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Review: Norwegian dream-pop band, Highasakite set to rise the ranks in 2014

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Highasakite opening for London Grammar at The Independent

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Norwegian newcomers, Highasakite released their second album, “Silent Treatment” in the US earlier this week. The 10-track record has garnered some impressive reviews and ahead of its release, San Francisco was treated to the band’s live set at The Independent on March 27, where they opened for Brit trio, London Grammar.

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Unfortunately, as Highasakite took to the stage on the Thursday night with the quietly haunting “Lover Where Do You Live?” I was going slightly bonkers circling the streets around the Western Addiction for almost 30mins trying to find a parking spot. The long sold-out show for the fast ascending London Grammar probably accounted for the teeming streets around that already bustling side of Divisadero.

It is hardly far-fetched to believe that before long Highasakite would also inspire their own traffic deadlock as they follow in the trajectory of their headlining tour-mates. They share a similar moody indie-electro sound though Highasakite can be magpies with their inspiration. Their blend of electro dream-pop however, should strike a chord not only with London Grammar fans but indie-lovers everywhere.

The quintet recently won a prestigious Spellemannpris or Norwegian Grammy back home. Here in the US they began to gain traction when Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon gave them a shout-out after seeing them perform at the 2012 Oya Festival. More recently the likes of Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol have also been singing their praises. The frontman saw them at their El Rey show in LA and tweeted they were ‘sublime’, ahead of their gig in San Francisco.

I made it inside the venue just in time (I’m not telling where I parked) to hear frontwoman and songwriter Ingrid Helene Havik sing “I should be digging my way to China/with a shovel/But winded up in Portugal/Oh it’s a long way to crawl/And I missed the earth and its blue waters/But when I pop my head up in Hiroshima…”

By all accounts, Havik dressed in a butterfly-style maxi frock-combo had the crowd entranced with her haunting vocals on this track, “Hiroshima”. She calls to mind Agnetha Faltskog from their ‘70s Scandinavian counterparts, Abba but Havik with her Nordic inflections and dreamy reflections of cowboys and Indian-playtime; a love laid to waste in times of war, terrorism and environmental apathy; and Dr Seuss-like lyricism, is very much of the moment.

Indeed, the rich lyricism that Highasakite evokes is beguiling and the mixed soundscape of hazy-synths, electro-pop, deep steel drums and Norwegian folk makes them easy to fall in love with.

The band was started by Havik and drummer, Trond Bersu who met studying jazz at the famed Trondheim Jazz Conservatory and for a time, were also a couple. Both came from musical backgrounds - Havik’s mother was a conductor and singer while Bersu’s grandfather played Norwegain folk music on accordion. The duo recorded their first album, “All that floats will rain” with friend, Oystein Skar on synths and released it in Norway, in early 2012.

As they embarked on touring, the band grew to include Marte Eberso on synths and Kristoffer Lo on guitar and flugabone. All were involved in recording their second album.

Their next song, “The Man on The Ferry” paints another rich picture within the first few lines “One morning I woke up outside and the air that I took in my lungs, it made the Indian in me cry.” Presumably with the feather, not the dot – as Havik has previously made no secret about the fact that she’s always harbored a strong affinity to the Native Americans, choosing in the early days to perform with warpaint and feathers.

“I, the Hand Grenade” follows. It begins with Havik’s lone voice proclaiming, "Yes the real terrorist is me, my love..." before the two synths start soaring while Havik gives it depth with the steel drums. The vocal harmonies of "ooh, oooh, ooh's" push the rich crescendoes higher. There is a strong smack of Bjork’s “Joga” from the “Homogenic” album in the fracturing synths.

Undoubtedly, their most catchy, ear-worm of a tune for the night is “Since Last Wednesday”. Bearing a captivating ostensibly pop sensibility but with Norwegian folk elements like the use of the zither and flugabone, there is always just enough crunchy synths and soaring chorus to render it utterly memorable.

They close their set with “Science & Blood Test” a charming enough tune but I would have liked to hear the delightful, “Darth Vader”. Perhaps the force wasn’t strong this time but reason to hope they will do their own headlining show in the not too distant future.

To purchase, "Silent Treatment" please click here.

Set List

Lover, where do you live?

Leaving no traces

Hiroshima

The man on the ferry

I, the Hand Grenade

Since Last Wedensday

Science & Blood Test

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