There Is a Lovely Country
» New Danish Sound: 20 Copenhagen bands you should hear now.
Loke Rahbeck of Sexdrome by Alexander Julin via.
It should go without saying that the music coming out of Copenhagen is some of the most exciting in a long time. But for us on the other side of the pond, there can be a lack of knowledge of what’s really going on. People might know about Iceage, and perhaps now Vår [http://www.imposemagazine.com/features/var], usually referred to as an ‘Iceage side project.’ Though readily familiar with some of the music from Copenhagen as a German resident and a noise fan, true appreciation didn’t materialize for me until L Magazine’s Northside Festival – including but not limited to drinking with Danes until 7 am on a roof in Greenpoint – and I realized Denmark’s music is known by a select few. Of course it would be impossible to write about all of the incredible acts doing interesting things (shout out to De Høje Hæle, Hjertestop, Garrotte, Forza Albino, Hands of Dust, Torch Light, Kolyma… the list goes on and on) so here are 20 artists to serve as an introduction. Note the overlapping members: a community this tight-knit seems to value diversity of musics and incestuous friendships. I also asked Simon Christensen of the popular Danish blog Passive/Aggressive to contribute a few suggestions. More on Passive/Aggressive and a curated mixtape below.
Red Flesh featuring Lukas Højlund of Vår, is perhaps one of the best examples of the exciting new breed of punk coming from Copenhagen. Their Raw War 7-inch, out now on the always incredible Video Disease Records, leaves little up to the imagination – tracks like “Punks Undead” sound somewhat like stomping on heads, perhaps under the direction of a man channeling the ferciousity of some otherworldly (perhaps underworldy) being. Four tracks of war. Download Redflesh’s Raw War 7-inch here.
With vocals that sound, and in the clip above, appear, to rise from the deep corners of a body possessed, Pagan Youth (not to be mistaken for the Chicago hardcore act of the same name) make hardcore that stems from a place of saturated hatred, charging forward to a frontline aflame. Those lucky enough to score their self-titled limited edition cassette will note that song titles like “Knife Appreciation” and “Fuck Doll” seem to bring about the sexual aggression found at the very core of Copenhagen punk. A close eye reveals Iceage’s Elias Rønnenfelt on drums. Listen here.
Even though this band will probably never grace our American waters, any list on the current state of Danish punk would be incomplete without mention of Sexdrome. Fronted by Posh Isolation co-owner Loke Rahbek and featuring Anton Rothstein of Lower, Sexdrome operates in some dark expansive place of thrashy punk and black metal with relentless fury. The band’s only full length, Grown Younger, is available stateside on Mark McCoy’s Youth Attack Records.
As stated above, Loke Rahbek is the co-operator of the always-impressive Posh Isolation label. The other half is sound artist Christian Staadsgard, whose noise seems to drone metallically, as if resonating from within the structure of a giant industrial machine. The entirety of his The Source of Disintegration LP mutates sound in a fashion that is decidedly dystopian without feeling cold as in some form of sexual perversion.
Damien Dubrovnik breathes within the intersection of classical music and noise, a complicated relationship within an even more complicated structure. Simultaneously beautiful and completely terrifying, Damien Dubrovnik is, in a word, dangerous.
Migrating away from the aggressively physical, Age Coin exists in an isolated industrial realm. This heavily electronic track, “Untitled ll”, feels unnervingly calm, as in an intimate scene before crime in a horror film or perhaps the impending doom moments after the eye of the storm passes and safety exists only in memory. Simile aside, Age Coin points to another side of Danish electronic music, one frighteningly sensual in its own headiness.
One of these things is not like the other. Girlseeker, perhaps appearing out of place on this list, is easily one of the most exciting bands in Copenhagen. With music that sounds oddly familiar but cannot be placed into any sort of genre without being limiting, the band flirts with all aspects of weirdo ‘80s tunes – from their bizarre hair metal affections, baritone vocals and silly keyboard. Girlseeker’s first full length 1-800-GREED was released on the Endurance label in Denmark and is now available in NYC on Real Estate/ Ducktails’ Matt Mondanile’s label, New Images.
Little information appears to be available on Ashley Choke and Le Fishy, but it goes without saying that both acts are wildly entertaining. Ashley Choke, the brutal, power electronic act and Le Fishy, the ceaselessly progressive drone artist can be see playing above at a Sexdrome/Iceage double release party in 2009.
Possibly more traditional than the other acts on this list, Even Dwarfs create reverb laden punk that classically accessible, but still maintain a ravenous physicality. (Can anyone confirm or deny whether or not their band name stems from the Werner Herzog film Even Dwarfs Started Small? It would seem more than appropriate.) More Even Dwarfs can be found on their Bandcamp here,
Lust For Youth, now the solo project of founder Hannes Norrvide (I suppose you could make the argument that the LYF is now a Swedish act, though previously recorded material featured Loke Rahbek) is the ultimate in dark wave, the pinnacle of minimal synth pop. Founded on crystalline clarity and an intense understanding of EBM beats, they have found a place for macabre on the dance floor. . It also helps that they have one of the best band names I’ve heard in quite sometime. Stream the entirety of Lust for Youth’s Growing Seeds LP on AVANT! Records here.
Elias Rønnenfelt’s other band. I recently read that he stated there were a few interesting punk bands in New York, and that he was glad the music here has become dangerous again. This is an interesting word choice that entirely encapsulates Marching Church. A band no stranger to pulsating guitar riffs, almost tribal drums – it is easy to find yourself entwined these ‘white sails.’
Pregnant Man’s trade is found in expansion. Appearing much more violent than the soundscapes allow, it would seem easy to pinpoint Pregnant Man’s music as ambient – to do so would be incorrect. The clip above shows how hauntingly unsettling even the most simplistic noise compositions can be.
While it seems that much of punk has a fairly definitive visual aesthetic, Skurv take it to a new level – in every live clip I’ve see of the band, it appears almost as if they have a uniform for performance. This attention to detail matched with their methodically repetitive smart hardcore – like punk made by kids with a much more diverse musical palette.
Lower is suffocating. Their EP “Walk on Heads” will be released in the United States soon, and with it, hopefully, a new wave of clangorous response. Lyrics like “Walk on heads / Oppress the crowd / Throw your bones / into their mouths” perspirate a certain aggression that seems to come from a place of desperation, bodily empowerment through the coercion of others. This is punk’s past and future, and with it, there is nowhere to go but up.
And to not end with only Punk/Posh Isolation Records acts, Simon Christensen of Passive/Aggressive added the following acts:
This new Copenhagen quartet by the name Moth gathers members from two bands: noise duo Chainsaw Eaters and the Melting Walkmen. Both of them have been working within the boundaries of the post punk idiom, but on this well produced debut EP, Moth find the perfect balance between good songs and a dense, noisy production style, especially on the track ”Frozen Tears”, which makes the Soft Moon look like a school girl. Their 7-inch is out now and will probably be sold out pretty quick, and they are set to play debut show in September. Download it here.
This young guy called Kasper Aagaard hails inspiration from krautrock and the romanticizing generation of Magnetic Fields and Jens Lekman to make pretty naive and really nice melodies centered on Cluster-style cassette loops and circular piano/guitar playing. He comes from the smaller city of Odense that has a healthy, varied, and tightly knit music scene, even though they do everything from dreamy projects to wild improv sessions with greater ensembles. The tip of the iceberg. Stream it here.
This ethno-drone-duo MX put out their album last year, but is still experimenting with the formats of the group and is pretty much just making a lot of different music under different monikers on the label Lille Kommune. Based on recordings/ideas/travels during the last ten years, the main man Mikael Mørkholt combines his love for machines and analogue manipulation of instruments like jew's harp, flutes, ethnic string instruments etc. It's psychedelic! Stream it here.
Ok, this dude is CR Hougaard, a guitarist and producer who under the name Space Program has made some great tapes. On the last one Ætheral (May 2012), he especially undertakes quite the voyage into infinity/abyss with dystopic space sounds, making you clinch your teeth to the sounds of high pitch bells and guitars through numerous pipe amps – it's the dystopia of old sci-fi movies and reminds me of the uncomfortable feeling of Das Boot. Check it out here.
I have no clue who or what this is, just an electronic project that landed in our inbox a few months ago, but my guess is that it is Danish, since we are the only blog who ever wrote about and it was sent directly to us. It’s nocturnal and melancholic, using weird reverse loops and proving extreme emotional depth (or at least in my projection), with a small string symphony playing in the background. Listen here.
This black/drone metal is not from Copenhagen but from the countryside, but nevertheless finds rest in slow and genre-faithful drone metal. Urr is released on the pretty amazing Goles Tapes and – bonus trivia – their first album was mastered by Mell Dettmer, the Earth/Sunn O)))-producer. Listen here.
A few words on the goals of the Passive Aggressive blog, by Simon Christensen
Passive/Aggressive was founded one and a half years ago. We didn't think of it as a blog, but as a music forum aiming to put a spotlight on the growing new talents of the Danish music scene (which seemed to be neglected in Danish music media) and to share the attention between them instead of making the media attention a fight or some kind of competition.
Another point of the blog is to let the people who love and know most about the music describe it, instead of using an almighty, central editorial staff – in that way P/A often functions as a side project of really good writers, critics and musicians. So then, doing this, we hope to give a voice to the underground music acts and – most importantly – the fans, and then afterwards we try to pick up the music we find and distribute it, purely on a nonprofit basis. We try to do concerts, we send the music to radio stations like DR and other media (Danish and international music media), and basically try to offer an alternative.
This is necessary right now, because the music journalism in Denmark kind of lost its idealism and often forgets to serve all the good music out there. P/A primarily wanted to change the way, people listen to and talk and write about music, even supposedly difficult music (open, free), but quickly became about serving the democratization of the distribution of music – by promoting the increasingly talented underground scene of Copenhagen/Denmark.
It was a lot of fun to do this mixtape of the New Danish Sound for nternational media to share. Download it here.