Roadrunner Records - Slipknot's hard-hitting, aggressive metal anthems are getting…
- Posted on Feb 21st 2010 3:30PM by Stuart Berman
While some may question the logic of hosting a multi-venue, club-crawl music festival in the middle of a Norwegian deep freeze, the organizers behind Oslo's by:Larm festival -- which wrapped up three days of boozin' and schmoozin' on Saturday night -- understand there's no better way to beat the mid-February chill than to cram into intimate venues and exchange body heat with a couple hundred sauced Scandinavian strangers.
Now in its 12th year, by:Larm has emerged as an increasingly relevant addition to a late-winter festival calendar that culminates in the mid-March madness of Toronto's Canadian Music Fest and Austin's SXSW. True, not many of by:Larm's featured acts are well-known south of the North Sea. But that's the whole point of the festival: to provide visiting press and industry a first look at bands they'll be Tweeting rhapsodically about in the coming months.
So here are five of this year's most hashtag-worthy.
The Megaphonic Thrift (Feb. 18, 7PM, Sub Sound): Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. may have built their legends on late-'80s underground-rock classics like 'Sister' and 'You're Living All Over Me,' but for a new generation of indie kids, the real canon fodder is those bands' respective early-'90s major-label debuts, 'Goo' and 'Green Mind.' Oslo quintet the Megaphonic Thrift couldn't be more '90s if you slapped them on a 'Reality Bites' DVD reissue, sporting all the requisite signifiers -- flannel shirts, Converse one-stars, cute female bass player -- but, more importantly, enough hard-hitting but hook-laden noise-pop jams to keep a nation of dorm-room slackers daydreaming for many moons to come.
Altaar (Feb. 18, 8:30PM, Samfunnsalen): At by:Larm, one must adhere to the Oslo diet -- fish burgers for dinner; psychedelic doom-metal for dessert. Though performing at a decidedly non-doomy early hour, and reportedly playing just their fifth gig, Altaar already seem ready to walk among Scandinavian metal's giants. The regulation 30-minute set time leaves them with time to perform but two compositions, but what compositions they are, each beginning with melancholic, shoegazer swirls and ominous electronic frequencies, before gradually intensifying into a monstrous roar.
For the latter piece, the quartet are joined by guest saxophonist Munkeby (ringleader of local jazz-metal fusionists Shining), coaxing the set to a hellacious finale that suggests the Stooges' 'L.A. Blues' played at 16 RPM. But despite their heavily tattooed arms and imposing black-clad appearances, Altaar are gracious enough to safely extinguish their mood-lighting candles before exiting the stage.
Negash Ali (Feb. 19, 8:30PM, by:Larm-teltet): This emergent MC may have been born in Eritrea and raised in Copenhagen, but onstage he's all Chi-Town, brandishing Kanye-schooled braggodoccio (with the smart cardigan to match) and Common-smooth soul. Faced with a somewhat thankless early evening set in the Youngstorget festival tent, Ali nonetheless gets the sparse gathering onside with the help of a backing band -- consisting of a drummer, bassist and Lauryn Hill-styled vocal foil -- who flexed enough muscle to match Ali's considerable swagger.
Though, you can tell Ali isn't actually American when he raps about merely punching a cop as opposed to resorting to more extreme, glock-rocking measures.
Kira Kira (Feb. 19, 9:30pm, Stratos): We've long grown accustomed to seeing musicians spend entire live sets stationed behind laptops, but few do it with such apparent glee as Icelandic ingénue Kristin Bjork Kristjansdottir. The electro concréte she creates with her partner Eiríkur Orri Ólafssonand and guest knob-twiddler Sindri Már Sigfússon (also of twee-folksters Seabear) in Kira Kira couldn't exactly be described as approachable, seeing as it's built from fractured minimal techno beats, penny whistles, breathy trumpet gusts, hot-wired cardio-monitor pads and her heavily reverbed coos. But, as the cacophony swirls around Kristjansdottir, she flashes a bewitching smile, swaying like a belly dancer to a rhythm only she can hear.
Joensuu 1685 (Feb. 20, 12am, John Dee): In a festival where some 150 acts are performing every half hour from 7PM till 2AM, it's always a good strategy for bands to make the most of their 30 minutes and front-load the set with quick hits to keep the club-hoppers in the room. But Finnish power trio Joensuu 1685 show the rewards in defying conventional wisdom, spending a good 10 minutes building their opening number from a hypnotic bass pulse into an electrifying guitar-noise climax.
From there, Joensuu 1685 draw from a seemingly incompatible stream of influences -- the post-punk grandeur of Echo and the Bunnymen, the disjointed guitar skronk of Crazy Horse, the ray-gun organ blitz of Oneida -- but reshape them into frenetic, high-impact rock 'n' roll songs. And sure, many bands before them have covered Bruce Springsteen's 'I'm on Fire,' but none of them have turned into a Krautrockin', open-sunroof, autobahn-bound jam. Surely, Bruce's mechanic character in the original video would've wanted it that way.