This week has been a good one for Norwegian artists in international media. Magazines on both sides of the Atlantic praise Norwegian artists in their latest issues as Rolling Stone Magazine include both Röyksopp and Sondre Lerche in their 50 best albums of 2002 awards while The Wire gives great reviews to jazz performers including Jon Balke, Kornstad Trio and Arne Nordheim.
Earlier this year Rolling Stone praised the qualities of Sondre Lerche and the magazine now includes the talented young Bergen songwriter on its list of the 50 best albums of 2002. Says Rolling Stone’s Barry Walters of Sondre Lerches Faces Down album: Twenty-year-old Norwegian pinup Sondre Lerche could be Britney Spears' younger brother. But his debut album has more in common with vintage Everything But the Girl and current Beck than with any teen pop (OK, any teen pop since Aztec Camera). From the swanky lounge sounds of "Dead Passengers" to the winsome folk rock of "You Know So Well," Lerche's songwriting abilities are already as assured as his easy croon, and Faces Down's ornate, string-laden arrangements keep every one of the album's many moods cool and classy.
Norway’s hottest music export these days is without doubt Röyksopp. The Tromsø/Bergen duo will tour the UK next week and in the meantime Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge can enjoy Rolling Stone’s praise of their hugely successful Melody A.M. album: Both whimsical and sensuously lush, the debut by Norwegian duo Royksopp follows the path of Air's Moon Safari and Zero 7's Simple Things -- ethereal European electronica radiating the warmth and coziness of acoustic folk without the cornball New Age-y bits. Not everything is down-tempo; some tracks are downright frisky. Kings of Convenience's Erlend Øye supplies sweet vocals on "Poor Leno" and "Remind Me" -- winsome dance singles that are just a TV jingle away from mass popularity.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the renowned Wire magazine has devoted space to several very positive reviews of Norwegian jazz, contemporary and avant-rock albums. Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love has, despite his young age, managed to establish himself as one of Norway’s foremost improvisational musicians, and international media has finally started to open its eyes to this extremely talented percussionist. Says The Wire’s Julian Cowley of Nilssen-Love’s duo album with Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson (I Love It When You Snore): The pairing with Mats Gustafsson’s splendidly visceral baritone sets a rigorous challenge to his reactive resources. The saxophonist issues flurries of snorts, pops, squeals and honks, interspersed with snagging and tearing runs. Nilssen-Love skitters around the horn-bursts, echoing and parrying.
Paal Nilssen-Love has another sax/drums duo album up his sleeve. Together with renowned Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark, Nilssen-Love has created the Dual Pleasure album. Says The Wire of the release: …reedsman Vandermark thrusting and probing at high pressure while Nilssen-Love constructs intricate rhythmic frames or surrounds him with percussive billow and spray. Both duo albums show the technically accomplished Nilssen-Love still finding his way.
The third Wire-reviewed album featuring Nilssen-Love’s drumming is Kornstad Trio’s Space Available. Kornstad Trio is made up of Håkon Kornstad (also a key player in Wibutee) on tenor and soprano saxophone and Mats Eilertsen (from among other Food) on double bass. Space Available is equally as praised as Nilssen-Love’s two duet albums.
The massive 7 CD box Listen: The Art of Arne Nordheim is also very well received by The Wire’s Julian Cowley. Says the reviewer of this compilation of works from one of Norway’s best know contemporary composers: With an impact that builds from disc to disc, this collection pays testimony to the variety, quality and consistency of Nordheim’s composing. Listen: The Art of Arne Nordheim is a rich collection from a composer who knows how to serve up richness without ever becoming cloying or self-indulgent.
The Wire’s Andy Hamilton is another fan of Norwegian jazz, and his review of Jon Balke & Magnetic North Orchestra’s Kyanos is definitely positive: Their (the ensemble’s) many exquisite touches reveal themselves with each listen. Balke’s Jarrett-influenced playing gets extensive solo space, but most importantly, he has succeeded magnificently in creating genuine compositional structures for improvising musicians to work in.
It’s easy to be spoilt by such positive reviews and it’s fitting then, that The Wire’s Tom Ridge is less than exited by psychedelic-prog veterans Motorpsycho’s It’s A Love Cult album. His conclusion is honest and brutal: Too smart to be mere retro-merchants but sometimes too clever for their own good, Motorpsycho have delivered an album that’s somewhere between heroic failure and flawed masterpiece.
Lots of positive reviews and one slightly less than enthusiastic – good pre-Christmas gifts for Norwegian artists and performers about to wrap up a good year.
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