Young Dreams, Verdensrommet, Razika: the Bergen wave is back

The Norwegian city is riding the smart pop tide again with a scene that's 'more into helping than competing' Share Tweet this
Matthew Horton The Guardian, Friday 15 March 2013 13.00 GMT
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Absolute Bergeners: ska-pop girls Razika
The first "Bergen wave" came crashing down a decade ago, when Norway became smart pop's cultural epicentre for the first time since, well, the glory days of A-ha. Eirik Glambek Bцеe and Erlend ц≤ye's Kings Of Convenience proved that acoustic guitars and delicate melody needn't lead to New Boring- induced comas, and they were followed into pop hearts by another Bergen resident, Annie, who made fools out of the global charts when glacial nuggets like Chewing Gum and Heartbeat failed to do anything much. Add "friends of Bergen" RцІyksopp and the jazzy indie of Sondre Lerche and Б─" boom! Б─" there was a scene.
The Wave soon receded to the briny but Bergen pop thrives, and there are encouraging signs that it's about to break again. The roots go back further than Kings Of Convenience. Threads of Bergen's musical tapestry can be traced to Edvard Grieg, who mastered the heartstopping melody 150 years before Bцеe and ц≤ye, or to lively 70s troubadour Jan Eggum, still active 40 years later.
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Eggum's got a fan in Matias Tellez, Chilean-born but leader of Young Dreams, a Bergen perfect-pop ensemble whose debut album Between Places has just been released. Young Dreams occupy a dreamy sweet spot in the rhombus of reveries cornered by the Beach Boys, Prefab Sprout, Animal Collective and Destroyer, using synths and African-influenced guitars to create something obviously brainy but lush enough to lose yourself in. There's a freedom to their music that is characteristic of Bergen.
"I think it's the way our city is surrounded by mountains," explains Tellez, "but also the fact that the 'industry' is in Oslo, so we don't relate to that aspect." He credits Kings Of Convenience with fostering the scene: "When they tour they always try to spread the word about new acts. Everyone helps each other."
Tellez himself helps out, too, producing Program 91, the 2011 debut from all-girl Bergen ska-pop band Razika, whose second album Pц╔ Vei Hjem gets an international release later this year. Singer Marie Amdam thinks there's something in the Bergen water. Specifically the rain. "When it's rainy outside people stay in and figure out other things to do," she says. "Also, the music scene is small and tight. People are more into helping each other out than competing."
Both Tellez and Amdam mention another Bergen band, Verdensrommet. Their name means "outer space" and they make cosmic pop that stations Brian Wilson somewhere on the other side of Jupiter. Local colleagues the Megaphonic Thrift are heavier, fusing stargazing and shoegazing to form a beautiful noise that slots nicely alongside My Bloody Valentine's second coming.
Add electrosoul maestro Kristian Stockhaus and the starlit synth-prog of Put Your Hands Up For Neo-Tokyo to the equation, and Bergen has resources that could do business anywhere. Who knows, maybe Annie will release a new album some time soon. These things come in waves.

Guardian Unlimited