Theater of Cruelty

Norwegian character


The White Birch, Mira Craig and Minor Majority give us three very different approaches to the Norwegian music year 2006, showing in each way that it pays to keep on its special features instead of trying to guess what people want.

Low-pitched whisper

"Do you want / Your silent heart to show," sings Ola Fløttum in the oslo band The White Birch, and with her fourth album since the low-profile debut Self-portrayals (1996) shows the group how frugality is a virtue – also in music. Come Up For Air (Racing Junior / Sonet 2006) is a low-key record, characterized by whispering song, spartan instrumentation and slightly shimmering melodies. The album is released in Europe by German Glitterhouse Records, and The White Birch should have every opportunity to attract a devoted audience on a European basis.

The White Birch started as a noisier rock band in the aftermath of the grunge and hardcore explosion of the 1990s. The slow-slow sub-genre "slowcore" was long a natural reference, characterized as it was by syrupy melodies, vague mumble songs and explosive guitar riffs. The band has also taken its name from an album by the leading American slowcore band Codeine. Now, The White Birch, on the other hand, is more akin to the atmospheric moods of Icelandic Sigur Rós and Coldplay's magnificent melancholy, without feeling like plagiarism or aftertaste.

The change of style for The White Birch was probably taken when Ola Fløttum released the solo album These Days Are Hard To Ignore (Racing Junior 2001) under the alias Portrait Of David. This album subsequently stands out as Fløttum's practical exam in introverted melancholy; ten songs performed with very few instruments – and with an almost Erik Satie-like minimalism in the arrangements. The album was a bit too quiet and navel-gazing for this reviewer, but there is no doubt that it has been important for The White Birch's further development. The trio emerged as a new band Star Is Just A Sun. (Racing Junior 2002), and on this year's album, the metaphor of Fløttum and his companions Ulf Rogde and HC Almendingen is complete.


The road to the goal has also not been a snare for Norwegian-American Mira Craig, but fortunately she seems immune to all suggestions of artistic compromises and defined genre boundaries. Their debut album Look look! (Homemade Records / Bonnier Amigo 2006) shows something so rare as a Norwegian artist it is impossible to not take a stand. It's hard to believe that the record is "perfectly fine", a fate that befalls most records out there. Because despite some misses, this is visionary, innovative and almost annoying headstrong music. If you've heard the breakthrough song "Boogeyman" with its mix of calypso, hip hop and angry barking, or seen Mira shake loose like an icebreaker in Iceland – accompanied by violent drum'n'bass breaks – in the video for "Headhunted", you know what I'm talking about. This is music you love or hate, and the most daring Norwegian album since Serena-Maneesh debuted with her big man crazy noise symphonies last summer. She throws in pointers to both Norwegian and Japanese folk music, and is often more reminiscent of Kate Bush and Dollie Deluxe than more obvious role models in hip hop and r & b. A new word of the jungle: When Mira Craig opens her mouth, you have to listen.

Eternal melancholy

Pål Angelskår in Minor Majority stays more in the neighborhood of The White Birch, but the music is more traditional Norwegian autumn melancholy in the area around Leonard Cohen and Neil Young. Sore moods and tear-dribbling lyrics do not hold up alone, but since Angelskår debuted with the band Reverend Lovejoy in 1999 he has emerged as an extremely strong and steady songwriter. In Reverend Lovejoy, Angelskår shared the songwriting responsibility with Jens Herman Ruge, but the format quickly became too small to give an outlet for the songs he rolled out of his sleeve, and from 2001 Minor Majority has grown from a side project to a success story with European tournaments, gold plate and sold out Rockefeller concert. The big breakthrough, both commercially and artistically, came with the album Up For You And I (Big Dipper 2004) and the hit "She Gave Me Away", and the album was also released in Europe. On Reasons To Hang Around (Big Dipper / Sonet 2006) continues and develops its Angels score in the ever so well-known musical universe. Throughout his career, his songs have been honored with a crystal clear sound, thanks in large part to the underrated knob screwdriver Andreas Berczelly, and this particular distance from the worn-out lofi aesthetics that similar bands often fall victim to is probably the secret behind Minor Majority now seriously sniffing on the very top rock division in Norway.

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