Monday, February 29, 2016

February 29 - Slaves and Bulldozers

For this year's bonus day, I thought I'd go heavy. Really heavy. I still remember the very first time I heard Soundgarden. It was 1990, and my very good friend Sissel had come home after spending a year in Marietta, Georgia, where her father had worked during a sabbatical. She brought home three CDs that I really liked: Primus' Sailing the Seas of Cheese, Ministry's In The Land of Rape and Honey, and Soundgarden's Louder Than Love. While all these three albums had an impact, Soundgarden left the most lasting mark with me. I remember sitting in the den in the basement of my parents' house as Sissel brought out the CDs, and the song Hands All Over really blew me away!

In 1991, one of the albums I was most eagerly anticipating was Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, and it did not disappoint. If it hadn't been for U2's spectacular Achtung Baby!, it would easily have been my pick for album of the year (and what a year that was, with Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten also being released). At this point in their career, Soundgarden was seen as part of the grunge movement and lumped in with the other band from the Seattle scene; however, all three bands were clearly different - with geography as the only common denominator at this point in their career (the connection between Pearl Jam and Soundgarden can be traced to the Temple of the Dog project, but they were clearly different from Nirvana).

I purchased Badmotorfinger on cassette, and it was on very heavy rotation when I went to England that year - I can distinctly remember listening to it taking the tube around London on my way to St. Ives (I believe I already talked a little bit about that trip). For me, the highlight of the album is also the longest song, a sludgy and heavy song called Slaves and Bulldozers.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

February 28 - Big Black Dog

It's the end of February, and I am already pretty certain that the three best albums of the year have been released. I am, of course, open for more great albums - after all, there are rumors that Tool will release another album - but what a start to the year. One album I haven't talked much about belongs to my favorite band, Motorpsycho of Trondheim, Norway. Here Be Monsters is the album, and it is their definitive album of the new millennium so far. I think they have done a lot of really good work in the 21st century so far, but their albums have been hits and misses - and sometimes pretty uneven. However, with Here Be Monsters, there isn't a single weak spot. Spin Spin Spin is the only cover song on the album - and it took some getting used to - but I now see how it fits in with the whole.

I could pick any track off the album, but the one I chose is the monster finale: Big Black Dog. Please listen - and buy the album. I know that is something people don't do as much as they used to now that so much music can be found on streaming services, but buying music is the best way to continually support the artists and ensuring new music coming.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

February 27 - Abbey Road Medley

"And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make." 15 perfect words, finishing the proper part of Abbey Road - however, they were followed by Her Majesty, a funny little novelty song that on the surface seems completely misplaced, yet it really exemplifies everything The Beatles was all about - always a balance between the playful and the heavier material. Abbey Road was the last album The Beatles recorded, but it was released 1969, the year before Let It Be. The year before the best band ever officially called it quits.

The Beatles was a huge part of the soundtrack of my childhood. How could they not be? I was born in 1972, and my parents were both pretty interested in music (although not obsessed, like me). Their teenage years had been shaped by The Beatles, and from I became aware that there was a band called The Beatles, I was always hoping they would get together again. Of course, that all changed in 1980, when John Lennon was shot dead outside the Dakota Building in New York City. I still remember that day.

In my earlier years, I was obsessed with the singles of the first half of their career, when they were "just" a spectacular rock and roll band, playing cover songs as well as really raucous self-penned songs, such as She Loves You, Please Please Me, and Help! My aunt Anicken had a box set of all the albums they released, and even though I borrowed it and listened to it in my early teenage years, I still focused on their earlier work. When I approached my 20s, my good friends Svein and Vegard played Two Of Us from Let It Be for me without telling me who I was listening to, and I guessed Simon and Garfunkel - all while knowing and acknowledging The Beatles as possibly the best band ever.

As I have grown older and hopefully matured a little, I have a very different view of The Beatles and their music. When they released a box set of all the remastered albums in 2009, I was pretty quick to make sure I had a copy, and the music has been played through and through many a time. One part that gets to me every time I play it is the end of Abbey Road. The whole of side 2 is really a medley, but it is the last trio of songs in that medley - the three immediately preceding Her Majesty - that really brings out tears of joy and goosebumps every time. Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End is a perfect trio of songs in my mind. It even includes a drum solo by Ringo and dueling guitar solos between John, Paul, and George. It doesn't get much better than that.

In my eyes, there never has been a better band than The Beatles. Yes, my favorite band is still Motorpsycho, but they pale next to the four young men from Liverpool. Unfortunately there is no good version of this medley on YouTube, so I am cheating and showing Paul McCartney's touring band, led by Sir Paul, in a very inspired performance. I have seen several recordings of this band, and I am convinced this is the best band he has had since The Beatles - and you can often see how they inspire him. This recording is from 2013, when Sir Paul was 71 years old - and he plays the ass off of most younger performers these days. Hats off to him and his touring band for this fantastic version of Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.

Friday, February 26, 2016

February 26 - Home

So we are home - and I go back to work... I am worn out, so this will be short today, but the song I feel like playing, I play just because I like the song and the title. Dream Theater was a band I first heard when their very first album, When Dream an Day Unite, was released and I picked it up as one of my weekly borrowed LPs from Rockin', a great record store that no longer is with us in Trondheim. I could hear the Rush inspirations very clearly on that album, and I really enjoyed it. I remember taping it and playing it over and over again, especially the instrumental The Ytse Jam (Majesty, their first band name spelled backwards).

The Dream Theater on that record had Charlie Dominici on vocals and Kevin Moore on keyboards, along with what for a long time was their very stable core (and founding trio) of John Myung on bass, John Petrucci on guitar, and Mike Portnoy on drums. Dominici was replaced by James LaBrie - and then Derek Sherinian replaced Kevin Moore before being replaced with Jordan Rudess in 1999. I had lost track of them = finding their music to be technical, but not appealing emotionally, or so I thought. I rediscovered them again in the early 2000s, when all of their line-up changes appeared to be over and they were a stable band. I found their music online and liked it enough that I ended up revisiting all their releases - and purchasing all of them - and I have followed them since. I thought they had their ups and downs in the early 2000s, but Black Clouds and Silver Linings from 2009 really found them back in excellent shape.

Then they dropped the bombshell that Mike Portnoy was leaving. Portnoy is a spectacular drummer, but more importantly for Dream Theater fans was the fact that he always had been the voice of the band to the public and kept insanely high levels of fan interaction. His struggles with alcoholism were well documented, and his personality is larger than life, and when he wanted to take a break, it may appear that the rest of the band jumped at the chance to replace him instead. I don't know the story, and I am not enough of a fanboy to really care all that much, but I liked him, and he is out of the band.

After Portnoy's departure, they found a great replacement in Mike Mangini, but to me, the music has not been as good. To me, it is falling back into the space between the two great albums Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and Black Clouds and Silver Linings, which really wasn't all that interesting. To me, the music of Dream Theater is at its best when they mix the technical with the melodic - if they overemphasize one over the other, the results are meh. Their melodies often lean towards clichés, and their technical music sounds technical for the sake of being technical, which I really don't care much for at all. Their latest album, The Astonishing, is a concept album with a plot that seems like a carbon copy of Rush's 2112 as music has been outlawed, with character names that are so transparently unoriginal that they become completely laughable (how about evil emperor Nafarius and his daughter princess Faythe, who has a pure soul that once heard real music and who falls in love with a musician named Gabriel). Of course, Faythe gets killed by a mistake, and of course Gabriel brings her back to life with song... I can barely bear to listen to it at all, which I hate to admit...

Today's song, Home, is the sixth scene from the album I still think is their masterpiece: Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory. It had the line-up that I think is their best, and it tells a story, albeit a slightly hard to track one, and is a continuation from a song off their second album, Images and Words, which also was a very solid album (come to think of it, they appear to work in spurts, with a couple of great albums followed by a lull of slightly boring ones). The song takes a long time to build, with Arabic tinged sounds and scales (I have to admit that I have a great liking to the Arabic scales when used right). There is a lot going on in this song, and it is long, but it is very worth it listening through it in its entirety. When they reached the melodic lines in the chorus, it doesn't matter how many times I have heard it before - the goosebumps show up!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

February 25 - Drive Home

I don't really need to look too far for reasons to play Steven Wilson, and today's plan of events made the choice really easy: Chris is supposed to be discharged, and we will Drive Home. Drive Home is a song from the fantastic album The Raven That Refused To Sing, which was released in 2013. It was engineered by none other than Alan Parsons of Alan Parsons Project fame - as well as having worked with Pink Floyd on The Dark Side Of The Moon. My favorite track from the album was also released as an EP with an accompanying music video that is as haunting as the song. Talk will not do this song justice - here is Steven Wilson with Drive Home.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

February 24 - Ratamahatta

Some days I just want to rock out. Now, I am no teenager anymore, so there really is no jumping up and down or headbanging - it's more a rhythmic movement of the head, involuntary foot tapping, and some movements of arms and wrists that may seem spastic, but that really are my subdued way of playing air drums. Or, if I am in the shower, you can probably hear me playing my torso like a drum set - although my time behind the drum set is probably marked by a slightly lacking inner metronome, but more then enough passion to make up for it (no wonder that I fathered two percussionists).

I really like rhythm. I like all the strange kinds of rhythms, such as odd time signatures and polyrhythms, but I also like just a straight up groove, one where the drummer locks in a rhythm that the bass (primarily) and guitar player just follow because it is so infectious. And today's song is built on that kind of a groove, although this groove comes to us from the rainforests of Brazil through the slums of Belo Horizonte, one of the host cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which is where Sepultura is from.

The song Ratamahatta is sung in Portugese, so I don't have to worry about the lyrics being too bad since I initially don't understand them. However, a quick search reveals that it is about the social inequalities so often seen in Brazil, and Belo Horizonte is not an exception, as it has its slum quarters (favelas), which are heavily featured in the song. They included David Silveria on this track, and he is the one responsible for the traditional Brazilian percussion that you can hear. Igor Cavalero is on drums, with his brother Max on vocals, helped by guest Carlinhos Brown. Andreas Kisser on guitar and Paolho Jr on bass round out the culprits of this recording. Please enter Sepultura's Brazil, heavenly groovy. Warning: This song can cause involuntary body movements...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

February 23 - Here Comes The Flood

It's funny now that I look at it how this blog mirrors my musical whimsies - and also shows even me how much I really lean on music to get me through everything. Yesterday, we got the great news that the invasive cancer, which is what they really are worried about, was only 2 mm, so they don't need to do anything more than what they already had done - no chemo needed - and radiation was already ruled out. So my tears finally came - and they were joyful tears It was the relief of all the worry an concern I had carried with me, so the dam finally broke when it could break.

To celebrate, I went to my favorite record store, which only is three blocks from the hospital. Vertigo Music is a great place to visit, so I did. I was looking for King Crimson's USA, and as I found it, I also found Robert Fripp's solo album Exposure. I picked both of them up, and as I was waiting for my Chinese food (I was done with hospital food for a little bit), I noticed that one of the songs on the album was Here Comes The Flood. I knew it as a Peter Gabriel song from his first solo album, where Robert Fripp played guitar, and sure enough, Peter Gabriel on piano and vocals and Fripp on Frippertronics created a haunting version of the song. It is diametrically opposite to the massive arrangement on the original version, but not quite as stripped down as the first version I heard, which was on the compilation album Shaking the Tree released in 1990. That is the version that still brings tears to my eyes, so it was the perfect song to find yesterday, and the perfect song to play today.

Monday, February 22, 2016

February 22 - Helpless

Today's song is really describing the feeling I have had being with Chris in the hospital through this battle with breast cancer. It is not my fight directly - as a matter of fact, I don't feel like I am fighting at all - but I do feel like I am supporting the troops as much as I can. The bottom line is that no matter what I do here, there are things that are completely out of my control - so all I can do is control my reactions to them. I was lucky enough not to be there when she first had breast cancer, so I wasn't there for her near-death experience or hemorrhaging eyes. I am also blessed with many very positive experiences with hospitals, so for me a hospital is a place where you go to get better and not a place where you go to die - or at least almost die.

I also have a great deal of trust in science, and by extension in doctors and nurses and that they know what they are doing. It doesn't mean that I'm not critical, but it does mean that I operate with the assumption that they are trying to do what's best for their patients, which in turn means that they are trying to help Chris as best as they can. That also means that when doctors tell us that they are confident things are going well, I focus on that. It doesn't mean that I don't hear the other side, but I don't believe that anyone is helped by always assuming and expecting the worst.

However, even with all this trust in medicine and science, I still worry. And the sinking feeling you get when you are told that your loved one has to go in for a second pretty major surgery in just as many days is captured with perfection by today's song. It is breathtakingly beautiful in all its deceptive simplicity, because while the chord progression is simple, the song has so many layers to it that make it worth hearing again and again and again.

Back in 1970, archetypical Californian David Crosby from The Byrds, Texan Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield fame, and Englishman Graham Nash from The Hollies had perfected three part harmonies in the supergroup Crosby, Stills, and Nash. When Canadian Neil Young, who had played with Stills in Buffalo Springfield, teamed up with them for their second album, the name was changed to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and the album was called Deja Vu. The album is spectacular, but in my eyes, nothing beats this little song written by a Canadian from North Ontario, mr. Neil Young. Please enjoy, here is CSNY with Helpless!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

February 21 - Country Feedback

Today's blog is back to music again. Since Chris still appears to be doing well, I was going to look for a deep track from a band that I was lucky enough to catch as they were rising to superstardom. I had a friend in high school, Rune Sandnes, who had a very cool musical taste, and he introduced me to a couple of bands that I either hadn't really heard of or only knew one song from. The band I had heard one song from was Australian band Midnight Oil, whose song Beds Are Burning was a song I really liked, but I didn't know anything more from them. He had quite a bit of their music, and it was really, really good. The other band that I hadn't heard of (now, please bear in mind that this was probably in 1989, and they had yet to lose their religion) was a band that sonically explored a somewhat similar landscape as Midnight Oil, and they were called  R.E.M.  I remember him letting me listen to Green, and I really liked it a lot - so much that I was eagerly awaiting their next album, which happened to be Out Of Time, and all of a sudden they were a household name.

I wasn't a superfan in any way, shape, or form, but I found them very interesting and I really liked them, so when Out Of Time was released, I was liking the accoustic sound - and I was happy for them as they gained more and more popularity. However, as some of the songs got overplayed, I lost my interest a little - although I picked up all their next three albums: Automatic For The People, Monster, and New Adventures in Hi-Fi - and then Bill Berry left and I had grown somewhat disenchanted with them. However, around the time of Monster, I worked at Studentradioen in Bergen, and they received a lot of CDs for air play, and one of them was the single for Bang and Blame, and it had a live version of Country Feedback on it. I also had friends in the US who had been to see R.E.M. on their Monster tour (with Sonic Youth as support - now that would have been quite the show) who told me about the song, and so I really didn't discover it until 1996, about 5 years after it was released.

The melody is haunting - I read somewhere that the title really is more descriptive of the sound of the song than linked to the lyrics, and I can completely see that. As with so many of R.E.M's songs, the lyrics appear to be pretty stream of consciousness based with very vivid imagery throughout. The music and lyrics go incredibly well together, so well that when Michael Stipe sings "It's crazy what you could have had - I need this," I shiver and feel the goosebumps rise as his intensity increases through the song. It is hidden towards the end on Out Of Time, quite a bit after Radio Song, Losing My Religion and Shiny Happy People - but man, is this a great song...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

February 20 - Now Be Thankful

Today is a day of gratitude. After having had two major surgeries in two days (Wednesday and Thursday), yesterday was a much needed day of recovery for Christine. Although it was just the first of a long series of days in the healing and recovery, the fact that there was peace and calm with everyone, from medical staff to family as well as Chris herself, was a great relief, and I ended up going home last night to spend the night in my own bed.

Waking up rested today really made me feel incredibly grateful, and today's song will reflect that. I would like to thank Dawn, Chris' sister, for simply being amazing. She stayed with Chris last night, which allowed me to go home and rest up a little without feeling too guilty (I still don't like being away from her for long while she is in the ICU, but knowing she has someone there really made it possible). Chris' mom has also been there throughout everything, which really has been a great support as well.

I'm also very grateful for having Chris' kids, Andrew, Samantha, and Sarah, and their families in my life. They have stood by their mother's side through all of this, and while I am positive they have been scared out of their minds because of the brush Chris had with death ten years ago, when she first had breast cancer, they have been incredibly supportive. The rest of Chris' family have also been incredibly supportive, from her niece Laila and nephew Nabeel, who had the opportunity of being there in person, to everyone who have been staying in touch with us throughout the hairy days - and I truly believe those days are behind us. I would also like to thank the two youngest people stopping by for bringing big smiles to Chris' face: granddaughter Emma and great niece Lilliana.

Finally, I would like to thank my family and friends, whether you know Chris or not, for the incredible support you have shown both of us. For anyone ever doubting that Facebook can be a powerful tool used for good, I can tell you that it indeed can. I have seen and felt the support from both near and far, and I love you all back!

So before this gets all too sappy and sounding like a bad Oscar acceptance speech, I should talk about the music of today as well... I cannot claim to be a fan of Fairport Convention, although I do like them a lot. However, I am a huge fan of Richard Thompson, and since his music career started with FC, I have developed an interest in their early work. The first Richard Thompson album I owned was the retrospective Watching The Dark, a 3 CD set that included 3 Fairport songs: Genesis Hall, A Sailor's Life, and Now Be Thankful, which is today's song. Now Be Thankful is sung by Dave Swarbrick, who also cowrote it with Richard Thompson. To me, it is about gratitude in the face of extreme adversity, although there are many ways to interpret the lyrics... From 1970's edition of Fairport Convention, here is Now Be Thankful.

Friday, February 19, 2016

February 19 - Don't Give Up

Today's song is another gem from Peter Gabriel's So album from 1986. Where I failed to mention that In Your Eyes feature Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour, I will not forget to mention his duet partner on today's song, the brilliant Kate Bush. Now, there isn't a single weak point or person on this album. Produced by Daniel Lanois, featuring his regular touring band on this track (with the exception of David Sancious, as Peter Gabriel played keyboards himself in the studio): Papa Bear Tony Levin, a studio giant most known for his work with King Crimson and PG on bass, David Rhodes on guitar, and Manu Katché, who has worked with just about everybody including Sting, Jan Garbarek, and Joni Mitchell, on drums.

After spending the last two days at St.Mary's hospital, this song really helped keeping my spirits up - and all my friends on Facebook seemed to sing it to me. It has been heartwarming to see the comments and likes, and in this situation they have been really meaningful. This song has been playing in my head for quite some time, but it's time to actually listen to it as well. Here is Peter Gabriel with Kate Bush with Don't Give Up.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

February 18 - Running To Stand Still

One of two U2 songs about addiction that musically describes how I feel at the moment, Running to Stand Still is one of their very best songs. Period. Released on 1987s The Joshua Tree, this little song feels like parched desert, much like what Ry Cooder did in The soundtrack to Paris, Texas. When I write this, I am watching Christine sleep following a 13 hour long surgery, and the most sic of this song more than the lyrics, capture how I feel...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

February 17 - Lovesong

Not much to say today. Christine is undergoing surgery - double mastectomy and reconstruction. I have a simple message from The Cure (today it is the best band name possible) delivered in the form of Lovesong from Disintegration.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

February 16 - I Can't Read

So I sat up watching the Grammys last night, and I watched Lady GaGa's tribute to David Bowie. I was very excited about this, partly because I had watched her rendition of the Star Spangled Banner before the Super Bowl, and I was blown away. However, her tribute, while having its moments, was disappointing. Nile Rodgers is a great guitarist for pop and funk, but he struggled with more traditional rock, and GaGa herself was great when she inserted her own personality into the music, but fell completely flat when she tried mimicking Bowie. Ziggy Stardust and Suffragette City pretty much sucked, but her soulful rendition of Heroes could have been very interesting had it been a little more fully formed (and maybe with someone other than Nile Rodgers on guitar, who shone on Fashion, Fame, and Let's Dance, but fell flat on Heroes).

All this made me want to post yet another Bowie song. They will keep coming this year, but this one is from one of the Bowie eras that are kept more quiet: His stint in Tin Machine. It was in Tin Machine he really developed the relationship with Reeves Gabrels, who played guitar with him for about a decade. The song I Can't Read is an underrated gem from the first Tin Machine album, and I like it even better on the soundtrack to Ang Lee's movie The Ice Storm. I believe it is a very fitting song for a great visionary artist!

Monday, February 15, 2016

February 15 - For The Beauty Of Wynona

While I embraced the challenge of having themed weeks, I think it is time to let loose for a little bit and choose songs that simply speak to me at the moment. The early 90s were an interesting period in my life. I graduated high school in 1991, and that was the same time I became very active in the two teetotaling youth organization that eventually merged and became Juvente in 1992. At the same time, while my radio activity was on hiatus, I kept on exploring music, reading record covers like others read news papers, and becoming very curious on people in different roles on the records.

I knew about Brian Eno from loving music of both David Bowie and U2, but the one person I really started paying attention to was Daniel Lanois. As a producer, he worked with a lot of artists I really respected and loved. He was there with U2 through The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, and Achtung Baby!, he worked with Peter Gabriel on So and Us, Bob Dylan on Oh Mercy (although at this point I was still convinced that Bob Dylan was a great songwriter but a lousy performer - how wrong could I be), and Robbie Robertson on his solo debut that found its way to the studios of Radio Ung, where I discovered this underrated member of The Band. In the midst of all this, he also started recording his own music, and while I remember taping a copy of Acadie, which he released in 1989, it wasn't until quite a bit later I really discovered him as a musician.

I remember the cover from the album For The Beauty Of Wynona. It was hanging as a poster at Innova Musikk in Trondheim on the corner of Dronningens Gate and Nordre, if I remember correctly, and it depicted a naked skinny woman with a knife. The picture was taken from the side, so only the profile was showing, but yes, she was indeed naked. This must have been in 1993, when the album was released. A little while after the release, probably later that year or the following year, I found the tape at Innova, but in a bargain bin. I think I paid 19 NOK (2-3 dollars) for the tape, but for quite some time it was just laying around in my collection. When I finally took it out, I brought it with me in the car, and the opening track, The Messenger, was mesmerizing with its slow moving guitar riff and Lanois' hoarse voice on it, and I was thinking this was pretty good. I kept on listening, and eventually the tape turned and hit side 2. A few pretty good songs ensued, and then... The title track.

The percussion starts. The guitar limps in, but then... The guitar finds the groove and starts the riff, a riff that is even more hypnotic than The Messenger had been to begin the tape. The same hoarse voice... "The ingots are burning red, I'm working time and a half..." Then the bass enters, punching the song forward, to the very clear statement: "I tripped and then I fell for the beauty of Wynona." The song keeps adding layers. Electric guitar with e-bow and feedback come in and stay through the song. The guitar solo is haunting and beautiful. And then it ends. Just like that. And I am left emotionally drained, but I play it again. And again. And again. And today I am sharing it again. I have shared this song with a lot of people through the years, and listening to it again in preparation for this, I am once again feeling the emotional impact on the song.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

February 14 - Valentine's Day

I can't give up on Valentine's Day quite yet. This last song for today was one I thought that was more for singles - just based on how I remember the song. Then I double checked the lyrics... Steve Earle might be a thorn in many people's side - he is very outspoken on the left in politics, he is an activist, and he really puts it all in his music. But not too many people can capture love this way - Valentine's Day is a beautiful song about the frailty one often can feel in a relationship.

February 14 - Valentine's Day Bonus Edition - In Your Eyes

OK - so while I believe that Love is Blindness absolutely is a great love song, I might have to up the game a little on the romantic part - and what better than taking a 30 year old song by someone who turned 65 yesterday? It is a great song - and it was used in a movie I don't think I have seen to a classic romantic moment involving John Cusack, if I am correct. This is just me touching base with Peter Gabriel, whom I think is on my top 10 list of favorite artists/bands (it's a crowded field - I was trying to tell Alison my top 5 yesterday, but that is also extremely difficult).

Anyway - for a "proper" Valentine's Day bonus edition, here is Peter Gabriel with In Your Eyes.

February 14 - Love Is Blindness

So, today is Valentine's Day... That means that I have to be romantic - and so I found a love song. Not necessarily the most traditional love song, but one that still has elements of being somewhat difficult to listen to - and to me it is difficult because The Edge's guitar solo is so vulnerable that it hurts every time I listen to it. It is filled with false starts and imperfect notes, but it shows so clearly that being a virtuoso doing technically spectacular runs left and right is no match for strong emotions.

The lyrics are filled with images alternating between desire and despair, and this song evoke some of the same emotions in me that Sehnsucht does. This love that Bono sings about is all-encompassing, it is intensely present and highly destructive - "a dangerous idea that almost makes sense." I do like good love songs, and this to me is one of the best ones ever written.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 13 - Aghartha

Today's song will be the last "difficult" piece of music, at least for this go around. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and while the song I have chosen for that also can be somewhat difficult to listen to, that is for a very different reason. Anyway - I digress...

Today's song is another exercise in slowly developing and played music. The band is Sunn O))), a duo consisting of Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson, both on electric guitars, with Greg Anderson also playing the bass. In 2009, they released the album Monoliths and Dimension, and they were joined by a host of guest artists, including Earth's Dylan Carlson, and Hungarian singer Atilla Csihar, a singer who is most known for his work with Norwegian black metal pioneers Mayhem.

It is very easy to dismiss Sunn O)))s music as noise. However, in keeping with my definition of music as wanted sound, this is very much music. Having watched interviews with Stephen O'Malley, it is even clearer to me what his musical project is, as he really is exploring slow changes over time. That also means that many of Sunn O)))s compositions are long and droning (a drone is one note that grounds the music and lies at the heart of a composition), and Aghartha is no exception. Attila Chihar's vocals ore otherworldly, with elements of the more tradidionally Mongolian throat singing, where overtones and undertones create an otherworldly sound.

So my challenge for today is for you to sit back and listen to this piece. Really listen. For every single minute. Listen for the subtle changes - and hopefully find yourself as blown away as I am.

Friday, February 12, 2016

February 12 - Starless

King Crimson offers many challenges to listeners. Although their earliest incarnations are pretty traditional progressive rock, the early to mid-seventies incarnation of the group started experimenting quite heavily. Led by Robert Fripp on guitar and mellotron, he is joined by Bill Bruford on drums, John Wetton on bass and vocals, and David Cross on violin and keyboards - and this is really a spectacular collection of musicians creating very new and different music.

Today's song, Starless, starts out as a ballad with a beautiful, haunting melody. Robert Fripp plays the mellotron initially, an instrument that really is the precursor to the sampled keyboards of today. Every time you hit a key, the mellotron plays a tape - just like a cassette player would - for that specific note. If you wanted to change instrument sounds, you needed to replace the cartridge, which was a pretty massive thing - there is a great video of this in the Making of Heritage film that came with Opeth's Heritage album. It is also one of the main instruments of early progressive rock - and it was all over King Crimson's music.

Anyway, the melody is hauntingly beautiful, as I said. The first time I heard it was actually in a concert recording of Motorpsycho performing it back in 96 or thereabout. I also had heard an edited version of the song, but that version took away the truly challenging part of this song, which is the guitar part. Robert Fripp holds one note, played on two alternating strings. He holds that one note while the bass plays a pretty heavy and groove laden riff, creating really strong tension between the two instruments that the listener keep waiting for a resolution to, but it goes on for almost 4 minutes - from about 4'15" to about 8'00 - yet it is still not completely resolved as the band enters a full free form sounding mode (although I suspect Robert Fripp has it carefully planned out). There is eventually resolution, and after the long build-up of tension, the release the resolution brings is immensely powerful. I know the instrumental part of this song gives me goosebumps every time - and it needs to be played loud for maximum effect!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

February 11 - Tethered to the Polestar

Today's "difficult" piece of music is difficult because of the amount of notes that are not played. If it sounds like a paradox, I hope you understand when you listen to it. We are so used to listening to music that goes a mile a minute where there is sound every microsecond that slow moving and slow developing music really becomes a challenge. The band behind this music is Earth, a band that started as a drone metal band, but who currently are experimenting much more with a western-influenced guitar tone and music that isn't drenched in feedback, but rather seeks to find its place in between all the silence that is around.

The challenge with this music isn't to play a recording of it, it is to actually listen to it. And I mean listen - not hearing it in the background. I am also very impressed with the band for playing it this slow. Try playing something slow like this yourself - as musicians, we tend to want to be involved and do things - I remember when I played third clarinet in band and sat there without playing, counting the rests until I got to participate again, bored out of my mind. But Earth does this beautifully - and while it can be challenging to actually listen, when I do, I really feel my mind going new places, and that, to me, is a wonderful experience.

Earth's music is a lot like this - it's the sound of the open American west, whether it is on the prairie or in the desert - at least that's how I like to hear it. So please sit back and enjoy Earth with Tethered to the Polestar from the album Hex - Or in the Infernal Method

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

February 10 - Sehnsucht

Einstürzende Neubauten - or collapsing new buildings in English - is a German industrial band. I discovered Einstürzende Neubauten through Nick Cave, whom I was introduced to in high school by Lars Tomren Støring, who was in my grade and with a more alternative musical taste. He introduced me to the album Tender Prey, and that really opened up a new and slightly more alternative door for me. The early music Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was noisy, sometimes chaotic, but with Nick Cave himself holding some strange, hypnotic control of the chaos. His right hand man in The Bad Seeds was Blixa Bargeld, so when I found out about his other band, I was curious. However, it would take quite a while before I was able to digest all the chaos first in the early music of Nick Cave, and a little later in Einstürzende Neubauten.

Their industrial sound is not marked by very mechanical beats, such as bands like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry use, nor are they into too many synthesizers like the British bands Throbbing Gristle and Coil (and the aforementioned American bands). What makes Einstürzende Neubauten unique is their desire to use industrial equipment as part of their musical sound, mostly on the percussive side. This isn't necessarily a new idea. I grew up listening to The Typewriter, a piece composed for orchestra and typewriter by Leroy Anderson. Yes, it was composed with a comedic effect in mind, but it also brought the idea of more everyday sounds fitting in with music.

When it comes to what can be considered music, I do adhere to Frank Zappa's notion that if someone wills it to be music, it is music - or, as the composer Larry Austin said, "Music is wanted sound." What that means is that if something is put in a piece of music for a reason, it is music. John Cage famously composed the piece 4'33" - which consists of 4 minutes and thirty three seconds of musicians not playing their instruments - but it isn't about silence, it is about all the sounds present in the room. All those little noises that are being heard when it is being performed are sounds that are wanted - so in my view, 4'33" is indeed music.

But, although Einstürzende Neubauten declared that Silence is Sexy with one of their albums, silence is not the key component of today's song. We are entering a world of noises, very strange noises at times (some of them are coming out of lead singer Blixa Bargeld's mouth) - of instruments played in very unorthodox ways - and of very unorthodox instruments. There is concrete and metal tools, and there are electric guitars. And there is Blixa. The title, Sehnsucht, means intense longing, and I really think that the pain of longing or yearning for someone or something is expressed perfectly well in this piece. To me, the best music invokes intense emotion, and that is in my very humble opinion very much the case in Sehnsucht.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

February 9 - Jacob's Ladder

I will be cheating a little today, because I instantly liked this song even though I still have a hard time counting it when I feel the rhythm (yes, I count to find meters). However, this is to me a very accessible song that illustrates a lot of what I listen for in music.

Speaking of what I listen for - I still remember being back in middle and high school learning about literary analysis, thinking it was stupid and a waste of time. First and foremost I was convinced that nobody thought of all of the literary elements when writing, because all writers did was tell a story. I was also convinced that with so many different possibilities for interpretation, it was really just left to chance - because, again, writers only tell stories, right? And finally, I was convinced that looking for all of these literary devices took away from the experience of reading. Here's the thing: at that stage it probably did take away from my reading experience - and I was never any good at it.

When it comes to music, I can see the same argument unfold. Analyzing it you listen for meters, chord progressions, melody line, lyrics, timbre and more. In the beginning, it is probably a big struggle - but for me, this process was driven out of interest and not as an academic exercise, and that made it a lot more organic than when I learned literary analysis. And, lo and behold, for me, listening to all these elements enhances the experience rather than take away from it - even when it gets difficult to unwrap the many layers of a song.

So today's song only has one difficult element to listen for, and that is the meter - or the time signature. Well... Actually, there are a couple of things, which we'll get to in a minute. However, the beginning of the song has an odd meter to it - or rather two of them. It alternates between 5/4 and 6/4. Explaining odd meters (or time signatures) is a little tricky, but I'm still going to try. A lot of traditional pop music uses 4/4 as a time signature, which means that there are four beats to a bar. A lot of pop/rock music use accents on the 1 beat to develop a pulse where you can count ONE two three four ONE two three four. It can (and will) be subdivided further (add an and in between every word to see how it works), but the basic pulse goes to 4, then repeats. Think about the Beatles song She Loves You for an example of a song in 4/4 (especially the verse).

The other time signature of my elementary school days was the good old waltz tempo, which is in 3/4. ONE two three ONE two three. And then... In band, we'd sometimes encounter 6/8, which is kind of a hybrid meter in that you really are counting ONE two ONE two - but the notes are subdivided in threes, so it becomes ONE and-a two and-a ONE and-a two and-a. The differences between 3/4 and 6/8 are used to great effect in the song America from West Side Story ([6/8:] I like to live in A[3/4:]me-ri-ca) - which counted in 8ths becomes something like ONE two three Two two three ONE two Two two Three two. I know - it's somewhat complicated to write it out - but listen to America again (I know you know it) and you will hear the difference.

Then I started encountering Rush - but before I did, I listened to Pink Floyd. The song Money from the fantastic Dark Side of the Moon is in 7/4, and you can detect that when you start counting the riff that goes over the cash register sounds - it repeats itself after 7 beats. It is artfully done - and what's even more skillfully done there is the switch over to 4/4 for the guitar solo before it goes back to 7/4 again.

In Jacob's Ladder you will encounter two odd meters: 5/4 and 6/4. Just count the beats contained within the guitar arpeggios in the beginning (arpeggios is really a fancy word for the picking Alex Lifeson does - it goes either ONE and two and three four five or ONE and two and three four five six with the three being the highest note he reaches before descending again in either pattern). Now I wish that I could stop here, but that would take away one other very effective element of the song - something I will revisit later this week as well - and that is the polyrhythm. When Geddy Lee sings, he sings in 4/4 on top of Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart continuing their 5/4 and 6/4 pattern, which creates an eerie effect.

Now I want to stress that you can listen to the song without worrying about all this meter stuff and still be perfectly fine. That was how I started listening to it as well. However, there is something else that pops up when you start finding the meters, and that is what I hope you do. We will get into other meters later this week - at least I have a feeling we will...

Monday, February 08, 2016

February 8 - Inca Roads

I thought long and hard before I decided that I indeed should do this - have a week where I post "difficult" music. For me, this is music that it took me a while to grow into - sometimes the difficulty simply is with an odd meter, sometimes there are intricate polyrhythms, sometimes the song structure can be difficult, sometimes the song can be abrasive, sometimes it's all of the above - and sometimes it is simply a very different melody line, which is the case today with the song Inca Roads.

In 1973, Frank Zappa gathered his Mothers (of Invention had been dropped at this point) again - Napoleon Murphy Brock on sax, flute, and vocals; George Duke on keyboards and vocals, Ruth Underwood on percussion (her marimbas on Inca Roads are spectacular), Tom Fowler on bass, and Chester Thompson on drums - and in September 1974 they found themselves in Helsinki, Finland. The band was extremely tight - and they had really developed some serious speed to some of the material. Inca Roads is still played in a moderate tempo, but if you listen to the different runs throughout the song, it is still highly complicated. I have given up on keeping track of all the meters used throughout the song - and to me, the melody lines and different runs don't follow traditional melody structures, but appear to be more inspired by contemporary orchestral music - and perhaps Varèse and Stravinsky.

All I know is that I am hooked on the strangeness of the initial melody, but I don't lose myself completely until the guitar solo - and even more so in the ensuing keyboard and marimba solos. This is one of my favorite pieces of music, as it merges rock with jazz and classical music, and it is well worth a listen. And - if you don't "get" it on the first try, come back to it later. That is the purpose with the music this week.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

February 7 - Trist at det skulle ende slik

This is the end of the first week of great Norwegian music that isn't Motorpsycho - and I think the song I have chosen fits the occasion. The song is called Trist at det skulle ende slik - or "It's sad that it should come to this" I think that means that there will be another week of great Norwegian music later this year - but I have other plans for next week.

I came to Raga Rockers in 1988 - or should I say that they came to me. I was working in Radio Ung, and this record came in with a fairly interesting cover - it was their fourth album, called Forbudte Følelser (Forbidden Emotions), and when the needle dropped on the first track, I liked what I heard - but when it reached track 4, I was hypnotized and mesmerized. The song was Rundt og Rundt (Around and Around - but with no relation to Chuck Berry's classic song). The riff churns and churns, and the monotony of the vocals suits it perfectly.

Seeing them live was seeing a solid band, but they were pretty static. The singer, Michael Krohn, stood pretty much straight up and down - but the music gained so much more power played live. I started diving into their back catalogue, and their debut album, The Return of the Raga Rockers, has some great songs on it. The song Trist at det skulle ende slik is about how people change and abandon their ideals as they grow older, and as I grow older, the meaning of it grows with me - although I don't think it's sad that it should come to this...

Saturday, February 06, 2016

February 6 - Vårsøg

Elg i solnedgang (moose in sunset). Troll. Bunad (regionally determined national costume). Ibsen. Hamsun. Grieg. Munch. These are just some of the phrases and people that represent the most Norwegian of what's Norwegian. And then there is Vårsøg. It is a song, an album, and a band. And I don't quite understand the lyrics either, because the dialect it is sung in really is hard to understand - even though it is geographically fairly close to where I am from. It is one of the most Norwegian of Norwegian songs, and I do not hesitate to declare Henning Sommero, who is the composer of the song, a genius. Hans Hyldbakk wrote the lyrics, and while I don't understand every word, there is no mistaking this for a song that longs for summer (and it works as an allegory for the freedom Hyldbakk was longing for as Norway was occupied by Germany when the poem was written).

While living in Norway, this song was inescapable to the point of me really not giving a rat's ass about it every time it was played on the radio. However, distance has truly had an impact once again - and I asked for the CD for Christmas, and I believe this song is just about as perfect as can be. Sommerro's use of the Fender Rhodes is impeccable and the production of the original is very close and intimate. The walking basslines are hidden in the background of the mix on the YouTube version, but the oboe solo is still there. This version also adds the next song on the LP, which also is worth listening to, but not as perfect as the song Vårsøg itself. However, I prefer the original to the later remakes, so here it is, in all its glory.

Friday, February 05, 2016

February 5 - Hjernen Er Alene

When I talked about DumDum Boys, I mentioned three other Norwegian bands that were popular at around the same time - and they also had in common that they sang in Norwegian. My least favorite of those three other bands was deLillos, which has a singer whose voice annoys the living daylights out of me, and whose lyrics in their naiveté get on my nerves. However, there are exceptions. Their third album, released in 1989, was a sprawling double album called Hjernen Er Alene (The Brain is Lonely), with a great murder ballad (Balladen om Kåre og Nelly - The Ballad of Kåre and Nelly), a happy song about spring, simply called Vår (Spring), a slow moody rocker called Venter På Telefon (Waiting For A Phonecall), and one of the greatest songs ever written about depression and loneliness in the title track.

I have to admit that there have been versions of this song released later that also have been great - and the best version is probably from a Norwegian TV show called Hver Gang Vi Møtes (Every Time We Meet), where Norwegian singers gather to interpret each other's songs, where the singer Elg (Elk - or Øyvind Elgenes) interprets it, bringing the rest of the singers there to tears (I had to include that one too, to contrast a little). While Elg's version has the desperation found in the loneliness, the original's very bare sonic structure and use of echo makes it more stripped down and naked, and so the emptiness of the loneliness is emphasized a little bit more. It is such a great song, and while I was set on only bringing you the original, I simply cannot help myself... First, here are deLillos from 1989:

Elg's version changes the character of the song. And I think he took lessons from Joe Cocker...

And finally, Seigmen's version of the song brings out more of the melancholy and gothic character of the song - at least to my ears...

Thursday, February 04, 2016

February 4 - Döderlein

In 1993, when I was discovering Motorpsycho, there was another band that started to make waves. That band was from Tønsberg, in the southern part of Norway, and they started out quite similarly to Motorpsycho - all newspapers called both bands grunge bands, yet listening back to it, I think that was a very easy way out to try to connect Norwegian music to what was going on in Seattle. I don't think there ever was a huge feud between the two bands, but there seemed to be two camps forming. I was rooted in the Motorpsycho camp, which was more of a hippie aesthetic with long jams and experiments with noise. Seigmen, on the other hand, was more of an art project - at least they turned into one. Where Motorpsycho would go on stage and jam, Seigmen's lead singer was much more theatrical and studied, and their concerts always seemed to be studied and rehearsed, whereas Motorpsycho always have prided themselves in not repeating the same setlist from day to day.

Seigmen is in other words great music from Norway that absolutely is not Motorpsycho. I really developed an appreciation for Seigmen in 1994, when they released their album Total. The album was far more rooted in art rock and the type of metal bands like Tool played, and it was really propelled by the cover version of a Norwegian classic by deLillos called Hjernen Er Alene (The Brain is Lonely - watch tomorrow's post...). While that song was what made me initially open my ears, the rest of the album was stunning, and one of the singles from the album is the gorgeous Döderlein. It combines ethereal guitars with more aggressive and discordant breaks, creating the kind of contrast I really love in music.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

February 3 - Seven Seas

I don't trust my memory. I don't trust everything I think I remember about this night, but I do know one thing: the very first rock concert I ever went to, I went with my friend Geir, and it was TNT playing at Skansen, a venerable venue in Trondheim that is no more. I am fairly certain the concert was on a Sunday, because I seem to remember that I still was ecstatic telling my 7th grade teacher all about it the very next day. I also believe that Geir and I ended up walking home from the concert - but that is a little less certain. It would have been quite a long walk, and it would have been late at night. However, Trondheim was pretty safe, and the evenings were pretty light as it was towards the end of the summer, so I am not ruling it out. But regardless of how we made it home, I was very happy to have encountered a real metal band in concert.

TNT started as a metal band singing in Norwegian in 1983, but they really didn't take off until they dropped Dag Ingebrigtsen as a singer - he had all the passion of a great singer, but metal singers in the 80s needed to sound as if castrated, and Dag had more of a manly growl than the high pitched squeals needed - and found American Tony Harnell. It didn't hurt that they got Morten Skaget - or Morty Black on bass as well, but the core of TNT has always been guitar player extraordinaire Ronni Le (or Rolf, as his birth certificate says) Tekrø and Hells Angel Diesel (really Morten) Dahl on drums. While these two are still keeping the band goin, I have to confess to having lost some interest in them as they started changing their sound in the mid 80s to really sound more and more like a run-of-the-mill 80s hair metal band.

So I saw them back in 1985. Two years later, my sister got me a ticket to another TNT concert as a confirmation present (I should note that this was not the traditional Christian confirmation - I did an alternative secular "confirmation"). That concert was supposed to be in Studentersamfundet, I believe - but as the day approached, I got in, ticket in hand, only to find that the concert had to be cancelled as Tony Harnell had an upper respiratory infection. I could get a replacement ticket, I think, but my interest was in decline after that disappointment (I am still thinking there is something fishy about that cancellation, as last minute as it was), so I cashed it in instead.

However, in 1985, when I saw them, their album Knights of the New Thunder had received a new cover, free from bare chested cartoon women, but including a battle axe and a viking helmet, clearly in keeping with the viking themed lyrics of the album. It is short, but it is still a solid album. Le Tekrø should really be up there with Malmsteen and Van Halen - that's how good he is in his genre - but I will leave that to you to decide. My favorite track from Knights of the New Thunder is a true little viking gem: Seven Seas

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

February 2 - Splitter Pine

Some songs simply define a year. A whole year. At least in retrospect. The year I am talking about is 1989. I was 17 - or rather about to turn 17. At least when the song was released, I was about to turn 17. I was doing my rock show in Radio Ung, I think the name at this point was Madhouse, and DumDum Boys were giving interviews with the local press as they were readying for what I think must have been the release concert for the album at Rosendal Kino, an old movie theater that was turned into a pub/concert arena as well as housing the local film club, showing arthouse movies (although that part might have happened later). It was also the place I had loyally watched all three Star Wars movies during fall and winter breaks since 1983 until it stopped being a regular cinema in 1986.

But, anyway, I was there on assignment, with a tape recorder in hand - and I got one of the guys in the band assigned to me. I was nervous beyond compare - and at one point, I asked my victim, "which one of them are you again?" he was gracious - only a few years older than me - and responded that he was Persi, and he played bass. I remember we walked and talked, there was snow on the ground, and we walked past UFFA (Ungdom For Fri Aktivitet - Youth For Free Activity - a house for creative and alternative youth in Trondheim - I might have to cover the place a little bit more in detail later), which was right across the road from Rosendal and where DumDum Boys had spent much of their formative years under the name Wannskrækk (Hydrophobia). I don't remember any other questions - but I do remember that I got him to record a promo for us that we used extensively in the months to follow.

When it was time for the concert, I had a problem. Minimum age was 18. I had my press card with me, which really was a homemade little thing that our managing editor, my very good friend Svein Ola, had provided for me. It looked good, but it wasn't really all that official. I was under the impression that I already had been cleared for it, but that was not the case. The bouncer finally let me in, but with the warning that if he every caught me with a glass of beer in my hands... He left the end of the sentence dangle the same way I was convinced my teeth would hold on to my gums if I tested his mettle. However, he need not have worried - I was not drinking at all at this age, even though I really was the exception among most of my friends.

So I was let in, and I got to experience the frantic beast that is DumDum Boys for the very first time. And man, what an insane show. I was blown away. Prepple Houmb, the lead singer, is a man possessed on stage. Piercing eyes that bulge out of his forehead - he had the audience eating from the palm of his hand from the time he stepped on stage. The rhythm section, with Sola Jonsen on drums and Persi Iveland on bass, was incredibly steady - and there aren't many who write guitar riffs and lyrics like Kjartan Kristiansen, whose guitar sound dominated the sonic landscape. DumDum Boys was THE Norwegian rock band in the late 80s and through the first half of the 90s. People also talk about Raga Rockers, DeLillos, and Jokke & Valentinerne from this era, but none of them ever touched DumDum Boys in my opinion (and I liked all four bands). The monster riff that starts Splitter Pine was one of many highlights of this concert - but it is one that I clearly remember.

So this concert set the stage for the year. The song was repeated again on the 17th birthday party of my good friend Sissel, who now is an established archeologist in Trondheim - I couldn't be happier for her - as DumDum Boys played on the grounds of Trondheim Katedralskole (the oldest high school in Trondheim, linked to the Nidaros Cathedral). We, as in a group of friends, had gathered at her place first to warm up, then headed downtown to "Marinen", a strip of land adjacent to Nidelven and the cathedral, where youth traditionally gather on May 16th, the evening before Norway's national holiday. When it was time for the concert, we found our way there, and for some strange reason, my evening really was complete when the blue light bathed the stage as the lyrics to OppNed went, in slightly free translation, "The moon is plugged in tonight, casting off electric blue light". And then Splitter Pine started again.

The summer was no different. For the first time, I went to the national convention/summer camp of DNTU, a Norwegian youth organization dedicated to reducing alcohol consumption - and requiring its members to abstain from all use of alcohol and drugs. I had already made that choice and was a member of a rival youth organization, NGU, but Jon Inge convinced me that nothing was quite like DNTU, so I decided to go to the summer camp, which this year was in Grimstad, in the southern part of Norway. Every night, there was a dj playing and people dancing, and the song that got everyone moving was once again Splitter Pine. It was indeed the song of the year.

So, for those of you who wonder what the heck Splitter Pine means, the answer is simply nothing. By itself, it really has no meaning. However, if you add the word gal at the end, it means stark raving mad, so I guess my best translation is stark raving... Persi is the guy in a top hat - and this was before we had heard of Slash and Guns'n'Roses in Trondheim. Also, Splitter Pine is not the ultimate DumDum Boys song, as that is Tyven Tyven, which came out of a tragedy about 5 years later - but more about that in a later post. Just enjoy Splitter Pine.

Monday, February 01, 2016

February 1 - Bendik og Årolilja

Migration can do strange things to people. I don't think very many who knew me back in Norway would consider me a nationalist - even in the most positive sense of the word. However, I've never been more Norwegian than when I moved to the United States. I have mentioned my interest in traditional music before - but until I moved to the US, that was much more a question about other tradition than Norwegian tradition. After I moved here in 1999, that started changing, and I developed a very big interest in Norwegian traditional music - and while Gåte was one of the bands I eventually started really connecting with, they were not where it all started.

The roots had been laid in the years in Studentradioen i Bergen, as they had two CDs that were called The Sweet Sunny North by David Lindley and Henry Kaiser, two virtuoso guitarists who had made a trip to Norway to record and play traditional music with Norwegian musicians. They had done a similar project prior to this that resulted in A World Out of Time, featuring recordings from Madagaskar. So I had listened to this music, as well as some Finnish traditional music (Hedningarna), and some Swedish hybrid of traditional music and metal (Hoven Droven). I was curious, and I had a gateway to traditional music, but I wasn't yet quite convinced.

And then I moved to the US - and I ended up feeling the need to really explore my own heritage a little bit more. Music was indeed a part of it, but other traditions became important to understand a little as well - mostly because people always would ask me about Norway and traditions. Some questions have really shown the ignorance of some of the people I have encountered - such as earnest questions about the prevalence of electricity and indoor plumbing as well as being asked if I knew what a library was (I am surprised Trondheim Folkebibliotek - the public library in my home town - still is open now that it isn't supported by my chronic late fees). Someone asked me if the Norwegian language really is English with a Norwegian accent... I could go on - but really, the more interesting questions revolve around culture and traditions surrounding holidays. And while people here may not know why American Christmas traditions are the way they are, they sure want to know why we do them differently (read: wrong) in Norway.

So, around the same time I moved to the United States, there was a new band that started developing in Norway. Their name was Gåte - the direct translation is riddle, but it could also be translated to mystery - and they played traditional music with a very modern sound and arrangement. The instrumentation was drum, bass, and guitar with keyboards and electronics, which is a very traditional rock setup, but they were also augmented by fiddle, which is heavily featured in Norwegian traditional music. Gunnhild Sundli, who was the singer, was only 14 when she joined the band and the little sister of Sveinung Sundli, who was the fiddle player. They released 2 studio albums before calling it quits in 2005. By then, Gunnhild Sundli was 20, which means that she was a teenager when all their studio albums were recorded, which is amazing both given the power of her voice and the style of music they were playing, which often takes many years to perfect.

I should also mention that during the last part of their tenure, their drummer was one Kenneth Kapstad, who now plays drums for Motorpsycho. I think that is more than a good enough reason to let Gåte be the start of a new week, this one featuring good Norwegian music that isn't Motorpsycho... Here is the song that opened my ears for Gåte: Bendik og Årolilja.