A while ago this band pocketed a deal that attracted considerable attention in the microcosm of Norwegian music, and beyond it too in fact: Vice Records of NYC is the materialization of asphaltian musical integrity, and these Norwegian lads were young, and, it seemed, a little bewildered…
They had changed their name so often in the previous years that anything written about them always had to feature the “previously-known-as clause.” First it turned out that “The Beautiful people” was a name already taken overseas, so they became “Sex Beat.” That, however, soon disclosed itself as a not so great a name. But “120 Days,” now there was a name both adhesive and full of innuendo! (Perhaps they wanted to cling to the idea that they were the beautiful ones with the sex beat in Marquis de Sade’s -or Pasolini’s- “120 Days of Sodom?”)
No, it was not the name that attracted Vice Records, it was the probing effect of the music that these four boys churned out. The sound of contained electronic instruments presided over by a desperate voice, both barbed and thick with despair, distorted in the natural and kick-ass endearing way that only a young man’s voice is.
But 120 Days refuse to be a rock band. They don’t like using guitars. Not that they don’t, but that’s beside the point, because they have decided to discard guitars but remain rockers. –As to make a point of shedding the epitomic accessory, like a cowboy doffing his hat. And with an electronic sound they still embody the essence of rock, the youthful desperation, the disproportionate emotions, the lust, the longing and the despair. It’s all in the vocals, and the genius of these guys is the juxtaposing of quintessential rock singing with the smooth cold liquid that synthesizers produce. Contrary to the jagged and block-organic soundscapes that characterize guitar-led rock, 120 Days create complex but faraway vistas where the temperature is low, something remote but omnipresent.
They have been compared to British pop of the dark kind that the eighties produced; chilly, sterile, and mechanical: the chord changes are erased and seem indiscernible, beats and themes appear and disappear in a jaded, disillusioned way. These are fallen, hopeless sounds, but then the vocals are the opposite; close and naïve and distressed, like a rush of blood to the head. The band manages to fuse the Manchester synthetic gloom of the 80s with the sinewy and leather clad, coarse rock of the American seventies. Stooges are often mentioned, as are the Strokes, not least for likeness in vocal style, so-called boyish temperament.
The band themselves like referring to Krafwek and Neu as inspirations.
Already on their first release, 2004’s Sedated Times EP, the band disclosed extraordinary song-writing abilities. They presented a precious melodic vein, the kind of melody that cannot be rendered in pure notes, which cannot be played, but only sung. The fantastic song “Sedated times” takes the listener along a shifting and imprecise melodic road, the voice a vehicle that loses and gains traction and makes the most delightful, frictional gearshifts, tweaking the notes, taking them astray, letting them go. It is the kind of melody that belongs to the voice that sings it, and thus it seems all the more precious and ephemerally beautiful, like a great escape.
Critics loved it of course, and the “Beautiful people” became objects of keen interest and admiration. Another great EP followed the same year, and coupled with some very memorable gigs, the eye of the international establishment was caught, including that of Vice Records.
120 Days debut album is now ready for release in Norway and America. Recorded at that rising star of Norwegian studios, Crystal Canyon, and produced by the lads themselves, the eponymous oeuvre will be released in America on October 10th. In Norway it will hit the streets six days later, released by Smalltown Supersound, one of the most admired of independent labels, and a name, by the way, that pays tribute to places such as 120 Day’s north-western little home town of Kristiansund.
Throughout October and November the band will be touring extensively, visiting Iceland, England and Canada, and then a series of cities in the US, before rounding off back home.
120 Days’ Myspace site. sd
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CD Releases, Tours, Outside Norway