Florence and the Machine, Fever Ray...
Florence and the Machine at Oya by Brian Sweeney

Clash were trundling round a sunny Øya site before any of the bands had even cracked their riders such was our thirst to hear some indigenous noise. The gentle festival area, which runs along a strip of water to the rights and the city to the left, was filling up nicely with sunshine and people as openers Fjorden Girl strode into their edgy and electrified stride coming across at times like a much more rounded Sensor of 90s rapped up rock fame. Other bands of note were the experimental shoe-gaze Huntsville who at times were formless, at others inspired. Norway’s answer to Lily Allen; Marit Lersen, who gave us a saccharine shower with her sweeping folk fazed grandeur before the first main destination band plugged in: Ungdomskulen.

This Bergen band (meaning ‘Middle School’), who’ve previously played the Clash Saturday Social gig at London’s Notting Hill Arts Club, are something of a prospect. Their debut album was released via !K7 wrapping up a precise post rock sound that is most easily compared to Battles. Whether Math Rock is comforting for this trio is not of their concern as they storm a glam path across taut guitar structures and gargantuan percussive edifice. They really are rather captivating. Teasing out their sound at times they plunder dainty and restrained passages before unfurling their huge and angled planes of sound at the fast swelling audience. At points it feels like they are throwing monumental slabs of sound like pale Frisbees into the sun. Bergen’s music scene is thriving and this band look set to lead the next charge.

Cosmic Disco. The Norwegians definitely love it, and in fact have been guiding this splintered direction of house for a while. Lindstrom and Prins Thomas are the gods rounds these clouds yet The Mungolian Jetset are bringing a much more exciting live branch to this dance tree. Featuring a trio of backing singers, three part brass, an Egyptian air hostess styled transvestite bassist and the main lynchpins of Pal and Knut electronically holding it together - it’s a studio project that’s grown claws and climbing out of its own pit. If you like Balearica, jazz, grooving house and a bit of a laugh then go seek them out.

After the limp mediocrity of Wilco (who are neither here, there or anywhere remotely stimulating on an indie map) we were propositioned with a set from Mercury Music Prize Nominee Florence and the Machine. As one of the hot favourites to win the Mercury this year (suspicions abound that its going to be a female winner) Florence’s debut album ‘Lungs’ is a well-crafted stage from which to launch her voice. Live however she lacks impact. Her band look a little ragtag and as if they’ve been assembled by someone at her major label whilst her sound engineer struggled at times to balance her bland cacophony of bass and drums in any measured or slick way whilst at points you could almost hear Florence over her own mike. Either way one thing is irrefutable: Florence can sing and she’s got character. Recent single ‘Dog Days Over’ sounded noticeably better, with more depth in sound and her confidence reigned leading us towards the notion that if she can hit the right balance with the song practiced the most then maybe the whole live set up just needs a lot more work. The pressure of Mercury triumph may sort that out either way.

Scandinavian chanteuse Fever Ray was on the same stage as the joint headliner whilst the Arctic Monkeys held their spot on the main stage. Any idea that Florence was suffering from a ropey sound system was dead and buried the moment Fever Ray opened her Pandora’s Box of digital delight. It was loud and full and hit us in the bottom of our dancing belly. It was also all about lasers and lamps. This sums up Fever Ray. Not so much as coming on as rising up out of a mist of smoke it was two piercing lasers beams alongside a collection of old Victorian lamps that set the scene. This dovetails well with Karin Dreijer Andersson’s new project. It’s both retro and nostalgic at the same time as sounding futuristic and apocalyptic.

Her warped and tribal songs are similar in tone and texture to one another. Her voice is as powerful as it was with her last acclaimed band The Knife as she rides a nomadic landscape of chants and low frequency folk. It sounds as if she’s 10,000 years old and speaking from within a mountain. The procession of her sounds though is slow. It is 30 minutes before there’s a shift in her hypnotic grooves, briefly purging the tension with an acidic passage of electronics that would make Leftfield look glance right twice. Percussive, incredibly well sequenced and dark Fever Ray’s sound is riddled with presence. But with Fever Ray’s style of singing, her dark programming of sound and light and the tribal flourish of these Northern skies it would be all too easy for her to seem to be following in Bjork’s delicate yet massive footprints. But where the Icelandic nymph uses clarity in her stage show, incredibly precise lighting and all sorts of landscapes, Fever Ray uses obscurity, buckets of smoke, huge headdresses and a near anonymous approach to giving us her love. She neither acknowledges the crowd nor wants to be seen preferring her disembodied voice do the talking. At it works. Less a festival performance than a unique experience her closing of this side of the Øya Festival marks it out as yet another distinct slice of Oslo’s essential musical date on the calendar. Bring on Friday!

Check out the accompanying photo gallery HERE


Read a review of Day One at Wednesday HERE.


Read a review of Friday and Saturday from Øya HERE.

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