Lis er stille

support No Hay Banda
author AP date 28/03/14 venue Templet, Lyngby, DEN

Celebrating their 10th Anniversary as a true cult band this year, Lis er stille is a name I've seen and heard so many times now it's almost a blasphemy I've yet to watch them live, let alone listen to their music. My failure to do so would thus be corrected once and for all this cold Friday evening, and motivated by my work colleague's determination to run the world championship half-marathon the day after, I set off from Frederiksberg on my bike for the 13,5km ride to Kgs. Lyngby in northern Sjælland. Read on to find out how the evening progressed.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

No Hay Banda

Completely unbeknownst to me, No Hay Banda have been writing and releasing music since 2008. But this is unsurprising: their music, a mixture of electronica, pop and indie is not something that enjoys a strong presence in my music collection; nor is it a genre which I would actively seek out when plotting which concerts to attend. They are the evening's support act nonetheless, and I must admit to a certain degree of bewilderment when Louise Tækker and her colleague Jonas Linnet emerge on stage wielding a tiny acoustic guitar and playing synths and samples respectively. "What is this, space indie?", are the first thoughts I jot down, and as the two shuffle their roles for the second song and are joined by a session musician on electronic drum pads, the music becomes even more galactic, reminding me at times of Massive Attack and Portishead - though only in passing.

It's oddly compelling stuff, with especially the nice bass groove in the third song - taken off their previous record as opposed to the two first coming off their "Deadly Songs" LP released this past Monday - tickling my fancy. By the time they venture into the evening's fifth song, a session guitarist has joined them on stage for a song which reminds me, above all, of old Finnish balladry (iskelmämusiikki) by virtue of its melancholic air and classically disposed melody; and with the next two tracks sending us deep into space and then into shamelessly mainstream, Kent-style radio pop, it's hard to deny No Hay Banda's eclecticism. But with next to no movement on behalf of the musicians, the dreamy nature of the music soon has me checking my watch in anticipation of the evening's headliner.

7

Lis er stille

It speaks to the band's credit that just as Lis er stille walk on stage, Steen Jørgensen of Sort Sol fame presents himself at the venue. Underground though they may be, what the quartet's performance goes to show tonight is that in Lis er stille, Denmark has some of its most creative, multi-faceted, and criminally underappreciated musicians, spearheaded by the strange yet charismatic vocalist/keyboardist Martin Byrialsen and the guitar toting mad genius Tue Schmidt Rasmussen. I've always found the group's moniker deeply unsettling (Lis is still or Lis is quiet, though by way of a pun its pronounciation also sounds like "Lige så stille" - Quietly), and once they launch tonight's first Gothic space odyssey at us, it makes perfect sense.

Lis er stille's music is difficult to categorise, but I'd probably call it a miasma of The Cure, HIM, Muse, Pink Floyd and Tool, with Byrialsen vocals alternating between deep croons and Matthew Bellamy style high power and falsetto; and the soundscape defined by bassist Asbjørn Helboe and drummer Jon Gotlev's rumbling, pronounced rhythm section, Schmidt Ramussen's acidic guitar riffs and Byrialsen's proggy keys. Awash with blue and purple lighting, the atmosphere is gloomy, yet inspired, and the four musicians - with the exception perhaps of Byrialsen who fixates himself in between two keyboards - are full of life and energy when the music demands it. Schmidt Ramussen in particular seems to be having an absolute blast when the rhythm picks up and Lis er stille venture into an intense, lengthy instrumental section at the end of the second song, which I'm compelled to call phenomenal. His antics on stage remind me in part of Devin Townsend, and in part of the Dillinger Escape Plan's Ben Weinman - and that's no ordinary thing. In liaison with Helboe, the two axement are annihilating the stage, swinging their instruments with a mad glare in their eyes, crashing into things and casting themselves onto the ground to ensure that visually, Lis er stille are up to scratch with the likes of the Psyke Project. While the music itself is dramatic, rich with detail, and alive with the band's collective passion, truly it is the seething energy with which it is delivered that sweeps me off my feet and has me thinking "Fuck yeah!".

The crowd number some 40 at the very most, but the scant turnout seems to have no effect on the intensity of the proceedings, and while I understand Lis er stille's music is an acquired taste, I can't help but wonder why they haven't managed to break into more widespread recognition during their 10 years as a band. By the time the set nears its end, I've decided to narrow down my categories into which Lis er stille fit to just a single label: Gothic prog-rock. On paper that may sound off-putting, but I assure you, if you haven't had the chance to watch these boys live yet, you would do well to change that, because honestly, there are very few bands in Denmark able to dispense this level of energy in the live setting whilst playing such complex material and not sacrificing their tightness.

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