Emmerhoff are from Bergen, Norway. Yes, Norway – again. Those Scandinavians are persistent in their export of damn good music. But since 1996, they have been trying to “carve out their own niche, far removed from ‘quiet is the new loud’ ramblings and electronic pop favoured by some of their fellow Bergen dwellers”, or so the website says. But do they really have anything different to offer?
Well, yes, to be frank. However, let’s get something established straight away. Those of you waiting in expectation for an album to jump around on a bed to, thrashing the strings of an air guitar with Jonny Greenwood aplomb, with hair flying everywhere, will be disappointed. This music is far more sophisticated and considered.
If This Darkness Lingers, Emmerhoff’s third album, opens with Caravanserai. Featuring splintered Latin influences, and multi-layered structuring, it’s an all-together different kind of album opener. Caravanserai’s calm turns into something of an epic storm that is stunning, in the most literal sense of the word. The bewilderment created by the position of this track as opener only works in favour of both the song, and the album.
As we mosey on down to track 3, Misty Trail, we are taught of Emmerhoff’s beautiful appreciation of texture, as a reverb-soaked guitar moans along in empathy to an aching vocal melody. And suddenly, the mystery of the perplexing album opener is beginning to be deciphered.They don’t care what people think, Caravanserai is a non-conformist statement of intent, and they start as they mean to go on.
With gentle acoustic guitars, and big drum and bass guitar accompaniment, Emmerhoff’s sound is at times reminiscent of Grant Lee Buffalo, but do not mistakethem for being derivative, because that is one thing this band are definitely not.
So what is it that makes Emmerhoff so original? Well, their songs are unpredictable, with non-standard chord changes, and great variation of dynamics. The rhythm section at times sounds like it would be more at home on a DJ Shadow album, creating a wonderful juxtaposition that ignores all the tranquility and measured texture of the guitars. Elsewhere, there is genre hopping, as the listener is taken from the country and western Backwoods to the faster, electric Hammered Down. Whatever they try and do, Emmerhoff are more than equal to the transition of genre.
This album is background music of the highest calibre – it’s lucid, well-considered lazy late night listening (especiallyif you enjoyed Turin Brakes‘ Late Night Tales). Emmerhoff sound like a band who are not out to impress, but to show people something special. They sound like a band who are totally comfortable with the sound of idiosyncrasy they have created. They sound brilliant.