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Under Byen

Who? It’s pronounced Ooh’nah-Boon, it translates as “‘Under the City,” and for over ten years, it has been a growing force straight out of Aarhus, Denmark (the second biggest city in Denmark, holler!). But back in 1995, Under Byen was just a poetry side-project of Katrine Stockholm and Henriette Sennenvaldt. That project slowly grew into something like a rock band, with the breathy, Bjork-y Sennenvaldt taking on lead vocals amid seven multi-instrumentalists while Stockholm became a kind of sideline coach (though her bro Anders still reps hard). A hit already across Europe (and already a presence in the blogosphere), Under Byen’s third full-length, Samme Stof Som Stof (Same Fabric as Fabric), will appear stateside thanks to Paper Bag Records.

What’s the Deal? Under Byen’s sound ranges from fairytale shimmer to visceral brutality, while always maintaining, or at least always returning to, a continuous sonic narrative. The textures recall the heavier drone of Pelican or Growing married with the folk-inflected pastoral of Espers or Joanna Newsom. Under Byen focus on acoustic instruments (violin, cello, piano), plus the usual drums (two sets) and bass, the haunting voice of Henriette Sennenvaldt (which behaves as another instrument not just for the non-Danish speakers, given that her words are often altered and distorted to meet the demands of a given song), and a battery of electronic gizmos and whatsits. No guitars though. Instead, you get the eerie strains of the musical saw augmented by being electronically messed-with. It all comes together on tracks at turns gorgeous and sweeping or dark and atonal, but always well crafted, well balanced, and well worth zoning out to.

Fun Fact: Samme Stof Som Stof came together over nearly two years, from days of practice sessions in an ancient house in Belgium to endless live takes in the Swedish hinterlands, and from electronic remixing and unmixing to brawls over effects pedals. Two producers, tons of overdubs, and re-recording sessions took the octet to the very night before the album was sent away for mastering. Somebody needs a vacation. J. GABRIEL BOYLAN

Now Hear This: Under Byen – “Af Samme Stof Som Stof” DOWNLOAD MP3

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>> Listen to Under Byen on Napster