It’s not often I listen to Scandinavian music and although the stereotype is all heavy metal and a weird and wacky image, Atlanter are a four-piece who are nothing like that. Made of four musicians who are each successful in their own right on the Norwegian music scene, Atlanter bring together a multitude of talent and tastes in order to create something a little bit different.
Known in Norway as “viddeblues”, their sound is a mixture of American country, blues and folk with a hint of dark British indie. Vidde translates as width, so by name it’s a genre that covers a range of styles in order to provide us with something refreshing and unique. Arild Hammerø of the band says of their approach:
“Atlanter has an open-minded approach to playing music. The songs change from one concert to another, and we try to avoid a polished and rehearsed sound. I think everyone in the band enjoys this openness, that something new can happen on every song. We captured this feeling on the record too, and what brings it all together is that it is mostly based on very distinct rhythms. Playing with Atlanter is like dancing around a fire, there is an intense energy there. Our goal is for the audience to feel this energy too, so they can join in on the dance.”
So naturally, these songs do jump around a lot and there’s actually very little in the way of structure. If you like your music to adhere to the strict code of verse-bridge-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus-chorus, then the album probably isn’t going to be for you. It starts with their single Tree Song, which is a short and sweet track beginning with a disturbing croaking sound. A rock riff and steady drums team up with a dark indie rhythm. As on most of the song, it’s the guitars that are the real star of the show, which is similar on More Juice Than Zeus and Waking. More Juice Than Zeus also acquires the spooky wailing that is common on the album and Waking leans more to an Eastern influence.
Sticking to a country theme, Aye is an acoustic driven track with a lot of guitarist’s tricks. There are no doubt some very talented guitarists in this group, as the outro to Aye will leave you in total awe at the fingerwork going on. Air is another opportunity to hear it and then again on Waking. Acoustic twangs race through most of the tracks on the album and they somehow manage to nail an authentic southern State accent to their riffs.
Although a lot of their songs have a warm and friendly, campfire vibe, there isn’t any getting away from the darker side of things. Kaktos is the first time we here the ominous ghostly vocals but their constant reappearances leaves you feeling a little on edge. Throwing us into light and warmth and then casting us into shadow and cold with the wails and sirens leaves us with a feeling of unpredictability. You never know how the music will make you feel next, which is an exciting but quite nerve-wracking thought. Pike is also full of the ethereal but here it takes on an Eastern prayer or meditative state. The pop rhythm on Pike veers it away from the spooky too, which a rare focus on vocals.
The last two tracks, Ling with its hypnotising ripples and pretty exotic sound and Desert which is the best impression of a country singer yet, are two very different sounding tracks. Atlanter can do both simple and beautiful instrumental as seen on Ling and then wow us with a very convincing country and blues rendition on Desert. Desert certainly has an unpolished, anything goes attitude with guitars coming in and out again and an electronic element slung into the backing. Altogether, it’s very calming though. It’s highly repetitive but it’s a soothing sound which can slowly send you to sleep as it twangs away.
All in all, Vidde is an album that incorporates a lot of different musical styles. I would have liked a little more in the way of lyrics and storytelling and a bit more variety within tracks. It’s great that they’ve essentially brought an unknown genre to light but the repetition is too much for me. A little variation of rhythms or melodies would have been great!