Musical production is ramping up even faster than Omicron cases, inflation and national debt right now, with two of Norway’s finest, Highasakite and Pom Poko releasing an album and an EP respectively on Friday 28th January, a date that is becoming the business’ own Black Friday each year.
The styles of those two bands are quite different of course, Pom Poko having cornered the market in fast-paced, loud, but subtle and technical math rock in recent years (except there’s no market; they are it).
With two albums now behind them, the first one, ‘Birthday’, having been worthy of its multiple labeling as ‘Album of the Year’ (including by me) while last year’s ‘Cheater’ didn’t quite live up to the hype but, hey, no-one’s perfect, there’s a fair amount of scrutiny of the four young Norwegians and what direction they might have taken with this EP.
Previously I described the opening track, ‘Enduro Corner’, which is about mountain climbing without any equipment, as having a simple melody and bass line, reminding me a little of ‘Like a Lady’ from ‘Cheater’. That there’s nothing to dislike but the one thing it isn’t is demanding, they aren’t challenging their listeners.
They say that although the songs on this EP are quite different from each other, they feel that they fit together “in a nice way”. And the next track, ‘Time’, couldn’t be more different, with a variety of time signatures, Martin Miguel Tonne’s strident, almost discordant guitar, thumping bass from Jonas Krøvel and drumming from Ola Djupvik that varies between subtle and sledgehammer, all making a welcome return.
There’s little in the way or form or structure to it, it’s as if they’ve stuck together a series of jams, but they are better than just about anyone else at that.
When you call a song ‘Our House’ you invite comparisons with Madness and this is indeed a mad house of a song. It starts off with the sort of reverberated feedback you’d expect at the end of a track rather than the beginning, then before you know it, it’s 1966 and Jimi has arisen and is warming up at London’s Scotch of St. James Club. ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ could be just around the corner. (I wonder what the Norwegian national anthem would sound like if Mr Tonne was to play it).
Then it slows right down into a sort of gentrified 1960s prog keyboard section before exploding into a jazz-rock fusion which requires a redefinition of ‘experimental’. There is no contemporary band I can think of to compare Pom Poko with when they play this sort of stuff. Perhaps Brand X in the UK in the1970s when Phil Collins was behind the kit but that’s a level they should continue to aspire to.
And is this the first track on which they’ve used keyboards? Another important moment in their development.
The final track, ‘Sonatina’, (technically ‘Sonatina from the cantata ‘Actus Tragicus’’ I believe although there are several of these Bach sonatas and they sound alike) is the focus track for the EP and is in fact an interpretation (I won’t use the vulgar word ‘cover’), of Johann Sebastian Bach’s work, one that was originally written for two recorders and a small chamber orchestra.
Loud math rock bands didn’t exist in Johann’s day but surprisingly you can sense as well as hear the original piece in this delicate reading of it, to which they’ve added recorder and lyrics, written (well I’m confident JSB didn’t write them), and tastefully offered up by Ragnhild, turning it into a sweet little ballad.
Just for once they’re back in that Trondheim Conservatoire, doing something I suppose they thought was confined to history. I’m not certain that Baroque Composition is going to feature regularly in their repertoire and I can’t imagine them finishing their ultra-dramatic live show with this, focus track or not, but I would like to hear more of it. A side project perhaps?
So what direction are they taking with this EP? Lord knows, and I reckon they don’t either. That’s why we love ‘em.
Nordic Music Central rating: 8/10
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