Casiokids – Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen

The undoing of ‘Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen’ is its lack of consistency.

As unpalatable as it may be to swallow – and I’m loathe to type this – sometimes, somewhere, some good can come out of reality TV. Yes you read that right. And no, I don’t mean money going to charity from whatever anodyne cover The X Factor Has Questionable Notions Of What The Word ‘Talent’ Actually Means has made its latest winning crop of puppets cover for the Christmas single. No. What I’m getting at is this: if it wasn’t for reality TV, this second full length album by Norwegian synthpoppers Casiokids, might not exist. In 2010, New Wave band a-ha (of ‘Take On Me’ fame and possibly Norway’s biggest export during the ’80s) put together a music foundation designed to help the Scandinavian nation’s four most promising up and comers get up and go with a one million kroner grant, and the Casiokids made the cut. So far, so good.

While It may seem odd that an established band with a decent fanbase were in need of this amount of financial fairy dust, at least the money’s been well used, right? Well… kind of. What’s puzzling and mildly disappointing about ‘Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen’ (or ‘The Revelation Over The Mountain’ in English) is that it can’t seem to decide what it wants to be – which in certain contexts isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can smack of that horribly abused term in music journalism, ‘eclectic’. And being indie-cum-electro-cum-ambient-cum-other, approaching an amalgamation of Röyksopp, Sigur Ros, and Hot Chip if they were melted down and reconstituted, certainly qualifies the ‘Kids for that label. But here instead, it’s a case of the album being six of one thing and half a dozen of the other. Listened to in order, the first half is exciting, accomplished and compelling – but then it wanders absent-mindedly into nondescript territory after the midway point and doesn’t navigate its way back home.

However, when the band find their groove they work it for all it’s worth. Through creating dynamic soundscapes, the Bergen foursome create vibrant, visual ones in the mind’s eye of the listener. The title track and album opener is the dawn chorus as experienced from a log cabin, so cue majestic brass, delicate woodwind and booming cello, before morphing into delicate woodland sounds: you can practically see the sun rising over mountains in the distance. Bass-driven ‘Det Haster!’ is reminiscent of the stabby, electro-funk jam of ‘Fot I Hose’, but with a smoother cohesion as opposed to the jerky, segmentations that make up latter, and comes off as more assured. Ketil Kinden Endresen’s watery androgyny plays off the carefully layered backdrop perfectly to make this the standout of the LP. ‘Dresinen’ is a close second, though. Its electrocuted guitar squeals and racy rhythm make it similar in feel to The Cure’s ‘Lovecats’, having an equivalent vibe of sneaky mischief about it, while hazy vocals float around and over. Another runner up is the gorgeous ‘Golden Years’. Gentle peeps of synth peek in and out of view and steelpan-like percussion lend this a funky, tropical feel. And while ‘Olympiske Leker’ may be the weakest of the strong tracks, it becomes endearing and memorable through cute xylophonic tones which switch up into high tempo, like chirpy R2-D2 on speed.

After this, with the exception of ‘Kaskaden’, a purely instrumental piece that fuses ambient trance with Afrobeat seamlessly, there’s little to talk about. The undoing of ‘Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen’ is its lack of consistency. The first half is a strong assortment of distinct, catchy tunes with punchy beats and mesmerizing vocal harmonies… but then it’s as though the ideas machine petered out, or the guys were aiming at a rarefied chillout sensibility that they don’t pull off, resulting in a second half that’s lethargic and much of a muchness. Apart from being a shame and a waste of talent, it’s also ironic – that a band whose shows make people get up and rave as standard, haven’t produced an album to rave about. And this time at least, it can’t be blamed on reality TV.

Tags: Casiokids, Reviews, Album Reviews

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