The first Ja Ja Ja club night of 2014 took place on the 13th February, seeing 19 year old Dane Jonathan Schultz and his band Schultz & Forever, Norwegian rockers Atlanter and Icelandic synth pop threesome Vök make their way to the UK. It was the first time that each of the bands have performed in London, and the intimately atmospheric Lexington proved to be the perfect setting for an evening of exciting new Nordic music.
Bathed in the Lexington’s pink lights, lead singer Jonathan Schultz was the first to take to the stage, his blues-tinged rock emanating amidst the electric guitar, his voice a unique addition to the melodies with a gentle and endearing intro to the band’s set showcasing the band’s soft guitar notes – a wonderful accompaniment to the lead vocals.
The intimacy of Schultz’s voice engaged the audience throughout the performance, as everyone stood watching, transfixed. Schultz started making music in his bedroom and only began touring back in 2011, but his performance at Ja Ja Ja revealed how mature his style and lyrics are.
The band prepared for the last song and also “the best song” according to the lead singer, his crooning voice and the mature lyrics and vocals are striking for someone so young. The guitars are also particularly resonant of Fleet Foxes, smooth and rich and the performance revealed Schultz’s ready and honest live show, showcasing a sense of knowing in his delivery and the band’s calm togetherness in playing.
Atlanter, Norway’s very own distinctive rock ‘n’ roll band provide a very different proposition to the first act of the night. As the guitarist blew a kiss to the audience, the band prepared their set up.
Thumping drums start off the intro alongside built up riffs and scintillating electric guitar melodies, capturing the band’s unique sound. Moving and hypnotic, ‘Aye,’ had a distinctive African sound to it, as well as subtle South American influences. Each individual’s performance shook with charming energy; from the bassist’s unique moves to the guitarist’s intense expression as he played, the passion they hold for their music clearly evident.
Band members Arild Hammerø and Jens Carelius have already performed in solo projects in the past, and decided to team up with fellow musicians Morten Kvam and Jonas Barsten Johnsen to create Atlanter. You can really hear the band’s distinctive sound, as they like to call it ‘viddeblues,’ – a combination of krautrock and blues Americana. Their music could be used in a modern Western, powerful and resonant and during their passionate performance, the whole venue reverberated with the beat of the bass and drums.
Performing ‘Tree Song’, Atlanter showed just how masterful they can be. Both in ‘Katkos’ and ‘Tree Song’, the band proved to be superb at building their songs into crowd-pleasing climaxes, as the front-man amused the audience with his reference to the Viking invasion of centuries before as he exclaimed, “We are not here to pillage and loot you like we did a 1000 years ago!” His humour did not stop there, as he introduced the band as members of Norway’s Parliament. Atlanter produced an unmitigated energy throughout their performance – they felt their music, and made sure the audience felt it too.
Last but not least, Vök made their way on stage and as they tune their guitars and the shining saxophone, the crowd await excitedly.
Led by the singer’s gentle vocal melodies, the band looked comfortable in their first performance in London. Emotionally driven lyrics sung both in English and the band’s native Icelandic, Vök proved to be transporting in their deliverance. Together with the bass driven tracks, the synths culminated with soothing guitar notes and sultry saxophone. Their music was deep and soulful, perfectly fitting for the intimate venue, with stand out tracks from the trio being ‘Ég bíd pín’ and last year’s single, ‘Before’.
The first Ja Ja Ja gig of 2014 was an evening full of promising performances from three artists set to take the rest of the year by storm. A varied night of eclectic music and presences, the Lexington was treated to a host of new sounds from artists that Ja Ja Ja will continue to keep a very close eye on in the coming months.