In the 1990s, music in Norway had largely been the claim of a small University town just beyond the arctic circle. Uncompromising figures like Bjørn Torske, Per Martinsen, Rune Lindbæk, Ole Mjøs and Geir Jenssen had found an affinity for machine music, that had put them and Tromsø on the map and paved a way for a whole lineage of artists that arrived after them.
There was no universal sound or even genre underpinning these individual artists or their music. The glacial ambience of Jenssen‘s Biosphere; the ecclastical highs of Torske, Linbæk and Mjøs’ Volcano; and the futurist machine rhythms of Martinsen’s Mental Overdrive stimulated nothing of a scene and yet there was something distinctive in the music that every artist brought to their individual musical destinations.
Even though most of those original torchbearers have moved away from the region, Tromsø’s legacy is enshrined in those pioneers’ early accomplishments, with younger artists like Charlotte Bendiks imbibing that same legacy for this generation and the next. Charlotte Bendiks has been a pivotal figure in the modern history of Tromsø and Norway’s electronic music scene with records on Per Martinsen’s Love OD label, Correspondant and Cómeme. A DJ, live artist and producer, her music has reached a global audience, and has found a fair few influential record bags.
Last year’s “Hjemme Erotic” on Matthew Herbert’s Accidental Jnr. label, found Bendiks harnessing familiar traits in her own music, with polyrhythmic percussion and minimalist arrangements defining her sound as an artist. In the title track, Bendiks yet again reflects on home (hjemme) in literal terms, but with a breathy vocal and a drum machine evoking some intangible tribe, it also traces a faint lineage towards the earliest musical traditions from the region.
Like a post-modern nod to Joik, “Hjemme Erotic” continues to permeate with the sounds and atmosphere of Charlotte Bendiks’ roots. It lends that distinctive charm that has informed much of the music of the region, but it’s still an elusive appeal that remains largely undefined in Bendiks’ music and her influences from the region. Here she uncovers some of those influences ahead of her next appearance at Jaeger for her IRONI residency.
Kolar Goi – Audio Krill
Kolar Goi, Aedena Cycle, Dr Gaute Barlindhaug – the man, the myth, the legend! One of the key figures in the Tromsø music scene is this guy, as a producer, festival organizer for Insomnia festival and teaching music production for the university. Audio Krill sums up everything good about Gaute for me, and it is one of my all time favorite arctic tracks.
There’s quite an experimental element to this track. Is that something that you’re naturally drawn to in music, something unusual?
Yes, everything that stands out as different is interesting to me. Something with its own personality.
I’ve always found a coldness in the music from the area. That’s obviously subjective, but the environment must have some effect on the music that’s made there. How do you think it’s informed your listening habits and the music you make?
That is very hard to answer. In my experience the same musical element that some people find cold, others find warm. The cold dark weather outside might influence the amount of hours you spend inside a warm studio in the winter, and that affects your musical output…
Beatservice, like Gaute has been a pillar of the Dance music community in Tromsø. What kind of influence do you think that sense of community has on the music from the region?
Tromsø is a very small city and the community of underground music is even smaller, so I think every person that takes part has shaped the music scene in a much bigger way than they know themselves.
Mental Overdrive – Diskodans
This genius of a track goes beyond genres and styles and stands out in it’s own way. I also love how Per used a vocal sample of a famous finish disco dancer and teacher Åke Blomqvist. It’s really the cherry on top for me, and what brings the quirky nordic vibe to the track.
Per is such a versatile and prolific artist. Is this something that you try to emulate in your music?
I wanna be – I wanna be like PER!
Why do you think that “quirky nordic vibe” is so important in electronic music, not just from Tromsø, but the rest of Norway too?
I am not sure if I would say it is important in nordic music, but it is an important part of the northern Norwegian culture. It is also a big part of northern Norwegian storytelling traditions, and I find that this (dark) humour in music can motivate to take risks, stand out and dare to be different.
Per moved back to Tromsø a while back and it’s a small city where you’re bound to bump into figures like that regularly. Is there a healthy artistic exchange between this old guard and some of the new artists coming through, because of that?
That of course depends on each and every individual, some are more open for communication than others. Of course, it helps that it is a small and tight knit community. It is easy to know someone who knows someone, and that makes all the creative people in the north connect. The music scene is well connected to the film-, theatre- and art scene as well. There are a lot of collaborations across various expressions.
Nikkeby Lufthavn – To the moon
Nikkeby Lufthavn is my favorite rock band of all time. I discovered them when I was a punk-interested teenager, and to me Nikkeby Lufthavn is Tromsø’s best kept secret. I love the lyrics in To the Moon!
What was it that eventually lured you over to the electronic arts?
I don’t think of it like that anymore. Music is music. I discovered punk because I met some people who were in the punk scene, later I met some people who were into Detroit Techno and discovered electronic music via them. So I guess my answer is accessibility.
How does this kind of music reflect in your own music and DJ sets?
I like the DIY punk attitude a lot. I think you can hear from some of my music that I am more into a “dirty” and “home made” sound than keeping it clean and smooth.
Mari Boine & Liu Sola – Maze
Mari Boine is a otherworldly and one of the most powerful artists I know. This track is my all time favorite of hers, I can’t begin to describe it, just listen and feel it!
How did you come across Mari Boine and why is her music so powerful to you?
Mari Boine is a very famous artist in Norway, so I discovered her and her music at a very young age. Her music is very emotional, and her emotions are very powerful.
Those sami roots are obviously strong in the north, but is it something accessible, or do you still have to seek it out to find it?
Oh lord, where to begin… This is a history lesson of the Norwegian state’s discrimination that I won’t try to take on here. The roots are strong and all over, but a lot was hidden and some is even lost forever.
There’s a primal quality to the drums in that piece, and it’s something that I often pick up on in the rhythms and percussion in your music. Are you more likely to take your cues from a folk tradition like this than say, Techno when it comes to those elements in your tracks?
I like to think of all percussive music as primal or trance music. Repetitive percussive music to me is primal trance music, and I like to think that it has been part of human culture since before electricity was invented. I combine acoustic and electronic percussive sounds, and I don’t think of it as one or the other, it all comes together to make the vibe and groove I want to express.
Bjørn Torske – Spelunker
Bjørn Torske aka The Codfather. Spelunker is a track I fell head over heels in love with when the Feil Knapp record was released back in 2007.
All the electronic music music you mention in this list is from around this time. What was it about that era in music that influenced you so much?
These are the tracks I discovered when I started going out to clubs in Tromsø, kind of my introduction to electronic music. Also some of the tracks I started playing when I started “DJ-ing” in bars. They shaped my taste a lot!
That “quirky nordic vibe” is strong here too, like 8 bit dub. Torske has always been a versatile musical figure too. How do you think those elements still inform your tastes as a DJ today?
I like Bjørn Torske a lot because of his musical freedom across different styles and genres. He is the original Codfather and pioneer of Norwegian electronic music. I think without him all the electronic music from Norway would be very very different.