Review Summary: Sick of hackneyed albums reproduced annually by clichéd post-rockers? This must be what you're looking for.
Under Byen are a Danish post-rock group. Yes, they are post-rock, but if you’re one of those people who is pissed off about the apparent lack of creativity in the genre, don’t turn your back on these guys. It’s not about the traditional climaxes or melodic guitar voices. In fact, there is barely any guitar on the record. Songs feature strings, piano, electronic voices, synthesizers, and creative percussion. Also, don’t immediately think of A Silver Mt. Zion or one of their various incarnations. Under Byen feature female vocals, lyrics in Danish, that are at the forefront of their music. I’d be quicker to compare them to Mum or their self-declared influences, Sigur Ros and Bjork.
Take a look at “Den her sang handler om at få det bedste ud af det”. Now that you’re done digesting the ridiculously long name (which I’m sure you’ll be able to excuse as foreign rather then pretentious) it begins with a pleasant electronic groove. Soft female vocals fly you around, and then suddenly you’re transported to a raging climax, one atypical to the genre. There is the normal intensity, but female vocals are weaved throughout it, and the musical voices are not the average ones you would expect. Strings are at the forefront, and the percussion is scripted in an unusual manner. The song ends with a random piano break, and you begin to swallow the pleasantness of the group.
Vocals are prominent throughout the record. “Heftig” begins with basically bass guitar, percussion, and female vocals. Under Byen manage to slowly incorporate strings and mallet percussion before exploding with an atonal groove, complimented by piano.
“Af samme stof som stof” begins with synth and then what sounds like some form of bongos or hand percussion. The female vocals continue, leading the song. There is dark tone to the song, giving it a weird appeal. “Film of Omvendt” continues with the same dark groove feel that was on “Af same stof som stof” but it climaxes more in an intense wall-of-fuzz bridge. Fuzz continues throughout the song after that point, thick distortion making the chord progressions or sometimes just feedback in the background.
"Mere af det samme og meget mere af det hele" is a short two-minute piano track that is consequently one of the most intense moments on the record. Congested piano lines are banged out on a piano accompanied by background strings. It softens at bit at the end, moving in a more picturesque direction before dropping out entirely.
Jazz elements are displayed on "Siamesisk", a song that brings to mind Bjork, Talk Talk, and Portishead all at the same time, strange combination though it may seem. A large portion of the album has a dark timbre, and on “Palads” some of that tension is released. It’s a little looser then some of the previous tracks, and toward the end acquires a mournful tone.
If you’re wondering where the Sigur Ros influence is besides the foreign language (which isn’t something people really choose to mimic), you need only look at the closer, "Slå sorte hjerte". It contains all the beauty that their Icelandic coworkers ceaselessly emanate.
Under Byen have created with Samme stof som stof
a very fresh album, something I think a lot of people are looking for. Unfortunately, it may not be for the average post-rock listener, being so unique that it barely even contains the same elements bands like Explosions in the Sky utilize. But if you’re a fan of the exotic or charmed by bands like Mum and Bjork, this album is for you, an excellent work of art and a breath of fresh air.