Norra Reviret: Northern Light in a Cold, Dark Night

December 12, 2018 | by Jason Thomas
 

 

Make no mistake about it, Sweden, with a population the size of North Carolina, is a global music superpower. With about 50 percent of its pop music written in English, and the other half in Swedish, a language about 9 million globally speak natively, Sweden drifts in and out of the number three spot of largest exporters of music on the planet. There are moments where if you pick any of the top 10 pop songs on the U.S. charts, there’s a 40 percent chance it was written by a Swede. That may seem intuitive given that it’s the home of Spotify, but one could argue that the Swedes are the most musical people on the planet.

 

I’ve spent the last year and a half or so learning their language and devouring their culture — especially the music — thinking about an exit from the never-ending American shit show. Most of the artists I’ve discovered have come from one the county’s three largest metros, Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö. To the outside world Sweden is often little more than Stockholm. But I am constantly surprised by the creativity and diversity of the output from its northern region, Norrland, most notably the city of Umeå, with young artists such as Dolce, Duschpalatset, and Katohjärta.

 

This spring I stumbled across a band from further north in the city of Luleå, a city of 75,000 at the top of the Baltic Sea (Östersjon) in the traditional province of Norrbotten that is now the largest and most northern county in Sweden of the same name, having been combined with the northern 2/3rds of Lappland. Anyway, geography lessons aside, the band I stumbled across, Norra Reviret, had only a few singles, and I listened to them this summer — a lot.

 

This week they added to their collection by releasing their first EP, Driver. The titles seems meant to be as intuitive as the band name, because drive it does (or as a Swede would say, kör). It’s perhaps not surprising that Norra Reviret would have a driving sound, at least for me. Other more established artist from the area that I’ve come to know, Hurula and Mattias Alkberg, also have a driving sound, but different. There’s something at once classical about Norra Reviret’s sound, very much rock, but also something very much all their own. I’ve never lived through a long, snowy winter in Luleå, but somehow, after spending a couple of days with these five songs I feel like, like somehow I understand what that would be like.
 

 

 

 

If there’s a connecting current to the whole of the EP it’s existential; not in an undergraduate philosophy kind of way, but more in a “we’re here, and if you think about it, that’s kinda fucked up” sort of way. Singer Janinne Sandström Oja’s lyrics are introspective, bordering on the edge of bleak, and can be outright crushing in the best way possible.

 

Driver starts off with the aptly titled Rus och rök (Intoxication and Smoke), and it really feels like you’re getting into your car to start your drive. It follows with the incredibly catchy Allt som allt (Everything Like Everything), who’s chorus belts “Det finns ingen, och säger man / Det är slut, bor inte i dig” (There is no one, and you say / It's over, [I] do not live among you).

 

The middle track, Bara för en kväll (Just for One Night) slows the roll of the EP. It’s the track that most makes me feel what it must be like to wander through a dark, snowy Luleå evening alone. It’s haunting and it’s words literally fuck me up, so much so that I've included a full translation at the bottom.*

 

The drive picks back up for the last two tracks, turning into track four, Sista gången (The Last Time), which is a legitimate hit. The chorus proclaims “Ge upp för allra sista gången” (Give up for the very last time) and towards the end Sandström Oja belts “så förbannat ensamma tillsammans” (so goddamn alone together). If you don’t think that song rocks, you don’t have a fucking soul.

 

Finally, having had a lyrical bone saw taken to all four of your spiritual limbs, there is the kill shot. In the last track, my favorite, Undantag (Exception), Sandström Oja lets us all know where we stand, as a species. She unleashes on the last chorus of Driver: “Vi är bara spår som kommer, täckas över / vi är bara kroppar som, faller sönder” (We are only tracks that will be covered, we are just bodies that disintegrate). I need a goddamn cigarette.

 

Here’s the most honest and complimentary thing I can say in my Swenglish about Norra Reviret’s first EP, Driver (and I’ve only said this about one album until now, Däggdjur by Säker!):

 

You don’t need to speak a word of Swedish to understand this EP, you will get it. Det är riktigt, riktigt jättebra.

 

* I translated everything by ear, and am not liable for any subtle misses in meaning

 

Bara för en kväl (Just for One Night)

 

Finns ingen ljus här / There is no light here

som ingen har skapa / which no one has created

Snälla försöker / Please try

att hålla det väken / to keep it awake

 

Du behöver nåt för smärtan, / You need something for the pain,

behöver nån för smärtan / need someone for the pain

Finns ingen ljus här / There is no light here

som ingen har skapa / which no one has created

 

Det var grunt i kalla natten / It was shallow in the cold night

Hjärtan i allas trut / Hearts in everyone's mouth

Gyllene som sång / Golden like song

 

Men kom igen, / But come on,

bara för en kväll, / just for one night,

bara för sanningen / just for the truth

 

Men kom igen, / But come on,

bara för en kväll, / just for one night,

bara för sanningen / just for the truth

 

Finns ingen ljus här / There is no light here

som ingen har skapa / which no one has created

Finns bara sekunder / There are only seconds

och timmar då dagar / and minutes then days

 

Livet kast oss bort / Kast our lives away

på dig jag vet / of you I know

Livetsloss oss bort / Lose our lives away

på mig du vet / of me you know

 

Det var grunt i kalla natten / It was shallow in the cold night

Hjärtan i allas trut / Hearts in everyone's mouth

Gyllene som sång / Golden like song

 

Men kom igen, / But come on,

bara för en kväll, / just for one night,

bara för sanningen / just for the truth

 

Åh kom igen, / Oh come on,

bara för en kväll, / just for one night,

bara för sanningen / just for the truth

 

Vi finns i allt / We exist in everything

som jag ont / like I hurt

Vi finns i allt / We exist in everything

som jag ont / like I hurt

 


Listen to Driver via Bandcamp:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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