Silja Sol - På ekte (album)
Norwegian city Bergen is probably our most frequently mentioned city in Nordic Music Review, yet if you consider its size, in reality it has a similar population to UK cities Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent. Now it would be far too easy for me to mock the musical achievements of both those cities (although Edward Elgar at least supported Wolverhampton Wanderers), but can you imagine a medium sized UK city having so many musical exports?
Typically Silja Sol started playing musical instruments before she could walk, and although playing keyboard wasn’t really her speciality, she learnt it pretty quickly when Bergen pop sensation Aurora Aksnes asked her if she knew anyone who could play the instrument for her newly formed band back in 2014 – probably around the time we first introduced a young Aurora to NMR readers too. Silja Sol meanwhile has gone on to release critically acclaimed albums in her own right, notably the 2017 release Ni Liv, which went on to win Norwegian music industry awards.
She’s now back in 2020 and her new album is entitled På ekte, and it’s being released through Apollon Records, after an initial release a few months back was hit by the start of Covid. She’s classed as an ‘electro pop’ artist, which really wouldn’t be my ‘thing’ in most situations, but I think what really separates her from all those dozens of other Nordic electro pop acts, is that she seems to infuse a broad range of musical influences into her music.
A quick look at her Facebook page backs this up, she references punk music and Grieg, whilst musicians that she lists working with on her project have been involved in some excellent Bergen based bands, in particular Fredrik Vogsberg (Casiokids, Strange Hellos, Megaphonic Thrift) having produced this album.
På ekte is sung in Norwegian, which restricts my understanding a fair bit, but musically it’s an engaging release which has a fair few highlights. Opening track ‘Superkresen’ is an obvious one, with Silja writing “Its inspired by all the days that doesn’t seem to go my way, wondering if I should change something or not, and wondering why things doesn’t go according to plan”. Melodically it’s hugely catchy, albeit with a melancholy tinge courtesy of Sol’s soft vocals. ‘Frodrig’ heads further into a dream pop space, whilst ‘Hulturtibult’ balances acoustic guitar against the dance beats, and the instrumental sections offer a hint of classical influences.
‘Merkelig’ shows the softer side of her songwriting, whilst ‘Løgneren‘ has a brighter euro-pop style beat, with an infectious tune. Admittedly the album drifts a little for me at this stage, maybe I’ve had my ration of synthpop for the week, but concluding track ‘Nøytralisert‘ has a different feel, atmospheric and poignant, with plaintive passionate vocals. I’ve tried to translate the lyrics, is it ironically about speaking a different language to someone you’re close to? Perhaps. The opening up of the instrumentals with strings suits the song well, it just adds a different texture and allows the song to more naturally build to a climax. Maybe she’ll develop that in future songwriting.
So whilst Electro Pop might not be my natural preferred style, this is a sophisticated and melodically rich release, which draws in influences from different genres. In ‘Superkresen’ she has a track that could easily Playlist a few million times, whilst 'Nøytralisert' appeals in particular to my listening preferences. Bergen continues to deliver an extraordinary range of releases, and I’m sure there’s more to come.
Silja Sol also references the following musicians on her Facebook ‘About’ page, and whilst i’m not sure exactly their involvement on this album, it’s worth mentioning them as every one of their projects / releases is worth checking out. Linn Frokedal is also in the superb Megaphonic Thrift and was responsible for guest vocals on Major Parkinson’s Blackbox album, Einar Olsson has played in a few bands including power trio Kiss Kiss King Kong, whilst Anders Bjelland has pretty much worked with everyone in a performance and technical capacity, but I’ll throw in Electric Eye and Dig Deeper given we’ve featured them previously