Alexander von Mehren, by:Larm 2014
by:Larm Opening Night: Alexander von Mehren, February 26th, 2014
by:Larm was established in 1998 to showcase the best in upcoming music from the Nordic countries (a.k.a. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Faroe Islands, Greenland, Finland, and Iceland). Once a traveling festival, it’s made its home in Oslo since 2008. Not only does the event offer the best in music from across the genre spectrum (during the four days I was there, I heard everything from impassioned screaming to sugary pop), but features a series of workshops, lectures, and “inspirational conversations.” In short: Totally worth the 13-hour transit time from Los Angeles to Oslo.
Wednesday wasn’t an official festival day, so in light of the encroaching jet lag (the severity of which made things like operating lamps and scarves difficult, and took almost an entire package of hazelnut cookies to quell), I was only able to catch one set. Thankfully it was Under the Radar favorite Alexander von Mehren.
The Bergen, Norway-based singer/songwriter released his debut album Aéropop last year on Control Group, but you’d have a hard time placing it in any musical timeline. Marrying traditional jazz with a spacey sound palette, his is a world slung halfway between Stereolab and Vince Guaraldi. It’s a mixture that sounds both cocktail party classic and impossibly modern—even if it does prove to be a bit of a challenge to describe. Dare we use a cliché phrase like “old soul?” Or worse yet, employ the dreaded ARTIST XX of COUNTRY OF ORGIN formula? (Heck no. Although you’d be lying if you said you didn't hear a tiny bit of Sufjan Stevens in “Natural Selection.”)
Although unable to fully replicate the complex sound of his album, von Mehren made use of his additional musicians (which included a drummer, guitarist, and horn player), transforming Café Mono into something closer to a swinging club than dive bar. It was the kind of transformative performance that reaches far past a half-hour set. (Then again, there are rarely shows that I wish were shorter—so perhaps this compliment only partially counts.) If you’ll forgive the blatant foreshadowing, it was a promising start to the week.
Check out photos from the show here.
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