Bergen: Rain or Shine

Do you ever find yourself searching for new music without any success? Well, Mr. Wolf has set out to solve that problem once and for all. We have called on our friends at Nordic Vibrations to keep us, and you, up to date with the latest on the Scandinavian music scene, with the promise of a new instalment of good-listening monthly. This month, we explore the music scene of Europe's wettest city, Bergen.

Set among the stunning fjord’s and mountains of the west coast, under a blanket of near constant slate-grey skies, Norway’s second city has long produced an impressive array of musical talent, earning a deserved reputation as a hub of Nordic creativity.

It is perhaps little surprising that Bergen excels in musical output – it famously rained every day for three whole months in 2007. Similar to fellow sodden cities such as Manchester and Seattle, Bergen’s youth have shown us how a life condemned to the indoors can result in something creative, beautiful, and altogether worthwhile.

No stranger to artistic achievement – the city is home to perhaps the greatest of Scandinavian composer’s, Edvard Grieg – Bergen first appeared on the pop radar outside of Scandinavia in the late 1990s. The so called “Bergen Wave” was a loose affiliation of acts based in the city, most with links to local music scene legend Mikal Tellé and his label Tellé records.  The likes of Kings of Convenience, Röyskopp, Annie and Ephemera all emerged from the scene at this time, swiftly earning international recognition. Music writers were soon comparing the scene in this small Norwegian city to the Paris scene that had spawned the likes of Air and Daft Punk. Bergen found itself firmly on the musical map.

Binding together many of the acts emerging at this time was a penchant for the independent approach, as well as a keen melodic touch and a distinct melancholy that was befitting of the rain soaked streets of the city itself. Many of the acts guested in each other’s music, lending credence to the idea that the Bergen wave constituted an actual “scene”.

Rather than merely a passing wave, acts like Roysköpp and Kings of Convenience paved the way for a decade of great Bergen music, helping to ensure increased attention to the city’s music and firmly establishing it as one of Scandinavia’s best music cities.

Emerging in the mid-2000’s, electro-pop act Datarock have been providing dance floors with some of the most infectious grooves around, whilst earning a reputation for chaotic and unforgettable live performances. Likewise the wonderful Casiokids, who combine dance electro-pop, Afro-pop and indie-rock to produce some of the best Nordic music of the last decade.

True to form, bands emerging from the city in more recent years have kept the quality sky high. The Megathonic Thrift, whose three members came together from other great Bergen bands such as The Low Frequency in Stereo and Casiokids, combine intense sonic walls of guitar noise with the kind of dreamy melodies more readily associated with the city.  Two excellent albums down, and with a reputation as a formidable live act, The Megathonic Thrift are ones to search out if they have not crossed your path before. 

Also deserving of a mention are the all-girl band Razika, particularly for making modern ska-pop that is highly appealing. Now that’s no mean feat. They have released two albums to general acclaim and chart success in their homeland, whilst also attracting attention from further afield. Their second album was produced by that stalwart of the Bergen scene, Mikal Tellé, who remains an important figure in the musical culture of the city.

One of more recent Bergen acts to be noticed beyond their homeland are Young Dreams, whose debut album “Between Places” was released last year. Combining Beach Boys harmonies, warm synths and stunning melodies to great effect, their album proved to be a Nordic music highlight of 2013. The album is filled with optimism and brings to mind a rare moment of Bergen sunshine, when the light hits the water and fills the city with its warm glow. They deservedly took home the Norwegian Grammy for best album, and their follow-up is eagerly awaited.

Bergen continues to shine brightly as a truly great Nordic music city, more than holding its own against the big boys. 2014 is set to bring more great Bergen music with the release of a debut album from Verdensrommet, a promising young band already name-checked in British media, and whose sound has been described as “cosmic-pop”. Add to this the expected releases of Put Your Hands Up For Neo-Tokyo and established local music identity Stockhaus, and it should prove to be yet another great year for Bergen music.


Words: Richard at Nordic Vibrations