The Ruby Lounge, Manchester
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Best known for its endless winter nights and superhumanly radiant inhabitants, Scandinavia is a place where extraordinary is the norm. So if Rebekka Karijord wants to make a name for herself amongst fans of the region’s gloomy avant-pop, she’ll have to produce some truly outstanding music.
The likes of Norwegian indie-dance group Datarock, Swedish experimental duo The Knife and Finnish new wave siblings Le Corps Mince de Francoise are just a few of the musicians from her nation and its neighbours who set the high musical standard by which she will be judged. Tonight, Karijord has the opportunity to impress a Mancunian audience.
So, what’s the verdict? Rebekka makes a bold first impression as she announces her arrival with a cacophony of pounding percussion. Yet soon she reveals a more delicate aspect of her style with subtle instrumentation in the form of wind chimes and harp melodies. The force which unites the two extremes of power and fragility is a voice of awesome eccentricity and uniqueness which brings to mind the very best 1980s power ballads. As heavy snow falls outside, her icy sound provides an ideal soundtrack to the inclement conditions.
Perhaps more noteworthy than Rebekka’s live show is her life story to date. Briefly summarised: she was born into an unconventional and somewhat dysfunctional family, raised (not literally) by wolves in a savage yet inspirational Arctic landscape, and left disheartened when her early musical experiments were curtailed by the collapse of her first recording contract.
These facts are normally irrelevant except in the case of X Factor contestants who strive to win public sympathy by recounting their tales of woe. Undeniably, however, there’s a clear reflection of Rebekka’s dark past audible in her sinister sound.
Earlier in the evening, entertainment is provided by Magic Arm, whose sample-laden whimsical electronic folk has more levels than the average NCP multi-storey. Additional performances by Race To The Sea and Olympian add value to the bill for impoverished music lovers seeking a post-festive bargain.
The event is a civilised affair, well suited to the shabby chic surroundings of the Ruby Lounge, tonight resplendent with cabaret-style seating arrangements. Unfortunately, Rebekka fails to mesmerise those present, a fact evidenced by the spiralling volume of background noise which drowns out her performance.
Those left unconvinced would be well advised to investigate her three albums to date (2003’s Neophyte, 2005’s Good Or Goodbye and 2009’s The Noble Art Of Letting Go), or await the release of her upcoming fourth longplayer We Become Ourselves. Music of such depth and intricacy deserves a level of respect and attention which is sadly absent tonight.
words: Benjamin Thomas