The strong Norwegian presence at the Popkomm music industry trade fair and festival continues in 2006 with a strong delegation of both companies, music industry execs and no less than 11 showcasing bands that are set to play Berlin’s clubs next week.

Profiles:

Maria Mena

At 19, songwriter Maria Mena has done more than many artists achieve in a life-time. She’s released three critically acclaimed albums, scored several domestic as well as international hits and done high-profile gigs such as a slot at Letterman’s. Mena’s on-stage confidence is high as a result of last year’s highly successful domestic tour and now she’s gearing up for yet another international campaign. Maria Mena’s music has an ability to hit most people –critics and plain folk alike- where it feels good and where it hurts, (i.e. the heart?) Hers is a kind of unscathed depiction of sorrow -sometimes with anguish in its undertow- but always saturated with the distinctly adolescent future-oriented serenity that includes hope verging on certainty. Maybe that’s why so many like her; she’s sure all will be well, for her and for all of us. Her melodies are plain and down to earth, but also instant and extremely catchy; a combination that sets her music apart from designed pop and makes it convincing. She sings about things in a way that is reassuringly youthful and endearingly sweet, but at the same time gives you the impression that she’s one of those rare few young who somehow seem to be as old as they are young.

Maria Mena plays the Kulturbräuerei during the Music Night SonyBMG on 20th of September.

Cloroform

Raw aggression and energy combined with comic book-style atrocities and super tight musicianship. These all add up to one of the finest of the crossover/metal/jazz/punk outfits ever. Few bands of Cloroform’s size can rival the true energy created by this fine-tuned and tightly knit unit. Double bass, drums, keys and distorted vocals form the frame for Cloroform’s turbo-charged antics that defy genres and pre-conceived notions of what’s possible in a trio format. The line-up consists of one of the strongest rhythm-sections on the Oslo circuit; Øyvind Storesund (of Wunderkammer, Kaizers Orchestra and Frode Gjerstad trio fame) on double and electric basses and drummer Børge Fjordheim – best known for his stint as pop icon Morten Abel’s drummer. Handling keys (most notably his trademark distorted clavinet) is John Erik Kaada, renowned film-score producer and acclaimed solo artist. Kaada has spent the last two years focussing on his solo career, which has seen his “Thank you for giving me your valuable time” album (2001) released world-wide through Mike Patton’s Ipecac label.

Listen to excerpts from Cloroform’s latest outing, 2005’s ‘Cracked Wide Open’ here.
Listen to and download Cloroform audio here.

Animal Alpha

Animal Alpha’s unusual combination of rococo aesthetics and ultra raw, frantically dynamic, femalely spearheaded music has proved a potent recipe, leaving few eyes and ears closed to the band and making them among the hottest live acts around. Fantastic live appearances at by:Larm and Øya festivals has secured the band a position as a live favourite for a steadily growing audience.

Listen to excerpts from Animal Alpha’s ‘Pheromones’ album here.

Listen to and download AA audio here

WE

With their fifth album, ‘Smugglers’, stoners We shot to the top of the national sales charts, the VG List. A string of well-received festival appearances, a long domestic tour and ecstatic reviews along with such hits as Catch Electrique and Sassy Zazie secured the band commercial success at last. The album was produced in companionship with Chris Goss (Kyuss, Queens of The Stone Age) and mixed by Johan Forsman (The Soundtrack of Our Lives), and represents the current highlight of a long and intense career. Filled to the brim with intergalactic, psychedelic and out-there sonic journeys, ‘Smugglers’ is as close as most of us will ever get to outer space.

Listen to excerpts from WE’s latest album ‘Smugglers’ here.

Listen to WE tracks here.

Kaizers Orchestra

While Kaizers Orchestra have been extremely successful on the home market with platinum sales and sold-out domestic tours, they might come across as an unlikely export product as the band sing in Norwegian. However, the language barrier has not prevented the band from crossing borders, and the collective have now built up a loyal following on the continent in the wake of Kaizers intense live appearances. A well-timed slot at the 2003 Dutch Eurosonic festival started the hype which has since led to high-profile gigs at such festivals as Roskilde and eventually last year’s record deal with Universal Music Germany who is now set to bring the oil-barrel pounding collective out to a wider European audience.
Listen to and download Kaizers Orchestra tracks here.

Bjørn Berge

Attitude is something Berge has in abundance – some label him the best one-man band in the world. Armed with little more than his pick, a voice reminiscent of gravel and broken glass plus his battered Takamine, Berge builds up a groove as strong as a full band and cops it off with vocals that sound as if the devil himself is snapping at his heels. Based in the blues but with additional influences ranging from hip-hop to funk, Bjørn Berge is an artist with few peers – neither in Norway nor abroad. He plays as if he had fifty sets of arms and twenty pairs of legs, and with an insatiable musical curiosity and appetite which will never allow him to become jaded or stuck in a rut. Berge has still got the rebellion and curiosity of youth in him with plenty of restlessness is in his blood.

Listen to excerpts from Bjørn Berge’s latest album ‘We’re gonna groove’ here.

Listen to and download Bjørn Berge audio here.

The above mentioned acts play the Kesselhaus at the Popkomm Festival Centre on the 21st of September.

Karin Park

Sometimes pop music touches on its own essence. The chorus of Karin Park’s monster hit Fill it up manifests this essence in the rare way that makes you aware of it; makes you aware of this pleasant mystery and makes you wander: What is it? What is this simple, ephemeral thing that works so well, means so much and shifts the whole world a degree while it lasts? Well, tears and laughter are akin but apart, and pop is the pendulum that scopes the gap. The album “Superworldunknown” is such a contribution, and the title itself is perhaps a way of saying that longing is a good thing. The music has an unmistakable sweeping sensation to it; it catches you in its flow, it is massive in a benign way, it is like a wide sheet of some rolling surface, but at the same time it is anchored to deeper and darker things that make the music truthful and enchanting rather than artificial and chilly. Karin knows the value of such ambiguity: a dreamlike, slow lightness, and a somewhat elusive and absent minded manner of being that reminds more than a little of the arresting world of Björk.

Listen to excerpts from Karin Park’s ‘Superworldunknown’ album here.

Listen to and download Karin Park audio here.


Marit Larsen

Former member of teen-pop duo M2M, Marit Larsen, has had a fabulously successful year following the release of her first solo album.

Wrote Pitchforkmedia.com in its track review (four stars) of Don’t Save Me earlier this year: “Marit Larsen-- "the blonde one" from Norwegian prefab twosome M2M-- has publicly deserted her handcuffed history with her solo debut, Under the Surface. The bright, kitchen-sink production on first single "Don't Save Me" twinkles benignly with a sterile, fjord-pop luster. It throws scattershot percussion-- wide drums and handclaps-- next to synths, a Stevie Wonder harmonica, and an ABBA piano refrain. Yet its busy sound is meaningfully busy, redeemed in the tug of war between the song's ebullient veneer and its freighted lyrics.

One luscious meme circulating on fan-girl LiveJournals holds that Larsen's second-person jaunt is aimed at her former M2M partner, Marion Raven. Larsen denies it (surprise surprise), but from her opening couplet ("You say we must move forward/ And I say let's not go back"), an anxious fatigue masquerades as friendly consensus, an agreement to leave the past in the past. Adorned with quavering mandolins, the chorus embraces the same passive/aggressive duality: Larsen makes her titular request, confessing amongst aspartame melodies, "Our little castle is a house of cards." Plump with both joy and melancholy, "Don't Save Me" spills over its unbending pop-song borders into grownup territory, probing the thorny process of letting go.”


Adjagas

Adjagas is yoik group based in Sapmi (Lapland), located in the desolate areas of Northern Norway. The group consists of Sara Marielle Gaup and Lawra Somby, who both are traditional yoikers, Juhani Silvola and Paal Fagerheim on guitars and Timo Silvola on drums. Their debut album “Adjagas”, produced by Andreas Mjøs (Jaga Jazzist, Susanna and the magical orchestra) saw its domestic release in November 2005 to great critical acclaim. The debut outing is scheduled for an European release later this year through Germany’s highly acclaimed indie !K7, home of such acts as Herbert, Annie, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Tosca, Erlend Øye, Kid Loco and Thievery Corporation. Adjágas is a state between sleeping and waking. It is where you get in touch with issues and messages that are important to you. It is also said that the Sami learned yoiking from the ulda people that live in another world parallell to our own. Adjágas is a celebration of the ancient art of yoiking and a search for what the future will bring. Adjagas are also scheduled to perform at this year’s world/folk/ethnic music expo/trade fair Womex in Seville, Spain.

Listen to excerpts from Adjagas’ debut album here.

Listen to and download Adjagas audio here.

Ornand Altenburg

After several years of devoted hardship on his own vessel, Ornand now sets sail as captain on vocals and piano with his own hand picked crew: Bjørn Holm(Vidar Busk, Respatexans, Odd Nordstoga) on double bass and choir, and Simen Mæhlum(Number Seven Deli, Jim Stark, Ephemera) on drums and choir.
Mostly found by the keyboard but sometimes also playing guitar Altenburg has made a distinguished contribution to the pop music of Number Seven Deli, and as member of the folksong/softrock band Jim Stark, up untill the plantinum selling "Morning songs" in 2004. Asbjorn Ornand Altenburg Ribe is now fully dedicated to his own music, performing under his two middle names. Ornand Altenburgs maritime soul is full of presence and intensity, that gathers inspiration from both british pop music as well as American rhythm and blues which has been passed on in the oral tradition by emigrated farmers and sailors.

Listen to excerpts from Ornand Altenburg’s 2005 album ’Backseat Driver’ here.

Listen to and download Ornand Altenburg audio here.

Bermuda Triangle

Over the last four years, Norwegian electronica outfit Bermuda Triangle has firmly established itself as one of the strongest live-collectives on the Scandinavian club scene. The vibrant outfit’s performances are a far cry from the faceless and introvert knob-twiddling practiced by other acts in the genre. The backbone of the unit is noted producer and composer Jan Tore Diesen and one of Norway’s most respected female DJs, Ariane. The live-version of Bermuda Triangle is augmented with bass, drums, percussion and, most notably, the strong vocal performances of Alex Møklebust (of Seigmenn/Zeromancer fame) and Animal Alpha’s Agnete Kjølsrud – giving the ensemble a line up that’s as strong as anything out there.

Listen to excerpts from Bermuda Triangle’s latest album ’33 rpm’ here.

Listen to and download Bermuda Triangle audio here.

These acts play the Maschinenhaus stage at the Popkomm Festival Centre on the 21st of September.

Einar Stenseng


Respected singer-songwriter Einar Stenseng moved to Berlin in 2003 and has bee living there since, having become a well-known figure in the underground music scene. Recording his debut album at Berlin’s Claustrophobia Sound Studio in the spring of 2005, he was supported by a cast of mainly Berlin based musicians. The musical relationship between Einar and British rock legend Nikki Sudden (Swell Maps, Jacobites) started I 2004 and Nikki can now be heard playing guitar on Einar’s debut album, as well as helping out with arrangements and production. Ever writing and composing new material, Einar’s plans are to release an album a year and touring Europe and North America the coming year.

Listen to tracks composed by Einar Stenseng here.


Einar Stenseng plays a showcase at the NBI stage at the Kulturbräuerei on the 22nd of September. sd
 
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Concerts\Outside Norway, Trade Fairs\Outside Norway