Under Byen Samme Stof Som Stof

[Paper Bag; 2006]

Styles: dark, shadow-y rock from Denmark
Others: Bjork, Cyann & Ben, Massive Attack

You're listening to Samme Stof Som Stof and you realize the lyrics are sung in a foreign tongue. Well that's just dandy, you figure; surely the words are printed on the sleeve. Right? Awww ziggens, you have a promo copy, one with no liner notes. You get discouraged. "How can I review this hob-knobbin' LP without knowing what the 'f' the lead singer is saying?"

Dejected, you go into a gas station and pick up a rather large package of gummy candy. Each partition in the package contains a different sort of gummy: In one corner, you have a gummy pizza divided into five cyyyute little slices; then you have a packet of lemon-flavored fries, a few gum-burgers, and to wash it all down, you get a fizzy gummy cola. You sit and revel in your enjoyment of such a brilliantly rendered package of fruit chews for a minute.

Then you realize something important. You could even call it an epiphany if you had absolutely no life whatsoever: You finally understand that some things are better left foggy and inaccurate. You think, what if the people over at Gummytowne decided to approximate the flavor of hamburgers, hotdogs, and fries with their candy instead of substituting in yummy fruit flavors? It would be chaos, it would be bedlam, it would be... not very tasty; not very tasty at all. In light of this, it's best to enjoy what you have...

See how nicely this point is crossing over? The lyrics of Under Byen — which translates to Under the City — would likely just rain on the ornate cathedrals of sound they construct from track to track. There would probably be a lot of useless rhyming (seriously, when is all this pointless rhyming going to stop?), a lot of ho-hum expressions of angst and sorrow, a lot of "you," "true," "too," "do" ... they might even rhyme "change" and "rearrange," which would really kill the buzz and sully something tangier than usual.

So I'm enjoying Under Byen's U.S. debut as-is, and I'm lovin' it. Such a righteous appropriation of every move Björk ever made, yet such a tight, starkely contrasted song-to-song feeling; this is the darkness your parents never told you about, the endless struggle to earn your keep, be creative, be in love, AND get famous by the time you're 30 and not recognizing as many people at the pub. Soak in the UB rays and you'll notice you're feeling urgent, displaced, moody, fucked-up, randy, maybe even ready to do something extreme like burn your house down and rent that beach shack you've always fancied, the one with the little firepit outside and the tamale stand nearby.

Twelve tracks and not a single dud, not a single misstep, not a single faux pas. No passage is left wanting for more, nary a gaping hole left unpatched. Henriette Sennenvaldt's ghostly tissue-paper coos are equally indebted to Beth Gibbons — particularly her work with Rustin' Man — and Björk, and it doesn't really matter because the arrangements are so fluid, coursing with strings and effects and undercurrents of clanging dungeon chains and stone doors slamming shut. But hints of light peek through the shudders. "Palads" is pretty straight-indie-rock when measured against the rest of these tunes, twist-tying a by-the-numbers beat to organs normally reserved for crappy stock film music, lazy horns, calling-card strings, and a bassline best described as a weaving rail of electric energy sinking deeper and deeper until Sennenvaldt's Alone (again or?), singing/crying herself to sleep.

The rest of the album will leave you sympathizing with her situation. You'll feel alienated and claustrophobic just like her, but at the same time, strangely enlightened. The 'clink' and 'clank' of random percussion instruments — supplied by Under Byen's two drummers — will tap on and off in your head when you walk downtown to get a cup of coffee, the rhythms assisting you as you expertly avoid stepping on any cracks. The strings will echo in your head, mimic-ing a grand procession as you walk down the aisles of your favorite supermarket. The guitar? Bass? Piano? Yeah, it'll... it'll do things for you too, I'm sure; I don't know, didn't really plan on taking this so far. But rest assured this is a dynamite album with all the potential in the world lingering under its floorboards. If you don't take a peek, you'll be missing out on a thus-far-obscured treasure.

1. Pilot
2. Den Her Sang Handler Om At Fa Det Bedste Ud Af Det
3. Tindrer
4. Heftig
5. Panterplanker
6. Af Samme Stof Som Stof
7. Film Og Omvendt
8. Mere Af Det Samme Og Meget Mere Af Det Hele
9. Siamesisk
10. Liste Over Sande Venner Og Forbilleder
11. Palads
12. Sia Sorte Hjerte

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