopey, minimal take on RnB, and the trio manage an upbeat set replete with earnest crowd-work and popstar shapes from bassist Oliver Sims. Jamie xx lurks in the background doing what a friend informs me is some top-notch mixing, although I can’t say I’m a fan of any of his drum samples. Any interest and warmth comes from the chumminess of Oliver and Romy, and from the familiarity of the tunes. They might all sound the same but a field during a downpour is not a place for subtlety. The trademark vulnerability embedded in XX lyrics – spinning collective tales of falling shyly in love and feeling cripplingly insecure about it – was enhanced by the onstage confession from Romy Madley that she was dumped at Roskilde Festival at age 16: “But everything happens for a reason, right? And now I’m here with you, and you are way more fun than she was.” Judging by the cheers and the veritable sea of dancing, it seems the feeling was mutual.

Julia Jacklin live Roskilde Festival 2017

It’s the focus on ambient sounds that threatens to derail Nicholas Jaar’s set at the Apollo stage. A beatless ten minutes of baritone saxophone and feedback is not most people’s idea of prime festival fodder. Scheduled for the late-night 12:30 slot on a rainy evening at the festival’s furthest (and uncovered) stage, the performance from Chilean-American producer was expected to be a “drop-in” affair. However the throngs who stayed were generously rewarded with a slow build that escalated into a dense, satisfying performance that lingered for hours afterward.

The rain has stopped, but it has also stopped people from queuing. It’s only as Nas takes the stage that people start to pack in. It’s 1:30am and chilly and Nas does not seem to give a shit about any of that; he’s here to do this thing. From the word go, he’s zipping around the stage, giving lessons on old school hip-hop, and declaring that Beethoven is hip-hop. I’m surrounded by white boys trying to mimic the way he waves his arm to the beat while I dance the way aging indie rock kids dance (i.e. bobbing my head as a full-body movement). Our photographer, Morten, commented that he worried watching Nas would make him want to do pushups, as Illmatic is one of his go-to workout albums. I get it. I wonder why I never thought of that before.

I walk away from his set around the time he started leading the crowd in a tribute chant to the recently departed Prodigy. Somewhere around the foodcourt the bass from Nas gives way to a fuzziness and dead thump of kick drum.

The last time the Jesus and Mary Chain took to the Roskilde stage was 19 years ago, and the Scottish shoegaze legends proved that they could deliver tracks from their genre-defining album Psychocandy with the same lush charm as when they were first recorded 30 years ago. Guitarist William Reid ensured the show – which traversed a fair stretch of JAMC’s decade-spanning repertoire rather than tossing in a few classics among their comeback content was, quite literally, painfully loud.  This reviewer had to retreat beyond Roskilde’s Arena tent for the sake of her eardrums – a roaring sound that felt somehow amplified by the fact that the band members themselves were obscured by heavy-duty smoke effects for the majority of the show. Perhaps, one cynically wonders, to obscure the passage of time.

But unlike many of the anniversary tours restoring the 80s and 90s britpop heyday to festival stages since the 2010s, Jesus and Mary Chain have nothing to hide –  the indie rockers owned their past glories and proved the old hits still endure.

Words by Charlie Cassarino, Lena Rutkowski, and Amanda Farah
Solange photo by  Betina Garcia
Julia Jacklin photo by Morten Aargaard Krogh

Roskilde Festival 2017: Day 1, 28.06.2017

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Warpaint live at Roskilde Festival 2017

The first day of Roskilde Festival is always a bit strange. Assuming your festival experience begins with the music and not the week before, it’s a lot of getting settled. Getting wristbands, finding a camping spot, the various food stalls are finding their rhythm.

The train out is crowded, no surprise there. A group of four girls who looks to be about twenty take the two free spaces in my cluster of four with two standing next to them rather than find free seats away from their friends. I find this unwillingness to split up strange given they are going to spend four days in close quarters and massive amounts of predicted mud. Based on the number of sugary alcoholic drinks they consume on the half-hour train ride, I also assume they’ll come to tearful blows at some point as well.

I’ve given myself an hour and 45 minutes from when I arrive at Roskilde Station to collect my wristband, drop off my bag, and get to the first band I want to see, Warpaint. Apparently I am bad at math. I queue for an hour to get my wristband, not something I’ve had to do in previous years, but maybe my timing was better then. A man who has been left to watch all of his friends’ camping gear shouts, “You’ve stolen my life!” if you want an idea of the mood.

Certain precautions seen elsewhere in Europe have been taken in Roskilde as well, again not surprising. You would hope that a festival attended by 75,000 people would worry about security, but Danes think of themselves as immune to these things and it makes people chatter. I just notice that more entry points are closed off and I’ve got to walk a longer way around to get where I need to be. I don’t have time to check in my bag, which holds my raincoat (to safeguard against the impending meteorological apocalypse) and my laptop. Instead I queue again to get onto the festival grounds so I can rush to see Warpaint.

But first I need to be patted down, my bag needs to be searched, both ineffectively since I’ve had New York security at gigs look more carefully for bottled water for decades at this point. Security seems more affronted by how much I have in my bag rather than what’s in it.

“You should travel lighter, it would be easier,” the man checking my bag informs me, and I know the look I give him is not a kind one.

It’s a small miracle that I only miss the first five minutes of Warpaint’s set. More than anything I want to see Stella Mozgawa, the drummer who’s played on a bunch of records I’ve loved in the last few years. There’s a surety to her movements that is both reassuring and slightly threatening, like she could either pull the world together and split it apart depending on her mood on a given day.

Kevin Morby live at Roskilde Festival 2017
Photos by Morten Aagaard Korgh

Warpaint as a whole are great. They’re high energy and really trying to work the crowd. I’d always thought of their music as leaning more towards goth — not in a Peter Murphy sense, but with dense guitars and vocal harmonies that are both sweet and a little sinister. I’m a little surprised when they sell themselves as a danceable band, but I buy it. The programming, the beats, it all works, and though I’m not sure into the early on-set hedonism physically hitting me from ever angle, I am into this energy.

I wonder if part of this early sense of abandon has to do with the constant whispers of “enjoy it while you can.” It’s supposed to rain. All anyone will talk about is how it’s going to rain. I’ve received text messages from family back home who have read articles — presumably in English — about how it’s going to rain and we’ll all be washed away. Not yet though. Now the weather is chilly, windy, and dust is blowing over shoes and into eyes.

There is a large crowd at Pavilion for Kevin Morby, unsurprising since he sold out his show at Jazzhouse last year. The setting is wildly different, as are the acoustics, but he definitely rises to the occasion. His set, mostly taken from his new album, City Music, is noisier than his recordings.

Probably most noteworthy is that he lets his guitarist, Meg Duffy, steal his thunder. Think George Harrison on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” — that’s tough to compete with in your own backing band. The crowd is happy; they are clapping along to all different songs, dancing when dancing doesn’t really seem appropriate. Someone is blowing bubbles and it’s weirdly endearing. The band seem happy too and. despite the cold fog blowing off the stage, the atmosphere is very warm.

The mass of people walking away from the stage provide human barriers to all of the dust blowing around, but there’s still no escaping it. It gets in your mouth without you realizing it and dries you out despite the cool weather. But we’ve escaped the first day without mud.

LIVE REVIEW: Spoon, Amager Bio, 24.09.2017

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Spoon live at Amager Bio Copenhagen

It seems remarkable that in a 20+ year career Spoon has somehow never played in Copenhagen before, but they swore that their show at Amager Bio was their first here. It’s a shame that it’s a crowd thinned by he early-to-Roskilde set, but there is dedication in the audience — though it’s the band’s first time here, many have seen them before, and some have traveled a good distance to be at this show.

Indie rock as a genre has often supported a lack of professionalism as staying true to one’s roots. Spoon have somehow never seemed conflicted about moral integrity and turning out quality work. They have regularly turned out solid albums (for independent labels Merge and Matador), toured on solid if not flashy performances. It makes trying to pinpoint the exact appeal of Spoon is an interesting exercise.

Spoon live at Amager Bio Copenhagen

They have energy, but it’s not over-the-top; during an instrumental interlude, most of the band leaves the stage while a keyboardist plays a Low-inspired piece and frontman Britt Daniel lies prostrate on the drum riser. They have presence, but they shroud themselves in lowlight. They have charm, but they aren’t especially chatty (though they were apparently quite taken with Tivoli).

Spoon live at Amager Bio Copenhagen

They are a well-rehearsed band, which has a potential to stifle spontaneity but works wonderfully to their advantage as they are able to seamlessly work in an extended intro to “I Turn My Camera On” when the second guitar shorts out. But there’s something to be said for a band that has been around for 20 years who are as interested in what they’re doing now as what they were doing five, 10, or 15 years ago. Roughly half the set comes from their two most recent albums, Hot Thoughts and 2014’s They Want My Soul. Of course we want to hear the songs that were licensed into oblivion, but we want to hear them as living things that fit in with the new and not as relics of the past.

It’s one of the reasons why Spoon still feel current, why they don’t read as a ‘90s or ‘00s band. And that they’re low-key, unassuming, work horses instead of show ponies, is an angle that use to their advantage.

LIVE REVIEW: Mitski, Ideal Bar, 15.06.17

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Mitski live at Ideal Bar Copenhagen

It’s a little surprising that, after the breakaway success of her fourth album last year, Mistki should still be confined to Vega’s Ideal Bar. But as we discovered when we caught up with her at Loppen last September, Mitski thrives in an intimate environment. It might be a little facile recycle that phrase to refer to her music as well, but it’s true, Mitski Miyawaki’s work is based on being close-up and unadorned.

Fragility is sacrificed for the same of directness in this live setting. Every hit of the drum is an unashamed whack that jolts the audience, every new guitar riff piles more effects into the mix, and the bass amp is rattling madly. Mitski herself looks impassively into the audience throughout this, which for the most part adds to the emotional weight of her lyrics by refraining from really piling it on.

Besides, there are enough people in the front row, hands on hearts, singing along to songs “Francis Forever” and “Your Best American Girl”. There is an undeniable emo element to all this but it has none of the whininess or self-loathing, and there is an undercurrent of humour everywhere in her work. Album-opener “Happy” is a particularly good example of this, a very plain but vivid story that wickedly winks to the audience with it’s punning “I felt Happy / come inside of me.”

Towards the end of a set that seems to speed up to breakneck speed towards the end, the songs compressing more and more, there is a definite tension in the room. Your bog-standard shouty twat manages to tick off the entire audience with his inanities, and although Mitski manages to deflect this, there is a tinge of revenge in the level of distortion she piles on for her final trio of solo songs.

LIVE REVIEW: The Kills, Store Vega, 09.06.2017

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The Kills live at Vega in Copenhagen

There was a time when being the cool kids from East London would have gotten a band some mileage, but that time was at least a decade ago. Thank goodness that the Kills, as they continue to soldier on, have long since given up on that schtick.

If anything, the energy of the pair is the standout of their show at Store Vega. They manage to take up a lot of space as only two people, and Alison Mosshart in particular doesn’t stop moving for a hot minute. She’s forever throwing her body around and flinging her hair in a way that would have put the entire grunge era to shame. In between songs, she paces around in circles like a caged animal as though she needs to keep herself moving so she can physically launch her body into the next one.

The Kills live at Vega in Copenhagen

Jamie Hince seems content to let her be the visual focus and spends the set is a continuation of guitar licks and swapped instruments. There are a few occasions where a song could have ended earlier, without Hince’s extended riffing after the rest of the band cut out, but these bleeds help prevent the dead air that would have ensued with their otherwise non-existent chatter.

The focus of the evening is on tracks from their latest album, last year’s Ash & Ice, and the enthusiasm for the new songs is as real as for the older tunes (even if pre-recorded strings for “Siberian Nights” just don’t have the same impact live). Though the album has it’s mellower moments, the live set was picked to be straight high energy. “Echo Home,” one of the more subdued new songs, ends up being much more energetic live thanks to a more pronounced backbeat provided by the backing band.

It’s this relentless energy, and the pleasure the band seems to take in their own music, that makes the evening so unexpectedly fun. It’s nice to see Hince and Mosshart crack smiles, and to see moments of genuine affection between the two of them. It’s a glimpse into the future for jaded indie rock kids everywhere: Careful or you may start enjoying yourselves.

LIVE REVIEW: Gnod, Loppen, 01.06.17

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Gnod live at Loppen Copenhagen

The evening begins with three of us buying t-shirts. Normally you’d wait till the end of the night to buy one, maybe as a sign of appreciation in the afterglow of a gig. But expectations are high and Gnod’s t-shirts just happen to be particularly good. Mine features a morose black and white portrait and urges “Trepanation for the National Health”, whereas my companions opt for the more timely “JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIAL DEATH MACHINE”. Perfect for their visit to Scotland in an election week.

It might not be the most pithy album title, but JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIAL DEATH MACHINE (I’m just copy-pasting it now to piss you off) truly delivers the brutality and urgency it promises. With this release Gnod have downplayed their more psychedelic and meandering side in favour of bloody-minded noise.

Things start noisily enough with opener Mai Mai Mai, whose violent take on ambient electronics recalls a Dario Argento-influenced Vatican Shadow. Gnod on the other hand have no time for atmospherics. With two bassists and a particularly heroic drummer providing the real power behind the punch, the Mancunian collective tear through their new material with no pause and no respite. Album opener “Bodies for Money” has even the most subdued in the audience on the edge of mutiny, with its jurassic riff of descending chords.

Even in their new bare-boned incarnation, Gnod still manage to evoke their more psychedelic and cosmic influences, arriving there through sheer repetition. In the final minutes of closer “Stick in the Wheel”, one guitarist becomes so involved in the beat that he abandons his instrument and just starts jumping up and down on stage. You could probably find something symbolic in that, but the only take you really need to leave with is that Gnod are so good live that they end up mesmerising themselves.

LIVE REVIEW: Jesca Hoop, Vega, 17.05.17

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Jesca Hoop live at Ideal Bar Copenhagen

There is a sense of guilt in going to see an artist you’ve never heard before, a sense of not having done your homework. This is amplified all the more in Jesca Hoop’s case, partly because her latest record, Memories Are Now, is in fact her fifth in a decade. And also, of course, because she turns out to be a wonderful stage presence. The new album may be regarded as her most accomplished yet, but the true character of her skeletal folk songs only really comes through in a live setting.

Her music taps into the same playful, absurdist take on folk typified by artists like Joanna Newsom and Coco Rosie, including typewriter-based rhythms on “Animal Kingdom Chaotic”, as well as buzzing synths and field recordings of birdsong. As an American transplant in Manchester, Hoop is at her most interesting when the various filters of her experience and music are at their most obvious. More earnest and traditionalist folk performers are unlikely to want to mention computers or astronomy, and they are all the poorer for it.

I spend much of the set wondering at her guitar-playing style, which is as assured as it is idiosyncratic. Hoop uses a rather odd finger-picking technique that involves the fingers being almost completely extended at all times, pointing towards the headstock. The strings, which are plucked by thumb and ring finger almost exclusively, are permanently muted by the palm, completely transforming the sound of the instrument.

At the end of the set, Hoop returns to the stage alone for the encore. As if to prove that I have been focusing entirely on the wrong things, she sings her last song a cappella, giving her some real Anne Briggs-style cred.

LIVE REVIEW: SPOT Festival, Rock the Region, 05.05.2017

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This year’s SPOT Festival in Aarhus showcased an interesting variety of artists and speakers that brought together music lovers from all walks of life. Bands, artists, DJs from various parts of Scandinavia performed all around Aarhus’s downtown in an environment of willful friendships and music appreciation all around.

Godsbanen was where the underrated Rock the Region took place. This showcase of bands from around Denmark was the perfect experience for rock-lovers. Facaden from Silkeborg; Ryan from Holstebro; King Kross from Horsens; We Need Lilo from Herning; Rasmus Trinderup from Skive and You Work For Me Now from Aarhus; all gave a stellar performance and provided the audience with a great mix of indie pop and rock, Nordic folk and hip-hop with rock which was the best way to experience the variety that local music has to offer.

The show started with Facaden and their rock/hip-hop mash up seemed to get the crowd ruffled up as they raised their arms and sang along. It was electrifying to see the fans connect with the vocalist, almost as though they were all part of the band. Facaden’s energy was highly addictive and set the tone for the rest of the concert.

Up next was Ryan, a rather mellow, indie-rock, follow-up to Facaden but intriguing nonetheless. At one point, I felt still — almost in awe — as they played their song ‘I Am Done’. It was a very moving performance with impeccable harmonies that leave you feeling like the band’s music is perpetually tugging at your heart strings.

King Kross hit the stage after Ryan. Their sound can be vaguely described as droning electronic keys and prominent drum beats meshing into deep vocals and guitars, reminiscent of an 80s post-punk sound. It was almost entrancing, making you want to close your eyes and sway.

We Need Lilo’s performance was mind-blowing. The booming drums and catchy electric guitars complimented their frontwoman’s grungy vocals really well made me feel the music on a physical level. It was exciting to the see the band’s brilliant chemistry on stage. It was difficult not to genuinely feel happy about this band’s existence, and surprising almost, to see just a room full of people in the audience. I can understand why the band is called We Need Lilo, because it leaves you saying I need more.

Up next was Rasmus Trinderup, a saccharine break from the previous heavy rocking. Rasmus’ performance was adorable, to say the least. The musician was all smiles on stage and his fans were rooting for him throughout the performance. The catchy ‘ooh-oohs’ stay with you, but a little strange to have him in the middle of this Rock The Region line-up as his sound had a bit of a pop vibe going. That being said, Rasmus kept the crowd captivated and moving along to his tunes.

The last band for the night was You Work For Me Now. It’s interesting how musicians’ can impact concert-goers. It was in fact reading this band’s name on a poster that motivated me to attend this show. Their song, ‘The One That Got Away’ was like a healing force for the broken hearted. There was something very naturally emotive about the way the lead singer conveyed the songs. One would feel drawn towards him as he sang. It was as though they took you by the hand and pull you into their world. One would think this band deserves an outdoor stage with a larger audience rocking out to their sound. Maybe next time?

LIVE REVIEW: Wolves in the Throne Room, Loppen, 27.04.17

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Photos: Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

Wolves in the Throne Room are known for their singularly long, meditative takes on the black metal genre, infused with concerns with mysticism and the moody landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. The kind of band who wouldn’t be out of place on a rainy Wednesday at Twin Peaks’ Roadhouse, or, in this case, a windy Wednesday at Loppen. Originally scheduled to play Christiania’s other larger venue, Den Grå Hal, their loss is our gain, as Loppen allows the audience to get within hair-whipping distance from the band.

We arrive just in time to catch the second opening act, Orm, whose double vocals–one a deep death metal growl, the other a higher-pitched black metal howl–would seem a little gimmicky were they not accompanied by some very tight playing. Their debut LP also has one of the gnarliest covers I’ve seen in a while, a tasteful landscape including a full moon, a stormy and kraken-infested sea, and a castle on fire. I really want that on a mug.

WITTR arrive on stage prepared to create their own atmosphere, complete with ambient soundscapes and burning incense (picture below, although that could also be the most badly-rolled blunt ever photographed). But these are just garnishes, quickly overshadowed by the intensity of the playing. As their recently re-released debut proves, what truly distinguishes the band is their ability to generate atmosphere out of distortion and obsessive double-kick drums.

Tonight, the band starts at the beginning, with “Queen of Borrowed Light”, the opening track of their debut. It’s a solid introduction to the band, and one which eschews most of the atmospherics in favour of doubled-up soaring guitar riffs. It’s odd, but the real meditative moments, that is those that focus attention, are created not by slower tempos or lower volumes, but by stretching out the most intense moments. At a certain stage the lightning-fast tremolo picking begins to sound more like a long continuous tone than many shorter ones.

As our very own Morten put it, behind all the theatrics there is an unmistakable post-rock side to WIITR, moments when they sound closer to Mogwai (but without the sarcastic song titles) than Mayhem. Which, rather than being a criticism, is actually the reason we like them in the first place.

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