UNDER BYEN - Live At Haldern Pop

Under Byen - Live At Haldern Pop

4 songs
27:42 minutes
***** ****
Haldern Pop / Cargo


So you don't have to travel to Iceland anymore to discover arctic pop music. Although until this very day I had never heard of Under Byen from Denmark, they proved already after my first listening to their EP that they are the rightful heirs to the throne left vacant by Sigur Ros and Björk. Where the former seemed to have lost all power with their last album, and the latter hasn't been very accessible lately, Under Byen stand out like a revelation. OK, the vocalist sounds a lot like an early Björk, but combined with the very polyphonic music, this all turns out to be something wonderful. The songs, all running between 6 and 8 minutes, are wrought in a very playful fashion, with 8 band members contributing, this is leaving a lot of room for instrumental interaction you don't normally hear in the so-called pop genre. Next to drums and bass, you get a tapestry of warm keyboard sounds, smoky sax parts and melancholic violins, all toped by the occasional saw! The vocals are childlike and emotional, with a very hazy overtone, mesmerising you into a fairy world you don't want to leave anymore. The songs are not meant to be hummed in the train on your way to work, they are far too complex for that. At times, they sound like early progressive rock, then again move into sombre chamber pop territories, without ever losing its northern charm. And to make it even better, the songs are even accessible, if not easy to follow, just the way true avant-garde music needs to be.

This 4-song EP, having a playing time of nearly half an hour, has been recorded last year at the Haldern Pop festival, and released by the festival's own label. The recording quality is not only very good, but even exceptional, considering how many instruments have been involved. If Under Byen are able to keep up this extremely high level of quality on an entire album, I will give them a 10-point rating. Still, this is as close to perfect as it will come for now, and I suggest that this is a band every self-respecting fan of new movements in music has to check out.

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