Mikkel O. Brask introduces us to exciting Danish music in the second episode of our Red Light Radio & Sonos Liner Notes podcast series. Just as every mix takes you on another journey, every track has a unique story. And that’s exactly what we present in the series, by emphasizing the background stories behind songs for a full listening experience. Our favourite music selectors and dearest friends search their record collections and feature intriguing gems for us to explore.
Music fiend Mikkel highlights a variety of Danish underground scenes, from the late seventies, eighties until today. The Dane is a sound designer and DJ with a great ear for musical detail. He is deeply interested in the music from Copenhagen, where he resides and throws parties, located in the city’s freetown called Christiania. “We got the opportunity to bring amazing DJs to our nights here and we are lucky to have the best crowd”, Mikkel tells us.
A lot of the tracks that Mikkel selects for this mix come from groups that made only one album. “I think a lot of the bands in this podcast were well inspired by German post punk & alternative music groups in the 80’s. During that time, the scene for alternative music in Denmark was relatively small and unnoticed, so a lot of these groups released only one LP. My guess is that the releases didn’t meet their expectations regarding sales and exposure,” Mikkel explains.
The tracks come from scenes that quickly arose and disappeared. We have to play detective to find the stories behind Mikkel’s selection, which is a thrilling journey on its own. Listening to Mikkel’s mix, we definitely hear coolness and distance whilst being introduced to poetic ambient music, new wave, avant-garde jazz and techno songs with dissonant harmonies and warm organic instrumentation.
- Track 1Elegi For En Frændeløs 1Vagn Lundbye
The start of the mix immediately takes on a trip. A definitive, rolling synth bass at the start of “Elegi For En Frændeløs 1” appears as our vehicle for transportation. The well known Danish author Vagn Lundbye’s travels to get inspired for his literary works, which is obviously also notable in his music. Lundbye started travelling the Danish countryside for his first book. Since then, he traveled further to other continents for new, otherworldly cultural experiences. “Elegi For En Frændeløs 1” transcends quickly with enlighting stabs and melodies. An organic ambiance unfolds with cinematic sounds. The track is featured on Lundbye’s sole album called “Hvalsange”, which translates to ‘songs for whales’. Mikkel comments: “I guess he made the album after an encounter with whales during a visit to Greenland. I could be wrong.”
- Track 2RailsCats Cradle
Listening to a train track, we carry on in an industrial atmosphere. The Danish music collective Cats Cradle made “Rails” completely out of selfmade samples. The sounds used were from trains, a plastic tube, occarina, a ruler, shawm, an alto recorder, and with ironpieces and vice synthesizer sounds. “Rails” is featured on “KLIMA” - a rare 1992 Mole label 10-track compilation LP documenting the Danish underground scene at the beginning of the nineties. Musically spanning from tough industrial and experimetal electronic/rock to early 1990’s electronica and avantgarde jazz. The record was made at the initiative of the MOLE association, to promote and support Danish alternative music. MOLE as a ‘label’ is used only to release this compilation.
- Track 3TordenskyenKlaus Schønning
The saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ absolutely doesn’t concern “Lydglimt”. Klaus Schønning’s powerful big hair and replendent moustage on the sleeve encapsulate the image of a seventies version of Apollo. And that image totally resonates with his musical works. “Lydglimt”, the debut album of the Danish pioneer in new age-music, consist of tracks called “Sunrise”, “Evening Rain” and “Roar of the Sea”. When Schønning recorded this album he must have been widely inspired. Although his later works totally fit the typical electronic space new age profile, his first few self released albums are in the vein of music by forerunners as Brian Eno and Manuel Gottsching. The track that Mikkel chooses for his mix -“Tordenskyen [This Cloud]” – also resembles some of Patrick Cowley’s characteristic dreamy electronics for the Fox flick “School Daze”. After two self-released albums, the multi-instrumentalist and producer released his own works on the Danish Medley Records (EMI) and from the late eighties, Schønning found the Danish Fønix [Phoenix] Musik as the label for his output.
- Track 4On Serial RendauMoral
Mikkel’s mix goes in a different direction with “On Serial Rendau”; an introvert song by the Danish new wave trio Moral, formed in 1981. “On Serial Rendau” is dominated by Hanne Winterberg’s penetrating, ghostly voice, imploring to ask for attention. Winterberg’s poetic lyrics complete the song’s atmosphere, as she sings about a mystique encounter on the dance floor. The track is a good example of Moral’s lyrical themes of cold nights and blossoming relationships, that paint a detailed picture of youthful life in Scandinavia. Alongside Hanne Winterberg, Moral was the trio of Marco Andreis (Guitars, Bass), and Ingolf Brown (Synthesizers, Rhythm Box, Sequencer). This song was released on the group’s first cassette in the same year. Their debut LP “And Life Is…”, released in 1983, also features this track and is recently reissued by Dark Entries. The group separated in 1985.
- Track 5Clouds Are ForeverSilent Windfall
And we have our dreams... Silent Windfall present themselves on Odense TV, a local Danish tv channel, in 1986. The duo is a typical synth-pop outfit in the show, presenting a full band whilst performing with guitars only, singing lyrical. Apart from this Youtube-upload, it’s not easy to find information about Silent Windfall. According to Mikkel, they probably did only one LP named “And we have our dreams” – the one that features the track “Clouds are Forever”. We can read from the LP sleeve that they recorded the album in 10 days in November, 1985. “Clouds are Forever” is an instrumental track, not like the title track that they perform in the tv show.
Silent Windfall released their album on Skylight Records, a Danish label that was quite active in the eighties, but a company text is absent. “People say that the office of the label burned down and a lot of records got lost in the fire. This could be a myth”, Mikkel says.
- Track 6Zoo 2Daily Fauli
Daily Fauli was the rare minimal synth project of Danish artist Søren Fauli. In 1983, he released one LP called Fauli Til Dauli on the local Gry Records label. Without prior musical training and coming from a punk aesthetic, he designed the artwork incorporating a portrait of himself as a teenager for the cover image. Nowadays, he is a respected film-maker, having graduated from National Film School of Denmark. He is a writer, actor, and director of many works, including drama, documentary, and comedy. Further historical info about Søren and his musical project along with a reissue of this cult classic album will be available soon on Minimal Wave.
- Track 7A1Mischa Pavlovski
This dubby, ambient untitled track is taken from “Kapitel” by Mischa Pavlovski. Released on Posh Isolation in 2014, the LP consists of four untitled songs. Mikkel explains that the label is one on the most interesting labels in Denmark nowadays, as it is an important outlet for contemporary underground music. The imprint’s compilation “Dokument #1” landed in 2013 and surveys the Copenhagen punk, metal and noise scene. A scene that is often referred to as the “Mayhem scene”, named after a place where the people are friends before musicians. In an interview with Pitchfork, the compiler, Lars Kjelfred, explains the importance of the compilation. “I really wanted to pass that music on to more Danes. […] Now you have to dig to find. The groups don’t get that much airplay on the radio and they are a bit overlooked, even by the music magazines.” Mischa Pavlovski comments on “Kapitel” via Self-Titled magazine: “I started this project in 2012 after listening to techno and electronic music for many years. At the time, I had only been involved with playing punk rock and black metal and really felt the urge to try producing some stuff for myself. I had no experience with producing electronic music whatsoever, so I spoke to one of my friends who were really into all kinds of electronic music making. We talked a bit about what kind of music I wanted to make; I really liked dub techno at the time and just wanted to experiment with some different genres. […]I have always listened to classical music and was inspired by the symphony Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev. The thing that inspired me was the symphony’s story. […]I really liked the idea of having a story linked to the sounds of instruments.”
- Track 8Only ISky’s Above
The distant atmosphere continues, as Mikkel introduces an introvert cold wave/synth-pop track. “Only I” is a lenghty song on Sky’s Above’s sole, untitled LP, labeled ‘Not Just for Dancing’. The release has a strong looking cover, exposing pictures of three intense characters and a firm staircase. The singer sings weeping: “I am breathing the heavy air, as I start to run towards nothing”. Apart from the information on the records sleeve, the band as well as the label are a total mystery. It was a big formation though, and the members were as well involved in the artwork as the music.
- Track 9Yellow MarketFifty/fifty
Mikkel plays another track from the great Danish Gry records’ catalog. “Yellow Market” is a super cathy, dramatic synth-pop track driven by good 808 drum programming, backed with some great patterns. The song has dramatic vocals with a very strong Danish accent. Fifty/Fifrty is the duo Flemming Muus and Robert Stang - Muus was involved in various bands as a bass player. “Yellow Market” is taken from the duo’s sole LP called “50/50”, that consists of four home recorded tracks, released in 1983. Sadly none of the other tracks are tracable on the web for pre-listen, but please correct us if we have forgotten a portal or worm hole! Gry was a legendary Danish record shop, label and distributor, located in the basement of Skt. Peder Str. 35 in Copenhagen. It was run by Freddy Frank (of Grønvirke) and Martha Podell aka Camilla Høiby (of Drift) from 1977 to 1993.
- Track 10The DoorCommunication
“The Door” is a dark, loopy and hissy track with heavy bass and bugged out guitar play, sounding more like a cassette than a vinyl release. Communication was a large group, that recorded only one LP, plus this album was for most featured musicians their sole release. Gitarist and producer Hilmer Hassing was influential in Danish music from the beginning of the 80's until his death. Hassing and Irmgardz... were also part of Scatterbrain, an early 80's punk/indie band. Mikkel: “My imagination tells me they were inspired by Moral or maybe even worked together with on some project. At least it’s a nice thought.”
- Track 11ImportRaschenko
A very fresh, dubby post-punk track! Adventurous and fierce with theatrical stabs and animated drum programming. Discogs shows that Raschenko is ‘I. Raschenko’ as a one-man band. ‘I’ probably stands for ‘Ivor’, as this project is the Danish group Ivor Axeglovitch in disguise. Ivor Axeglovitch was an experimental rock-trio from Hellerup, Copenhagen and was founded in 1979. Their last live performance was believably in 1984. After two wicked, arty Ivor Axeglovitch albums, the bandleader continued with this sole release as Raschenko in 1984. “Import” tends towards a more lighthearted sound than Axeglovitch his previous project.
- Track 12I Play The Body ElectronicGert Thrue
Like many others in this mix, the true romanticist Gert Thrue recorded only one album, “Sound Painted Pictures Of Cosmic Love”, in his bedroom in 1977. Quite an amazing job, “I Play The Body Electronic” sounds really rich. Thrue plays the Hammond organ, the Moog and Roland synthesizer, El and Fender piano and Logan stringers. “I Play The Body Electronic” is well composed, soft and soothing – it’s obviously the result of true labour of dreamy love. The album has pretty amazing cover art too, with a serious poem on the back of the cover: “I wish to be in harmony, to feel and learn the power which makes the flowers grow, […] the cosmic power from the universe called love and brotherhood.[…]”
- Track 13I Feel It Starts AgainSuzanne Menzel
Mikkel rounds up his mix with another track by heavyweigt Klaus Schønning - a production for vocalist Suzanne Menzel this time, who Mikkel assumes was a friend of Schønning. “I Feel It Starts Again” is featured on Menzel’s sole album “Goodbyes and Beginnings”. Like Schønning’s other early works, this was a self-release and saw the light of day in the early eighties. Schønning’s work is notable for its deft orchestration and a wide variety of featured instruments. While Menzel sings, Schønning plays (in alphabetical order) accordion, autoharp, clavinet, drum programming [rhythm computer], kalimba, melodica, organ, percussion, piano, producer, slide guitar, strings and synthesizer. Menzel’s beautiful velvety vocals are crystal clear in the mix and her warmth makes this ambundant orchestration even sound a tiny bit thin. “Goodbyes and Beginnings” is now in high demand and will fortunately be reissued this year on the NYC based Frederiksberg Records, Mikkel advises.