Led by Kings of Convenience’s Norwegian Erlend Øye, the Berlin band was active from 2003 to 2014, releasing two albums of indie pop, funk and dance goodness. Even though some critics didn’t invest as much time listening to the second album, Erlend’s brilliant lyrical play and melodies in-between the raw guitar, puncturing baseline and intertwining with the keyboard makes this an incredible project. Its life was cut short but Erlend has explained that whenever he has an idea, he executes it and doesn’t ponder or question it, so when critics said they wish he had explored new horizons with the vocals, he stuck to his art/intent till the end, creating a solidified soundtrack to the life of the whitest boy alive.
Originally created as an electronic dance music project in 2003 in Berlin, it soon began developing into a band, their name coming from the idea of a naïve, shy northern European boy which is what their music is about. Led by Erlend (guitar/vocals) with Marcin Öz (bass), Sebastian Maschat (drummer) and Daniel Nentwig (keyboard), all programming was ditched for a typical rock set-up even though we find hints of electro across certain songs. Their sound is intricate, it falls under a sort of naked indie rock but keyboards as well as the rhythmic part of the drums all arranged with their chemistry makes this band stand-out. After 2 singles, ‘Dreams’ was released in 2006 under Erlend’s label Bubbles, fitted with an indie/dream pop sound where most the time, the baseline provides the backbone to the tracks, keyboard adds different textures to the melody whilst the guitar is cleverly played to a minimal state but only encourages the soft vocals and ambience of the album. Towards the last three songs, you do feel a little exhausted and as the tracks get softer in their tone, it can make you lose focus. Nevertheless, tracks like “Golden Cage”, “Inflation”, “Don’t Give Up” and the ones below are fantastic tunes.
“Burning” was my introduction this band, the drums have a high tempo keeping the delicate guitar riffs and chords up to pace with the baseline puncturing the track, becoming the sole provider of melodic direction. The chord progression is heavenly and the song talks of people dictating everything about someone’s life, leaving him not to make mind of his own and comparing that to a wildfire in a forest which doesn’t have a sense of direction but keeps burning because it just does.
“Fireworks” has a raw guitar, down-stroked, which intertwines with the bass whilst the drums stay true to the path its set out for the track. The song talks of a relationship where the girl doesn’t want to let out her problems, a physical desire between them rises the tension and a certain impatience of him trying to figure out what’s wrong with her. He describes fireworks as letting your problems out, even though they may hurt, their reward is so much more satisfying than holding back.
Just 3 years later, ‘Rules’ was released after being recorded in Mexico following a long term of touring, Erlend sticking to the sound previously found in the last record which was seen negatively in the eyes of reviewers who were expecting more. Triple J however, announced it their feature album of the week and the brilliant track “1517” was featured in FIFA 10. This would turn out to be last album by this band, Erlend continuing his solo musical path as well as re-joining his previous band Kings of Convenience. The album, apart from the tracks listed below, also has brilliant tunes like “Island”, “Keep A Secret”, “High On The Heels” and “Gravity”.
“1517” is poppy from the keyboard to the guitar, it has every element that we love about this band and touches on the idea of religious freedom and acceptance of faults, the title referring to the year the church started selling documents in exchange for forgiveness of sins that the buyer had committed in his life, named indulgences.
“Intentions” has a rolling baseline with a beating keyboard and the guitar jumping in and out of the melody as Erlend does so well, discussing whether saying your intentions is the right thing to do, reminding us that its easier said than done.
“Courage” also contains everything we love about the band musically, it comes right after “Intentions”, talking about how now that he’s revealed them, the other party must do the same, nothing can be done/agreed on without both sharing their intentions and they’ll have to show courage, just like he did, if it’s going to work.
Even though the project is no longer, Erlend’s musical path with this band is brilliant in terms of his lyrics, the arrangement of the instruments and the raw indie rock/pop sound produced. The name of the band helps us envision how this could clearly be the soundtrack to the whitest boy alive’s life, the naïve and innocent themes of the songs just works wonders with the sound that’s produced, rounding it up to be a fantastically executed voyage.