Back in 2017 Highasakite, undoubtedly Norway’s biggest band of recent years, broke up amidst messy legal positioning which ultimately saw the nucleus of the original band, Ingrid Helene Håvik and Trond Bersu, sanctioned to carry on under that name. The other three members, guitarist/flugabone player Kristoffer Lo, and synth masters Øystein Skar and Marte Eberson, went their own way, Lo as more of a solo artist and recently film music score producer.
Skar and Eberson both have their own, and other, projects, too but shortly afterwards formed Löv, which translates as Leaf. Well at least in Swedish. In Norwegian it’s ‘Law’ according to Mr Google. Don’t ask.
Then, in a moment of inspiration, they co-opted Martin Halla, who had been at university with Marte Eberson, studying music. He subsequently went on to win the first ever series of ‘The Voice’ in Norway, in 2012.
The power trio that emerged has Skar mainly on synths, where he excels, while in overall control of live sets, too (‘laptop man’); the jazz and classically trained Eberson, the daughter of probably Norway’s leading jazz guitarist Jon, largely on piano, where she excels; but also sharing vocal duties occasionally with Halla, who is the principal singer, as she did with Håvik in Highasakite.
They released a series of singles in 2018, followed by debut album ‘Nostalgia’ last year, while performing mainly at festivals. Following this year’s By: Larm festival they played a streamed event in April (a link to which is provided at the end), followed by others including a Hiroshima 75th Anniversary concert and then several live concerts more recently with another three coming in December and one in January. Norway is at a considerably more advanced stage with regard to live performances of anything cultural than we are in the UK but unfortunately we can’t get in there to see them without doing 10 days quarantine first.
They have an EP coming out, ‘Letters of isolation’ possibly in January, and have already released two songs from it. The first was ‘A song made for you’, a sentimental one expressing mutual love, support and concern for relatives and presented as a sympathetic ballad. The second, featured here, is ‘Never Lose Light’ (i.e. the light in your soul), described as “preserving the light and hope when dreams are shattered and you suddenly remain all alone.”
These last two songs have been quite unusual in that the complex arrangements in their work which were evident previously are not quite so much manifest. And this one even more so as it is offered in waltz time. Halla, who has the potential to be one of the leading pop vocalists in Europe, or anywhere for that matter, is building a great understanding with Eberson, which is evident on ‘Never Lose Light’.
It has been fascinating to watch the evolution of this band over the last few years and I find it bizarre that, to the best of my knowledge anyway, I am still the only UK writer who covers them. But then again, few here follow Highasakite either, even now. Having met all three of them that might possibly be partly down to the fact they are the antithesis of the archetypal rock star, being quiet, modest, cultured individuals and not the kind to blow their own trumpet too hard. Perhaps if they ran drunkenly the length of Karl Johans Gate trashing shop windows they’d attract some brief notoriety but there’s as much chance of that as there is of me playing centre forward for England.
There is a slight shift on this song, more in the direction of ‘mainstream’ and that might come as a surprise to those that are au fait with the indie-electronic background of Eberson and Skar in their previous incarnations. But it doesn’t concern me, because it demonstrates the depth of variety available to them – ‘Never Lose Light’ is almost boy/girl-band like in parts.
Also, because as I see it from here Norway has a gap to be filled by a top-notch mainstream pop band anyway, if that is the direction they choose from here on in. Has it really had one since A-ha?
As I mentioned earlier, here is the link to the streamed event in April, which was quite different, possibly the best I’ve watched this year and if you can find the time to watch it too, it will be worth the effort. There are a couple of covers here, one of Billie Eilish, another of Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’, right at the end. The highlights otherwise are the opening (unnamed) track, a version of ‘All of the Lights’ (09:45), and a ‘Korona Toccata’ piano piece from Eberson (30:10), which from the moment I first heard it registered as the soundtrack to the film that is yet to be made about these times.
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