Birthmark: “Stuck” (SoundCloud)

When we talk about the “indie classical” phenomena on Sequenza 21 and Signal to Noise, as we’ve done a fair bit in recent times, we’re often referring either to concert music composers who incorporate elements of indie pop or classical presentations that incorporate or are created by pop musicians. But increasingly, musicians with both feet firmly planted in the pop arena make music that can just as easily be called “indie classical.”

The record companies may market these releases as pop, but the songs contained therein have arrangements that use concert instruments deftly with a composerly aesthetic. And, unlike some great pop albums that outsource the band charts, the “songwriters” do their own arranging, often playing much of the material themselves. Thus, it’s worth remembering that the classical crossover phenomena is, happily, a busy two-way street. And while this is nothing new (Frank Zappa is just one notable antecedent), it’s certainly a resurgent phenomena that’s fostering fertile music making.

A case in point is Birthmark, a project whose principal songwriter is multi-instrumentalist Nate Kinsella. The track below, “Stuck” (an embed from Soundcloud), is a preview from his forthcoming third LP Antibodies, which will be released via Polyvinyl.

With hushed vocals accompanied by strings, winds, and mallet instruments aplenty, it would fit right in on the Ecstatic Music series or a release on Brassland or New Amsterdam. Kudos to Polyvinyl: it’s nice to see more labels branching out into this polystylistic milieu.

Casiokids’ Debut US LP

Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar
Polyvinyl CD

We’re experiencing one of the nastiest heat waves on record here in the Northeastern United States. Unaccustomed to relentless temps above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, folks are grasping at anything to keep cool. One newspaper article I saw suggested that ‘thinking cool’ simply must be part of the equation if one is going to weather this heat wave with any sort grace. In that spirit, I’ve been casting about for music that makes me think of cooler climes. Happily, there’s a great deal of terrific Scandinavian pop that’s fueling my wishful dreaming.

A prime example is Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar (rough paraphrase – the local bar has terrific ambiance), the US Debut CD of Norwegian electro-pop collective Casiokids. It’s touted as the first Norwegian language pop release in the States. And, while apart from a few Nibelung names, my Norwegian is virtually nonexistent, I can attest that there are no musical language barriers here.

As their moniker indicates, Casiokids happily channel eighties era synth pop signatures. But they mold these into a disparate soundscape, that encompasses both dance pop and more avant electronica: often simultaneously! The results are apt to capture both one’s intellect and their choreographic impulses. I’d dance too – if only it weren’t so darn hot!

Casiokids have been championed by a number of indie stalwarts; chief among these advocates are their label mates Of Montreal. One can see why they’re excited by the catchy yet substantial fare. Indeed, several tracks from Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar have inspired remixes. “Fot i Hose” has been the recepient of particularly fruitful attentions. Courtesy of our friends at RCRDLBL, check out the song below.

Casiokids Tour Dates:
Wed 8/18 – San Francisco, CA – Cafe Du Nord
Thu 8/19 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
Fri 8/20 – Seattle, WA – The Vera Project
Sat 8/21 – Vancouver, BC – Media Club
Tue 8/24 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry
Wed 8/25 – Chicago, IL – Schubas Tavern
Thu 8/26 – Detroit, MI – Magic Stick
Fri 8/27 – Toronto, ON – Supermarket
Sat 8/28 – Brooklyn, NY – Glasslands
Sun 8/29 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
Mon 8/30 – Washington, DC – DC9
Fri 10/8 – Los Angeles, CA – Spaceland