The wave continues
Marybell Katastrophy and Nils Frahm - Live At Spot Festival, Aarhus, Denmark

A groggy morning perks up considerably when your correspondent is accosted over breakfast by a nine-piece Nordic all-girl choir, which doesn’t happen every day. IKI - featuring members from Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway - are an improvised vocal group who make all manner of odd noises on stage, occasionally uttering proper words but often in languages their colleagues don’t understand. Which sounds like it could be brilliant, bizarre or both. Do they often freak people out?

“Yeah, actually it happened just two days ago,” laughs Mari Tveito, one of the Norwegians. “It was a long time since we played for anybody, and we expected them to be this more open jazz audience, and we were so happy with what we were doing we were in our own bubble, just playing and having fun. It was full at the beginning of the concert but at the end there were just three people left! But they were old. They wanted their normal music.”

With so many other bands vying for attention at the same time you expect a few walkouts at their show later on, but those who turn up remain rooted like Slagsmalsklubben’s keyboards, staring on often wide-eyed and open-mouthed as the girls veer from oddball vocal gymnastics to gloriously angelic heights. It’s one of the shows of the weekend.

Earlier in the day in the same venue – a bright skylit space called Kedlen - an Austrian band called Garish suffer more audience ‘churn’, but chiefly because they sing only in German, which may not sound hugely appealing. A good few stick around though as the veteran outfit’s melodies, energy and novel instrumentation are hugely entertaining: there’s even a bit of whistling. And, no, the German isn’t jarring at all.

“This next song, we worked a bit on a Disney beginning, so think of the Lion King,” says Marybell Katastrophy’s frontwoman, of her InterSPOT collaboration with neo-classical pianist Nils Frahm. The latter counts Thom Yorke among his admirers and his intro is impressive indeed, before the band – who marry noisy rock with experimental electronics - crash in splendidly, like an oddly rhythmic drunk at a party. Rapturous applause all round, and another successful meeting of musical minds.

Also making a thoughtful racket are one of the most talked-about outfits at this year’s fest. Sky Architects entice a hefty crowd to the semi-legendary Voxhall venue, and take the novel step of handing out detailed track-by-track descriptions of their forthcoming set as you enter the venue. The name suggests Explosions in the Sky and it’s certainly of that ilk, along with Sigur Ros’ wilder wig-outs: all head-noddingly, chin-strokingly agreeable.

Which brings us (at the other end of the scale, and at the end of a fine weekend), to the aforementioned Echo Vamper. Channelling Suicide, The Cramps, rockabilly and burlesque, they make a splendid spectacle of themselves. Not that everyone gets it, as they muse over a liquid lunch the morning after, at a splendid bar called Under Masken.

“In Denmark we’re often met with indifference, because things in Denmark are very underplayed in the music scene,” says guitarist James Brook, now based in Aarhus. “You have to look sincere and introverted,” agrees his partner, Iza Mortag Freund. “People don’t know how to take it,” Brook concludes. “They don’t know whether to trust in it. It’s a harder hill to climb until you become established, then people instantly start respecting you. We’re kind of getting to that point now actually.”

Then they both head up the hill to the station, destined for gigs elsewhere, him in a red teddy-boy outfit, her in a bright blue faux-fur coat and not much else, huge cases trundling behind them. It’s a lovely image to leave Aarhus with. Indifference? They turn heads the whole way.

Words by Si Hawkins
Photo by Per Lange

Click here for a review of Friday at Spot Festival.

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