Red Lama

support Fugleflugten + Nicklas Sørensen
author AP date 21/04/17 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

How encouraging it is to witness the psych-crowd of Copenhagen turning up in such force to behold one of the brightest, albeit still lesser known prospects on Denmark’s psychedelic rock scene this rainy Friday evening. The downstairs room at Pumpehuset must be nearing maximum capacity when our party arrives just in time to catch the opening act — word of Red Lama’s prowess in the live setting must have spread fast after the septet’s performance in support of All Them Witches last summer, which yours truly was quick to deem one of the best introductions to a new band ever. My expectations are thus very high, now that the novelty has worn off and the ‘Lama has become something of a mainstay on the city’s gig circuit.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Nicklas Sørensen

One really needs to be a fan of trippy and ambient music to appreciate the solo material of Nicklas Sørensen, who usually tends to guitar duties in the kraut/psych/post-rock outfit Papir. Armed with his trusty Stratocoaster as well as a litany of effect pedals, and awash in kaleidoscopic lighting, Sørensen presents us with an assortment of material from his first solo album, “Solo”, which came out in February last year and although under the right circumstances, it has the potential to be quite mesmerising, the audience here is reluctant to participate in the experience. Instead of letting themselves be hypnotised by Sørensen’s loops and spirals, the brunt of the attendees choose loud chattering and regard him with an offensive sort of disinterest. I will be the first to admit that Sørensen’s music is a tad too spaced out to trigger my wonderment, but at the very least I am willing to give the man a chance to show me what he can do, and impress upon me that it must take a special talent to seamlessly recreate the layer-stacking that occurs in Sørensen’s music with just a guitar and pedals. He manages to sound like a full band sans drumming. Put him in the dingy and intimate confines of, say, Valby’s Underwerket or Christiania’s Loppen and no doubt the musician’s total immersion into his soundscapes would produce an altogether more engaging effect. Alas, here his exploits seem to fall largely on deaf ears.

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Fugleflugten

Fugleflugten belongs to a rising tide of Danish rock bands opting to sing in their native tongue. Like another such band, The Minds of 99, they do so against a backdrop of lofty new wave and post-punk, though with psychedelic nuances also mixed in and a rhythm section that likes to deviate from the standard 4/4 signature whenever possible. At times, music also resembles The Killers at their vastest and most anthemic by virtue of the two guitarists’ generous application of reverb — and like the Las Vegas-born superstars, Fugleflugten has put together a formula for readily and persistently engaging songs. And to boot, the quartet plays them with the confidence and charisma of seasoned entertainers; there is an air of cool self-assuredness about them but at the same time, the band also seems chummy and forthcoming.

Admittedly, the setlist does not offer much by way of variety though, which is the one area that does demand further attention. Apart from a mesmerising instrumental passage in the third song and a punchy bass groove in the sixth, the songs are practically begging to have some distinct characteristics injected so as to not become a uniform, albeit very palatable single mass. Looking past that shortcoming however, Fugleflugten seems destined to stand on the Orange Stage at Roskilde Festival in the near future (as for this year, the band is booked to perform there during the warm-up days) and they certainly have the showmanship needed to pull it off. The respective instruments are struck with a vengeance and there is ample jumping, flailing and rocking out to ensure that Fugleflugten makes a solid first impression on me and beckons me to keep an eye out for a prospective headliner show.

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Red Lama

It must be challenging to establish a common frequency between seven musicians — the timing, emphasis and mix levels need to be spot on. Red Lama manages the feat with flying colours though, presenting us tonight with a well-balanced soundscape of driving bass, lush melodies and tribal percussion which lacks neither volume, clarity nor punch. And given the psychedelic nature of the band’s music, getting the sound levels on point means everything; it makes the experience consuming. Indeed, the suggestion that Red Lama is setting itself up to match the crème de la crème of Danish psychedelic rock is made unquestionable by the Copenhagen-born septet’s exploits tonight, fuelled by their elation about the strong turnout.

Simply put, the band’s symbiosis is tight as virgin snatch tonight and with the entire room inundated in kaleidoscopic patterns, it feels more like an Ayahuasca-séance than a concert. It feels transcendental. When bassist Frederik Hansen’s picks out a hypnotic groove for guitarists Jonas Rahbek & Oliver Fick to lay their jams onto and Niklas Jørgensen’s bongo drumming grows feverishly intense, it is hard to imagine that a more entrancing live act might exist. The trance reaches its pinnacle when Red Lama is joined on stage by clarinetist Bjonko Chalgija, who feeds off the jam to bust out a lengthy, improvised solo with all the soul and flair of a jazz musician — one which seems to send vocalist Johannes Linnet into pure ecstasy, dancing frantically as if possessed by some voodoo spell. His euphoria is, however, simply symptomatic of a band playing the concert of their lives and in honesty, it probably is on that level for them. More than once, J. Linnet expresses his surprise and gratitude to us, looking overwhelmed and overjoyed by the size and enthusiasm of the audience.

The setlist mixes the old with the upcoming and if the interesting rhythms and instrumental freak-outs housed by the two brand new tracks aired at either side of the classic “Inca” exemplify the standard of Red Lama’s sophomore album (out later this year, we are told), then this could be something truly special. Certainly, the performance given tonight is just that: an extraordinarily intense and mesmerising display of tribal neo-psych that will surely be remembered as one of the best concerts this year. It is the kind of experience that makes you repeatedly SMS your friend, who just got engaged and wants to celebrate, “I’ll be right there!”, while your feet remain glued to the ground and your eyes fixed on the proceedings on stage.

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