OK – some of you might have heard this already, but for those that didn’t, here’s the story:
A few months ago Bent was asked to make a playlist of Norweigan music he likes for the Italian radio station Radio Raheem. Doing it thoroughly, he came back with a personal destillate of Norwegian music over the last 50 years or so, grouped into five 10-song playlists with short annotations to each list, giving a little context and explaining what each song was in the bigger picture, and also often what it represented to him.
While he’s sorry for the ommissions – there are a lot of really great stuff that was left out here – but as a primer for good or great norwegian music since the early 60s, it is pretty representative: the stuff on here is not too obscure, but not too obvious either – at least if you are an average Italian listening to the radio!
We now present these playlists and annotations for every Psychonaut’s pleaseure. You might know it all already, but if you don’t, there is gold here if you use your ears! Plop your choices into your favourite streaming algorithm, and it will help you go down deeper related rabbitholes all day. Or be cool and just buy the record. If you can find it. Whatever. Hope you hear something you like!
Difference: Tree of love
Junipher Greene: A spectre is haunting the peninsula
Arne Nordheim: Warzawa
Jan Garbarek Quartet: Afric pepperbird
Svein Finnerud Trio: Plastic sun
Min Bul: I Cried a million tears last night
Terje Rypdal: The hunt
Inger Lise Rypdal & Jahn Teigen: Voodoo
Popol Ace: Queen of all queens
1: Difference: Tree of love: Untill the mid 60s Norwegian music was stuck in the 40s. the first beat groups started popping up around 1965, and one of the first semi-psychedelic bands were Difference. their 1967 single Tree of Love is considered a classic in the lighter Hollies/Procol Harum vein.
2: Junipher Greene: A spectre is haunting the peninsula: A Norwegian rock underground was more or less non existent untill 1969/70, but things eventually started moving and some records of quality were finally released around 1970. Junipher Greene’s Friendship is one of only a handfull of norwegian classics of the psych/underground rock genre.
3: Jumbo: U.F.O.: heavy rock was rare too, but a few bands existed. Aunt Mary is one, but our favourite is Jumbo and their 1970 single ‘U.F.O.’
4: Arne Nordheim: Warzawa: the most important norwegian composer since Edward Grieg in the 1890s, is Arne Nordheim. His early 60s recordings from Poland were controversal but changed how a lot of people thought about music.
5: Jan Garbarek Quartet: Afric pepperbird: In Norway, the underground were jazzers. The legendary hang-out was Club 7 in Oslo, and one of the most important constellations were the Jan Garbarek Trio. Garbarek is still playing, but has later chosen a more new-age path than he did on this post-Coltrane rave-up.
6: Svein Finnerud Trio: Plastic sun: Another, more avantgarde group were The Svein Finnerud Trio. They were the link between the jazz and art scenes in Oslo, and althouh never commercially ‘big’, extremely important in the Club 7 scene.
7: Min Bul: I Cried a million tears last night: the guitarplayer in the Jan Garbarek Quartet was Terje Rypdal. He’d played in beat groups and in the psychedelic supergroup Dream before ‘going jazz’ and joining Garbarek, but the crossover between the scenes was flourishing by 1970, when Min Bul (Rypdal and two of the Finnerud Trio guys) released their one album. This is a fine example of the arty free racket they made.
8: Terje rypdal: The hunt: Rypdal was later, like Garbarek, signed to ECM records. Of his vast and varied output, our favourites are from the early-mid 70s fusion period, and perhaps especially the album ‘Whenever I seem far away’ from 1974. A masterpiece.
9: Inger Lise Rypdal & Jahn Teigen: Voodoo: In this period Rypdal was omnipresent. He was even married to mainstream popstar Inger-Lise Rypdal, and in 1976 wrote and played on her entry in the norwegian finals of the Eurovision song contest. This was way too strange for the norwegian jury and never got any further, but the song is still great!
10: Popol Ace: Queen of all queens: the male vocalist in that Eurovision song is Jahn Teigen. At this time he sang in a progressive band called Popol Ace that did two very good albums in the genre, but he later became a norwegian Eros Ramasotti-type pop superstar, and for a few years in the 80s was a celebrity in Norway. This is the best thing he ever did.
The Pussycats: ebb tide
Ole Paus: Nå kommer jeg og tar deg
Knutsen & Ludvigsen: Bestefar skulle ut og fri
Prudence: Æ E Trønder Æ
The Kids: Hun er forelska i læreren
Stage Dolls: Queen of hearts
TNT: Harley Davidson
Darkthrone: Kathaarian Life Code
1: The Pussycats: Ebb tide: The first norwegian beat combo that became Beatles-like pop stars were The Pussycats. They supported the Rolling Stones in Scandinavia in 1965 and wreacked havoc wherever they played, but their biggest hit was – weirldy – this Shadows-like instrumental called Ebb Tide.
2: Ole Paus: Nå kommer jeg og tar deg: A few years later, the Pussycats backed up one of the strangest but most talented new singer/songwriters on the Club 7 scene, Ole Paus. His second album Garman from 1972, with the Pussycats as the backing band, is a norwegian classic.
3: Knutsen & Ludvigsen: Bestefar skulle ut og fri: an even weirder band in the same scene were Knutsen & Ludvigsen. This oddball duo focused on radioprograms and albums for children, but like Pixar today had several layers and appealed to grown-ups as well. Their whole ouvre is still compulsory listening for every norwegian child. This song is off the first album by them I was exposed to – when I was 4 years old – ’Tut!’ from 1973: ‘Grandad went a’courting’
4: Prudence: Æ E Trønder Æ: Knutsen & Ludvigsen were from Trøndelag, the middle part of Norway where Motorpsycho also is from. A more grown up combo from the same area were Prudence. They were longhaired freaks playing progressive music, and collapsed in a tired heap in 1975 after7 years of touring Norwat in a van. This song – by now the unofficial Trøndelag national hymn! – is from their farewell album ’Takk te dokk’ from 1974.
5: Høst: Ørnkloa: progressive bands in Norway almost all came from the jazz-scene. one of very few exceptions, is the hard rocking Høst. This is from their 2nd and last album ‘Hardt mot hardt’ from 1976.
6: The Kids: Hun er forelska i læreren: as the 1980s came rolling in, one of the biggest bands in Norway were The Kids. They were a hard rock glam boyband that made 2 albums and fucked anything with a pulse during the 2 years they existed. This is their biggest hit – a song Metallica covered when they played Trondheim last summer!
7: Stage Dolls: Queen of hearts: The Kids had 2 major offshoots: one was the more Petty/Adams/Bon Jovi-rock of the Stage Dolls. Their brand of party rock still works, and they still tour to this day. This is the opening track to their debut album from 1984, the Petty’esqe Queen of hearts.
8: TNT: Harley Davidson: The other Kids offshoot were the ‘None More Heavy Metal’ TNT. Their hair metal saw them tour the states and japan and make a handful of classic 80s metal albums, but they were never better than this, the first track on side one of their debut album, the self titled TNT from 1983.
9: Mayhem: Deathcrush: Norwegian underground metal – black metal – first reared it’s ugly head in the late 80s. Inspired by Venom, Celtic Frost, and Thor & Odin, Mayhem defined an artform with their first album Deathcrush.
10: Darkthrone: Kathaarian Life Code: Mayhem were the first, but Darkthrone arguably made the best Norwegian Black Metal album ever with their ‘A blaze in the Northern Sky’. This is as good as it got.
Veslefrikk: Stille stille
DePress: bo jo cie kochom
Kjøtt: Mannen på taket
Raga Rockers: Maskiner i Nirvana
Jokke & Valentinerene: Sola Skinner
Dumdum Boys: Ti liv
deLillos: Hjernen er alene
Åge Aleksandersen: levva livet!
Israelvis: We only live twice
Life…but how to live it? : Ugly
1: Veslefrikk: Stille stille: The mid 70s music scene gradually turned into punk via some bands that were more political in their approach. Veslefrikk were one of the most important left wing bands. Their live album swansong from 1981 is a great document of the style and the era, and their singer Anne Grete Preus was later a much respected singer/songwriter.
2: DePress: bo jo cie kochom: Punk in Norway was a mostly strange combination and continuation of avantgarde, arty jazz, political pop and youthful nihilism. DePress added some ska-guitars to a Polish folk song and made the Norwegian equivalent to Anarcy in the UK while they were at it, with Bo jo cie kochom from the LP ‘Block to block’ in 1981.
3: Kjøtt: Mannen på taket: the best norwegian punk album of the first era was perhaps the Kjøtt EP from 1980. 7 songs of undiluted youthful nihilism, catchy tunes and great semi-intellectual lyrics. a stone classic!
4: Raga Rockers: Maskiner i Nirvana: The drummer and main songwriter in Kjøtt was Michael Krohn. When Kjøtt folded in 1982 he became the singer in the first of what now is called ‘the big 4 of norwegian 80s rock’, Raga Rockers. These bands all sang in norwegian, but in new and inspiring ways. The Raga Rockers were the hard cases, and their ouvre formed a generation of freaks with their antisocial lyrics and Stooges-inspired proto rock. This is the title track from their 2nd album ‘Maskiner i Nirvana’ from 1985.
5: Jokke & Valentinerene: Sola Skinner: Jokke & Valentinerne were the beer swiggling party band of ‘the big 4’. Their brand of ramshakle Kinksy 60s pop – with losercore, druggy/drinky-but-philosophical lyrics – was a winner, and soundtracked many a lost week-end for more than a decade. Jokke himself OD’d in the late 90s.
6: Dumdum Boys: Ti liv: The eternal ‘Stones vs the Beatles’ dichonomy was also present in the era of ‘the Norwegian big 4’. The Stones’y bad boy rockers of the 4 were the Dumdum Boys. They looked the best and their quirky lyrics seemed to hide a secret only the coolest would get… I was never that cool, but I got to produce their 2012 album Ti Liv. This is the title track from that record.
7: deLillos: Hjernen er alene: If the DumDum Boys were the Stones, the deLillos were the Beatles. They were a much nicer gathering of seemingly more wholesome youth that played more trad. pop music and generally sang about more innocent things. This is the title track off their 3rd album, the ‘white album’ of the equation, Hjernen er alene, perhaps the best album any of ‘the big 4’ ever made.
8: Åge Aleksandersen: levva livet!: While the music press and the kids focused on ‘the big 4’, the singer from Prudence worked on a solo career that suddenly went supernova in 1984 with the release of ‘Levva Livet!’. In the first year of release this album sold more than 400 000 copies in a country with 4 million inhabitants! you do the math: it is simply astonishing. And some of it is actually pretty cool too! The title track sounds like Bruce Springsteen on Norwegian moonshine and is still heard coming out of open windows at 3 o’clock in the morning in the summer. All together now: ”ooohoohho – levva livet!”
9: Israelvis: We only live twice: At the other end of the spectrum, the underground hardcore thrived at places like Blitz in Oslo and UFFA in Trondheim, and one of the biggest bands of the era was Israelvis. Their combination of hard core punk and Voivod-ish metal struck a core both in Norway and abroad, and is still pretty damn cool!
10: Life…but how to live it? : Ugly: the biggest and best of all the Norwegian hardcore punk bands that toured europe ceaselessly in the late 80s/early 90s, were Life… but how to live it. Their off-beat brand of hardcore was popular in squats all over europe and the band more or less lived in their van for years around 1990. Other punk bands like So Much hate, Stengte Dører, Svart Framtid, Turboneger, Anal babes, Kafka Process, Bannlyst, Gluecifer, Angor Wat etc were good too, but Life.. were the best. This is the title track off their last album Ugly from 1992.
Sister Rain: Head away
Dog Age: Half baked
Big Bang: Wild Bird
Euroboys: Gallery Oslo
Biosphere: As the sun kissed the horizon
Hanne Hukkelberg: Berlin
Susanne Sundfør: the brothel
Jenny Hval & Susanna Vallumsrød: Droplet
1: Sister Rain: Head away: While the punks listended to hardcore at Blitz and the mainstream rocked out to ‘the big 4’, in 1990 a new psychedelic underground was happening. One of the most important bands of this Oslo scene was Sister Rain. Their 2nd album Water in Tide is a classic of the genere and of the era.
2: Dog Age: Half baked: another band from that scene was Dog Age. Their name should’ve been Drug Age – they were out there – but their music was great. This Jimmy Campbell cover from their 2nd album Sigh No More, is just fantastic!
3: Bigbang: Wild Bird. Of the new, not quite grunge, but of the same era bands, Bigbang rode a more rootsy rock horse, and are still playing their brand of west coast/hippie rock to this day. Great band with some really really great songs!
4: Euroboys: Gallery Oslo: The guitar player from Turbonegro once was an ambitious young turk, and his band – the Euroboys, obviously – were a great little combo. Their 2nd album ‘Long day’s flight ’till tomorrow’ is a proper double LP full of catchy tunes and tasteful arrangements.
5: Biosphere: As the sun kissed the horizon. As all this rocking happened in Oslo , Bergen and Trondheim around the start of the 90s, the keyboardist in the pop group Bel Canto jumped ship and started his own ambient project Biosphere. This for a time was the biggest musical export Norway had, and the ‘band’ was massive. The city of Tromsø where he lived became the capital of Arctic Electronica, and the city was full of bleeps and bloops for many years. None were as good as the original though. this track is from Substrata, 1997.
6: Supersilent: 6.1: Another non-rock group that made a huge impact on the norwegian music scene in the 90s were the free improv ensemble Supersilent. This combination of jazzers and noisemakers still make extremely potent music on the fringes of the avantgarde.
7: Hanne Hukkelberg: Berlin: into the 2000s, a new wave of singer/songwriters appeared. many of these were women of exceptional voices and talent, and one of the best is Hanne Hukkelberg. This song is from her break through album ‘Rykestrasse 68’ from 2006
8: Susanne Sundfør: the Brothel: The one that has made the biggest mainstream splash from this new generation is probably Susanne Sundfør. Her albums sell by the bucketload and she does sell-out tours both home and abroad. Her moody songs most often dwell within a Radiohead inspired setting, and she sometimes comes up with some really fantastic songs such as this, her perhaps finest moment The Brothel.
9: Jenny Hval & Susanna: I have walked this body: moving towards the more avantgarde, both Jenny Hval and Susanna have their own amazing careers and do really well, but sometimes team up to make even more fantastic music. the album Meshes of voice from 1914 is a masterpiece.
10: Deathprod: Disappearance/reappearance: Deathprod came to prominence as a member of Motorpsycho, but has made at least as much impact in his solo career, as well as as a producer, as a member of his wife Susanna’s band, as a member of Supersilent, and in the duo Minibus Pimps with John Paul Jones. This is the opening track from his fantastic album Occulting Disc from last year, his first in many many years.
Ricochets: Cold outside
The South: Psb6u-blues
Spidergawd: Made from sin
Elephant9: Fugl Fønix
Needlepoint: Robert Reverie
Jaga jazzist: Animal Chin
Ola Kvernberg’s Steamdome: Caterpillar
Amgala Temple: Bosphorus
Gard Nilssen’s acoustic unity: When pigs fly
1: Ricochets: Cold outside: while the avantgarde is coming along nicely and the girls speak out loudly, the last 15 years have also given us some new proper rock bands. One of these were the Ricochets. they made every stage they played unsafe and exciting, and their Rocky Ericsson-meets-Nick Cave thing was truly exciting there for a while. They sadly imploded a few years ago.
2: The South: Psb6u-blues: A more americana/rootsy alternative were The South. They existed for a few years around 2010, made four really good albums of southern rock, but never quite made it to where it became a full time thing. a pity, cause the potential was mos def there.
3: Spidergawd: Made from sin: The South were from Trondheim, and another local act that started making waves around the same time were Spidergawd. a full on rock assault with an affinity for 80s metal, you either love it or hate it, but at their best they can’t be argued with. Made from Sin is from their – perhaps best? – 2nd album.
4: Elephant9: Fugl Fønix: A guy with fingers in many pies is Ståle Storløkken. He has played with at least 10 of the artists we’ve heard in these playlists, and he is perhaps the finest musician Norway has known. Everything he touches is fantastic, but his rockout alibi, Elephant9 kicks more ass than almost anything. The Hammond C3 has seldom sounded so bitchin’!
5: Needlepoint: Robert Reverie: Needlepoint is a relatively new band, but the guys are all old warhorses. The rythm section has played in Bigbang for 15 years, the bassplayer is in Elephant9, Steamdome and a gazillion other bands, and their leader Bjørn Klakegg is one of these people that seem to exist outside of time: a one off with amazing songwriting abilities, fleet guitar fingers, and a band beyond belief!
6: Jaga jazzist: Animal Chin: Starting out as kids in the early 90s, Jaga Jazzist has made a steady career out of their weird-but-catchy instrumental excursions, and are still at it with a new album out this summer. Main guy Lars Horntveth is an important guy in many scenes and has produced Susanne Sundfør as well as A-ha and Sugarfoot. This is the opening track on Jaga’s classic 1996 breakthrough album ‘A living room hush’.
7: Ola Kvernberg’s Steamdome: Caterpillar: The crossover between the jazz and rock scenes in Norway is fluid and ever ongoing. One of the most impressive projects the last few years that have managed to combine both these worlds – as well as gazed longingly into the dance worlds of DJ superstars like Todd Terje – is Steamdome. Violinist Ola Kvernberg has played with ‘everyone’ and written countless film scores, but his inner party animal really comes out in this context.
A great party record!
8: Amgala Temple: Bosphorus: Another recent fruitful crossover project is Amgala Temple. Blues hotshot Amund Maarud, Jaga Jazzist head honcho Lars Horntveth and jazz wunderkid drummer Gard Nilssen teamed up and made the first Amgala Temple album in a matter of days, but sound like they’d played together for years. more improvisatory and spacey than Jaga, it still makes sense while also kicking total ass!
9: Gard Nilssen’s acoustic unity: When pigs fly: Gard Nilssen is perhaps the best young drummer in Norway. He has several careers going at once and a callender that is always full, but sometimes he takes the time to record too. A member of Amgala Temple, his main thing is his own bands though, and that is quite a different kettle of fish!
10: Atomic: Art: My favourite concert experiences over the last decade or so, has been the yearly Atomic gig I manage to catch. The finest players in Scandinavian jazz, period. This is from their last album Pet Variations, but check all of it out – it is just amazing stuff! The heritage from Garbarek and Rypdal is in good hands with these guys as Norwegian music keeps evolving and developing and will hopefully continue to do so for years.
i know what to do in dark wintermonth!!!
These Playlist will obviously last till the end of the year. Thx Bent for the short descriptions, you Almanach of Norwegian music. Respect.
Somehow Difference Tree of Love is missing on the Spotify Playlist Vol. 1.♂️
Some songs are not available in Mexico :(
Missing St Thomas (sole artist to perform in Royal Albert Hall).
Thank you,very interesting…Gabry