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Festival review: By:Larm 2010

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Exactly 12 months ago, I made my first trip to Norway for the By:Larm festival and discovered a veritable treasure trove of incredible music.

Much of it has been covered since on the new music blog (theheadsupblog.blogspot.com in case you still haven't clocked on!) so we were very excited to be heading back there this year.

Expectations were high after such an incredible weekend last year and despite the bruised wallets and broken arms I am very pleased to report that the class of 2010 didn't disappoint.

Leaning heavily (for obvious reasons) on Norwegian acts for the bulk of the line up, it was somewhat surprising to find much of our early forays into the snow dominated by Danes. The River Phoenix for one blew everyone in the Kongressentre back into the snow with a blistering half hour set of post rock anthems all skuzzy bass and jagged guitar lines while elsewhere trippy pysch-poppers Oh No Ono and the much feted Efterklang both cause ripples of hype that are everywhere by the end of the weekend.

Feeling the need to go native for a while we head back out and see a wonderfully smile inducing set of trumpet led jazz from Mathias Eick whos dual drumming line-up produce the kind of wonky jazz that got us all so excited about Amnesiac while local Riot Girrrls Razika blast through a quirky set of girly punk.

Cramming into a tiny basement venue to see The Little Hands of Asphalt saw us get good and fondled by all manner of burly Nordic types before The Megaphonic Thrift made their bid for "set of the festival" with half an hour of blistering MBV tinged noise feedback wailing over some massively Kim Dealesque basslines shaking the venue to the core.

Feeling the need to find something a little more soothing on the ears we were very happy to finish the night watching Susanne Sundfor charm the pants off of Sentrum Scene with an intricately constructed set of jazz tinged, singer-songwriter fare the insistent chiming Rhodes that carries new single 'Brothel' for one standing out as a jaw dropping moment as the room sways and swoons in time with the languid arpeggios skipping from Sundfor's Piano.

As Friday evening beckoned us back out into temperatures well below freezing (indeed Saturday saw us braving minus 19 at one point  thus freezing the beard on my face) we kick off the evening with the hotly-tipped indie double header of Monzano and CCTV who both put in nicely judged sets of indie-pop, drawing heavily on a lot of British indie (Belle and Sebastian for the former, Stone Roses for the latter) to get Revolver dancing, after local girl Solvor Vermeer has bathed the room in a sepia tinged melancholy swathes of mournful cello and angelic swoons abound - while elsewhere on the other side of town, Kook-popster Ingrid Olava conjures up shades of Regina Spektor and Kate Bush over at Folkteatre with a nerve tingling set of piano led jazz pop all swooning strings and delicately constructed tapestries of sound.

In the same venue although vastly different in tone we feel very native watching Alit Boazu translated as "Blue Reindeer" the guys turn in a set of heavy Rammstein tinged rock made all the quirkier for them singing in Sami a regional dialect from the dead north of the country.

Following a hot local tip we head to the most crowded bar in the world (seriously at one point I lifted both feet off the floor and remained upright!) for a seriously underwhelming set from Montee; all disco guitars and handclaps before rounding off the night with another Danish export The Good The Bad, whos blistering mix of surf, punk and rock and roll instrumentals seems like not only the alternative soundtrack to a Tarrantino movie but also the perfect way to end the evening.

With sleep deprivation taking its toll and the temperatures plummeting ever lower, the key to Saturday is to just keep moving and so it was that we crammed an insane amount of bands into one night leaving us feeling slightly bruised for the encounter!

Icelandic four piece For A Minor Reflection pummel The Garage into submission under waves of delayed guitars and booming feedback throughout an epic set of post rock, the band have toured with Sigur Ros in the past and Jonsis shadow looms long over what is an interesting if brain stupefying loud set. Later on In the same venue hotly tipped Festival Favourites The New Wine get the room moving with a hook heavy set of MGMT tinged dancey pop, before Thom Hell charms a packed Samfunsallen with a nicely judged set of country tinged pop. That his jokes didn't translate too well (via our local friends showing us round) didn't matter too much as a set of Wilco-y goodness leaves us feeling really rather lovely.

Having missed pretty much all of Efterklang on Thursday, we made a determined bid to catch some more of the band that have caused so much hype all weekend only to find the band hopelessly unable to match it within two songs, their terminally slow brand of indie tinged electronica leaves us feeling cold and so we head to catch Children and Corpse. Playing in street they turn in a quirky half-an-hour of casio led pop that is as wonky as it is loveable and puts a grin firmly back in place.

Scampering back to the hotel amid biblical snow our heads our heads may be ringing but they've certainly been turned by dozens of incredible acts during the week. Indeed while the continued feeding frenzy around British festivals seems to have given the likes of Mean Fiddler a license to fill their bills with identikit lineups and massive bores, its been a refreshing week to find so many unknown gems lurking around every corner and points to a very bright 2010 for Norwegian music in general.

Its been a pleasure as ever Oslo. See you next year.

From Norway with Love

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