Rock and folk fusion in a rare Nordic treat
TNN | Mar 30, 2016, 01.01 AM IST
Gurgaon: ‘What the (profanity) is Ljodahatt?’ is a question asked on the homepage of this band’s website.
On Monday night, the lucky audience who turned up for the octet’s show in the city (an eightsome joined by two Hindustani Classical musicians) got an answer, an intimate yet expressive set of songs in which Floydian rock cosied up to pastoral folk. The Norwegians were playing on the closing day of the 3rd Connections Festival of performing arts.
Ljodahatt’s performance, their first in India, brought to mind reverb-drenched walls of sound and lava lamps. But the only thing remotely trippy about the evening was the Nordic poetry, which formed the lyrics to each of the band’s compositions. Tethered by a robust rhythm section and lifted by layers of guitar and piano (with accordion, violin and concertina punching sweetly above their weight), the verses bobbed like boats on water, while the atmospherics dipped and soared like a flock of birds in mid-flight.
This was music that harked back to the mood-shifting, multi-layered rock of the 1960s – even to the extent of the Eastern influence. Puranjoy Guha on the mandolin and Rupak Mukherjee on flute were more than worthy accompanists to the ensemble. The lyrics, meanwhile, drew inspiration from Norwegian poetry of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from bards like the unheralded Olaf Nygard (« with us today », said frontman Magne Havard Brekke), as well as from Norse verses of 1,500 years back.
Understatedly witty, the words were ideal collaborators to the music, impish partners in crime in this Scandinavian psychedelia. There was the digging-your-heels-in-defiance of ‘I’m standing me, got it’ (Olaf H Hauge), the poetic and life-affirming ‘It needs just a little memory’ (Nygard) and the short-but-shot-through-with-profundity ‘Two televisions’ (‘and in the end, we need not understand each other’). Dreamscapes swapped places with landscapes, philosophy mingled with wry observations. In Ljodahatt’s lyrics, humour wasn’t too far from the surface.
Ljodahatt are Hasse Bjornstad (bass guitar and vocal), Etienne Bonhomme (drums and vocal), Magne Havard Brekke (composer, violin and vocal), Stale Caspersen (composer, piano, accordion, guitar and vocal), Vidar Odmunsen (electric guitar, piano and vocal), Laurent Petitgand (composer, electric guitar, piano and vocal), Eirik Mannsaker Roald (cello and vocal) and Rainer Sumilch (composer, trumpet, concertina and vocal). Evoking the silences of a fjord, and the tempest of the ocean, Ljodahatt more than lived up to its name of ‘troll-song’. It made for an exhilarating musical ride.