In Brief: 'Alphie' - 'A Different Kind of Marching Band' (album)
We do always say that we try and find Nordic music both 'new and old', and if we come across an album a few months late we still try and write about it. Norwegian band 'Alphie' released their debut album almost a year ago now, but I'm so pleased to have belatedly given it a listen, because it's complex and just that bit different to anything else I've listened to this year.
So this a band who were formed at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo (although it originated before that in founder Vegard Kvamme Holum's bedroom), and rather wonderfully the band are named after Holum's grampa, Alf Kvamme, who played in 'Marching Bands' throughout his life, where he received His Majesty The King's Medal of Honor for his life-long achievement. Inspired by his music, as well as bands and artists as varied as Jaga Jazzist and Sufjan Stevens, their release 'A Different Kind of Marching Band' contains just 7 tracks, but is a really rewarding listen.
Highlights include the opening track, 'Story', which blends brass and traditional 'band' (of the pop / rock variety) sounds, and there's evidently a sophistication and style to the music. 'Silent Song' creeps up with an intensity, whilst 'Speak Your Mind' has adorable rhythms and shows the bands jazz and maybe improv influences - it's upbeat and bright sounding. But the highlights for me are the excellent 'Schitzo', with a beautiful piano and vocal melody to open, which then develops with an extended instrumental section, interesting harmonies and a fairly hefty full bland climax. And 'Make My Day' is such a beautiful conclusion to the album, there is such an atmosphere about the track, again the blended sound of the piano and brass sound lovely, and at times I'm even reminded of Christian Gabel's '1900' project.
So this is a belated recommendation for 'A Different Kind of Marching Band', but I love not only the music itself, but the story behind 'Alphie', The quality of the musicianship, the interesting rhythms and melodies have all engaged with me, and they have this ability to build their tracks with a real passion and intensity too. I guess I could say all kinds of nice things about it, but one thing is for certain, Alf Kvamme would definitely approve, and it's the loveliest tribute to his life involved in music.