Vill Vill Vest
Checking out the best new music in Norway's arts hub...

It’s an idyllic setting.

For the second year of its existence Vill Vill Vest takes residence in the historic city of Bergen, also known as the gateway to the iconic Nordic fjords. A small but beautiful municipality on the western coast of Norway, Bergen is beset with luscious tree-lined mountains that surround its harbour, as well as a hive of cultural happenings that occur within the intimate confines of the city.

The UNESCO world heritage city blends its medieval roots, with the stylish trends of modern Scandinavia, where old fortresses sit side by side with hipster record shops and hyper-stylish interior design outlets. A must for any Scandiphile and the perfect setting for an international music showcase and conference.

“No wonder you’re so creative” was the response from Haçienda DJ, M People founder - and Factory Records and Sony A&R man - Mike Pickering when told that the city receives more than three times the rainfall of Pickering’s native Manchester at one of Vil Vil Vest’s many industry talks.

Of late the city has made somewhat of a name for itself as a thriving cultural scene which has thrown up some of the most recent highest profile Norwegian artists that have managed to transcend Scandinavian audiences and establish a more global following including the likes of Aurora, Sløtface and Sigrid, the latter of which was actually signed at the event this time last year.

Creativity is something that Vill Vill Vest and the city of Bergen seems keen to push at this year’s event, with a whole spectrum of acts deriving from a vast array of different genres all jostling to get noticed by the more than 500 industry delegates that descended on the three-day event. The city isn’t however without its own rich musical heritage, having been recognised as the ‘Norwegian capital of culture’ for many years and fostered some of the world’s finest classical composers, with the likes of Ole Bull, Harald Saeverud and most famously Edvard Grieg calling the city their home.

However, in 2017 the city is looking to maintain its image as one of the world’s hotbeds of musical talent. In many ways the festival acts as a Norwegian South by Southwest or Great Escape, showcasing the latest, buzzing Norwegian acts to a global audience, eager to see what the moderately sized yet highly creative nation in the North Sea has to throw out next.

Here’s a short guide to some of the hottest Norwegian acts Clash spotted at the festival.

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Halie

If there’s one thing that Scandinavians do well other than fish and dark, multi-layered police dramas it’s young, female electro-pop artists. Aged only 16 Halie is another in a long line of the country’s glacial synth-pop stars and commanded easily one of the weekend’s most hotly anticipated sets.

Live, Halie exploded with youthful energy and boasted an enchanting vocal delivery that left the bustling venue in awe. A hotly touted young artist, expect to see more from Halie in the future.

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Pom Poko

The abstractly named art-rock quartet were a force to be reckoned with at this year’s festival as they brazenly spiralled through time signatures and an array of peculiar effects with extraordinary assurance. Blending indie-pop melody with dark and primitive math-rock guitars via groovy funk-flecked bass guitar. Hard to describe yet impressive to watch.

Shikoswe

Cutting her teeth amidst the burgeoning indie scene of Copenhagen before relocating to Bergen last summer, Shikoswe’s brand of reflective, heartfelt indie-pop would not look out of place amongst more established US artists such as Frankie Cosmos or Mitski. Melding minimalist production values with a delicately poetic vocal delivery, Shikoswe’s moderate discography to date (consisting of only an EP and two singles) makes for earnest listening. One to keep an eye on.-

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Tuvaband

There’s a distinctly Nordic feel to Tuvaband’s sound (in spite of one of the members actually being British). A minimalist, lo-fi folk aesthetic that drifts along subtle and tranquil soundscapes allowing for Tuva Hellum Marschhäuser’s chillingly melancholic vocals to take centre stage.

With just a handful of releases currently to their name big things are expected of this pensive indie-folk duo, and going off the basis of their current crop of songs, rightly so.

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Hajk

Merging the idiosyncratic tendencies of indie with pop hooks and big choruses in a not too dissimilar way to British counterparts Glass Animals or Bombay Bicycle Club, Hajk’s funkified beats and soaring harmonies brought in one of the biggest crowds of the weekend at Vill Vill Vest.

The band’s light and breezy shared vocals are offset by melodic guitars and bright major synth chords whilst anchored by an infectiously groovy rhythm section. Hajk’s version of summery hip-swinging pop is one to check out.

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Young Dreams

Three years after their well-received debut (which actually got a fair bit of British music press attention) the Norwegian psychedelic-indie outfit returned to Vill Vill Vest to present their long-awaited sophomore effort.

There’s more than a hint of label-mates Tame Impala to the band’s kaleidoscopic off-kilter pop melodies and indulgent, tropical synth breakdowns. A striking balance of pop fun and interesting complexity.

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Building Instrument

This Bergen-based trio’s musical output is a wonderfully eclectic patchwork of varying influences, flitting between expansive electronica, choral harmonies, complex drum patterns and fizzing pop flourishes, all pinned together by Mari Kvien Brunvol angelic vocals, delivered in her native tongue. It’s a dreamy spectacle to witness live and an enriching, artistic musical experience.

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Words: Rory Marcham

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