Review: Orsak:Oslo ‘In Irons’

Swedish/Norwegian four-piece experimental post-rockers Orsak:Oslo (a band that I always admired since I bumped into them on a blogspot), came about by pure chance when guitarist Christian Andersson moved from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Oslo, Norway, in search of work. The story goes that he ended up sharing an apartment with seven strangers which included drummer Øyvind Minsaas with whom he establishes a friendship as they shared the same music tastes.

Orsak:Oslo 'In Irons'
Orsak:Oslo ‘In Irons’ Artwork

The band’s name, Orsak:Oslo, is referred to a letter that Christian received from the Swedish government when they found out he was working in, and giving his tax money to Norway. Minsaas explains, ‘It basically stated that his right to free health care, state pension and other social benefits you normally have as a Swedish citizen was revoked. The only explanation offered was two words bluntly written at the end of the letter – Orsak:Oslo – which means, cause/problem.’

However, it didn’t stop them starting to make music. From 2014 until 2015 they released four EPs as a duo, with the exception of a sporadic collaboration with a trumpet player on their As We Fall EP. The music produced sounds quasi vintage psych garage with dark cinematic Nordic noir veins and reminiscence of the Twin Peaks soundtrack with its continuous unmoving hypnotic drilling sound. In the following years, which see the entry of keyboardist, now on guitar, Bjarne Karlsson, and later Peter Nilsson on bass, their music takes a more cohesive and compact form which is closer to how they want to express themselves musically.

They work meticulously, layering their instruments through components of stunning atmospheric kraut motorik beats with smouldering guitar riffs, which at times comes close to Kombinat Robotron and the highly experimental side of Norwegians Motorpsycho. The most interesting thing about Orsak:Oslo is they build their sound gradually through years of musical formation by exploring every corner of the increasingly intriguing and renewed experimental post-rock genre. In nine years of never a dull moment, they’ve released ten EPs via their own Mulletproof Records, a promotional collection cassette and two compilation albums released via German label Kapitän Platte.

‘Releasing music on EPs has just felt like the right format for us’, says Øyvind, ‘it has made it possible to keep a steady flow of good releases. As long as we’ve been doing everything on our own it has been more economically manageable to stick to the digital releases.’ Strange as it may be, but important at the same time, is to point out that since their beginning, they have numbered each and every song sequentially.

haunting psych and kosmische atmospheric sound waves solemnly dancing…

This year, finally, they decided to put to rest their ‘classic’ EP format releasing their very debut full-length album In Irons via Norwegian label Vinter Records. The album contains five instrumental pieces that, although stylistically relate to one another, embrace a musical landscape that vibrates the air with an emotionality that swings between sombre and contemplating moods, it showcases at the same time their dystopian post-rock and trippy space blues music.

The opening track, 068 The Swell is a slow ride of thrilling kraut rock guided by a romantic guitar sound. As 079 Dutchman’s Wake (Part 1) bites in, the scenario takes you on an experimentally complex sound journey where all the musicians manage their own way in leaving no stones unturned. The following track, 069 In What Way You Are Different – reaches a peek of emotion that gives you shiver down your spine as evokes the more persuasive and romantic Pink Floyd moments.

The doom, dark, scary and heavy side of Orsak:Oslo is manifested, in an almost cathartic way, through the vigorous sound of 078 The Mute (Part II), the bastard son of the entire album. Then the closing track, 074 Hadal Blue, is a near seventeen-minute-long epic of haunting psych and kosmische atmospheric sound waves solemnly dancing until the end of its long ceremonial music procession.

With In Irons Orsak:Oslo have shown us that the time has come to crown them as the kahuna of the undisputed Nordic underground experimental sound. Let your spirit ignite and take you away with their melancholic, overwhelming, soulful and never-ending journey.

Label: Vinter Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Domenico ‘Mimmo’ Caccamo