Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Feb 20th 2010 9:00AM by Stuart Berman
Friday afternoon at by:Larm, a panel of music journalists gathered in an Oslo conference room to discuss their fate in the age of the blogger. More than just waxing eloquently about favourite records, the job description now includes 18-hour work days, video, podcasts and SEO-optimization.
But music critics aren't the only ones in Oslo demonstrating the value of multi-tasking. Take Danish ensemble Efterklang, who led off British indie institution 4AD's by:Larm showcase Friday night at Oslo's' majestic Sentrum Place theatre. Even with a seven-member set-up, everyone pulls double duty. Frontman Casper Clausen rocks a floor tom, violinist Peter Broderick plays guitar, drummer Thomas Kirirath Husmer always has a trumpet nearby and everyone sings in perfect harmony.
But the constant instrument-swapping never overwhelms the delicate epics performed off 'Magic Chairs,' the band's third release (and first for 4AD) which is perfectly timed to join Vampire Weekend's Contra and Yeasayer's 'Odd Blood' in the pantheon of au courant cosmopolitan (and music supervisor-friendly) pop.Songs like the 'Grey's Anatomy'-ready weeper 'The Modern Drift' and West-African-flavoured 'Raincoats' may well up with forlorn emotion, but they never gush over into forced sentimentality because Efterklang execute their sad songs with an unbridled, infectious enthusiasm and deft rhythmic shifts that trip up the expected crescendo trajectory. A clearly humbled Clausen ends the set coaxing a crowd clap-along at the lip of the stage and says something in Norwegian that elicits mass cheers, but you don't need a translator to feel the love in the room.
Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson is also quite loved in Norway but his brooding, melancholic pieces -- performed with a string quartet and an auxiliary laptop operator/maraca shaker -- don't quite fit in the coveted Friday midnight slot. The set is not without its stirring moments, particularly when Johannsson gets heavy-handed with his piano, but the brief length of many instrumentals means they stop short just as they're getting interesting.
But by the time headliners Serena-Maneesh emerge at 1:15 AM, Johansson's set is but a foggy memory -- no thanks to the sheets of dry ice (or backstage pot smoke?) covering the stage. Tonight's show effectively serves as the coming-out party for the Oslo quintet's long-awaiting sophomore release, 'No. 2: Abyss in B-Minor,' and frontman Emil Nikolaisen -- who looks uncannily like Jimmy Fallon on his way to Bonnaroo -- can barely contain himself, spending the duration of opening acid-funk jam 'Ayisha Abyss' dancing, shaking tambourines and yelling indecipherable exhortations into the mic, as if going through his Friday-night pre-going-out bedroom ritual.
It's only when Nikolaisen straps on his guitar and, more importantly, his head scarf that the show begins in earnest, and the 40 minutes of strobe-lit psychedelic squall that follows shows that the four-year gap between releases has not diminished Serena-Maneesh's sound at all.
Sure, the institution of Ådne Meisfjord -- of fellow Oslo trance-rockers 120 Days -- as a full-time member has increased the emphasis on Krautrock hypno-rhythms and adds a welcome second voice to bolster Nikolaisen's often-submerged melodies. But Serena-Maneesh still owe more than a few kroners of debt to the narcotic pop of My Bloody Valentine and Spacemen 3, -- and still repay it with fiercely exhilarating, brute-force gestures.