BBC Horizons 2018 act, I See Rivers, treats us to a playlist of songs that made them the band they are today.
Almost five years ago now we (Gøril, Eline and Lill) met in Liverpool and formed the band I SEE RIVERS, and after completing our studies (Eline and Gøril graduated two years ago, Lill last summer) we moved to beautiful Pembrokeshire. We did, however, grow up in three very different parts of Norway and we found our way(s) into music separately from each other.
This is a collection of some of the songs that have either shaped or especially inspired us individually and as such this playlist is a tad eclectic. We have written a few words about our picks, but you can also just press play and let the music speak for itself (that’s what we like to do!).
Antony & the Johnson – Bird Guhl
I first heard this song when I was still in Norway studying fine arts. Anohni (then Antony Hegarty) has such a pure and almost painfully honest way of delivering her lyrics and story through amazingly heartbreaking vocals. It blew my mind at the time. This track is especially beautiful in its simplicity with sparse instrumentation and pleasantly swooping dynamics. Listening to Anohni thought me to see the beauty in singing with the voice I was born with (as opposed to comparing myself to much more “talented” and trained singers), as well as I discovered the importance of really believing in and projecting the lyrics and/or feeling of the song.
Sufjan Stevens – The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!
‘The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!’ is taken from Sufjan’s 2005 album ‘Illinois’ which was the first album I ever heard of him (and as such it’s extra dear to me) and I discovered it while I was doing my best to procrastinate before an exam back when I was studying in Oslo. It worked out perfectly as within just seconds of pressing play I was completely lost in his music and this song especially stood out to me – it’s still one of my all-time favorite songs.
I don’t really know how to explain my attraction and admiration for Sufjan Stevens and his musicianship and songwriting. I suggest just going through is catalogue!
D.D Dumbo – Brother
I was given D.D Dumbo’s album ‘Utopia Defeated’ by a friend for my birthday last year and I think I’ve listened to it least once a week since. I love this song particularly for the super creative way in which the instruments are arranged (and played), how they are placed in the mix, and the mixing itself – a lot of these instruments are processed to an inch of their life, but they still sound authentic and somehow even organic. The subject matter of this entire album resonates with me as well, although the lyrics are perhaps not the first thing you notice when your first listen to it. In addition to singing, I mostly play percussion in I SEE RIVERS, and listening to the different grooves and how they’re integrated in D.D Dumbo’s sound has been really inspiring to me.
Charles Fox/Norman Gimbel – Killing Me Softly
‘Killing Me Softly’ is composed by Charles Fox with lyrics by Norman Gimbel and there is so many versions of the song. The first time I heard the song however, was when a band came to my junior high school to play. They needed one person to sing one song with them and I was picked. They showed me the song and we rehearsed it a few times before we performed it in front of the whole school. This wasn’t the first time I was singing on stage in front of people but performing with that band on that stage made me feel something I had never felt before – I felt really happy standing there and I just wanted to do it over and over again.
Susanne Sundfør – The Brothel
My dad has always introduced me to new music and when he sees a band or an artist performing on TV he always records it for me. I remember he was very excited when he showed me a video of Susanne Sundfør playing ‘The Brothel’ live at a program called “Lydverket”. Even though this is an amazing performance I wasn’t sold in that moment. However, after giving it a bit of time, Susanne Sundfør became the most important songwriter and artist for me, I’ve spent so much time listening to her music.
Florence and the Machine – You’ve Got The Love
I did a music course in high school and this is where I developed a fascination for singing and vocal technique. My teacher was classically trained so I sang mostly opera and classical music. This wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed the challenge. A friend of mine introduced me to Florence and the Machine’s song ‘You’ve Got The Love’ and I fell in love with her music straight away. Both Florence and Susanne have very unique voices and an impressive control over their respective voices, and I think this is one of the reasons why I connected with their music in the way that I did. I loved sitting by the piano covering their songs, mostly because of the difficult melodies that gave my voice a real challenge.
Adjagas – Ruoktu
Sofia Jannok – Viviann
There’s many songs that have inspired me musically, but I’d like to pick two songs that have shaped my life in many other ways. So, I started listening to “joik” only a few years ago which is a traditional form of singing for the Sami people of the Nordic countries (the indigenous people of Norway). I learned that you can not joik about something or someone, but rather joik the particular thing or the particular person. Each joik is meant to reflect or evoke either a person, animal or place. As I listened more to joik I got more interested in the Sami people, including the music, culture, hand craft and more. I started to joik myself, but never when there was people around. I was afraid of offending someone as I didn’t know that I was Sami myself at that time, but I could really feel it in my chest and heart while I was trying to get my head around this exciting singing style I’d found. Of course, I always knew joik existed, but I never listened to it in this way before. Later I learned that I came from a Sami family myself.
Because of this style of singing I learned loads about my background, and then many, many beautiful things about my culture and people. Later I found out that joik is used in modern music as well as the traditional singing on its own. One of the first bands I listened to was Adjagas with the song ‘Ruotku’ which is the Sami word for “home”. Then I found Sofia Jannok, another Sami artist. Favorite song from Sofia Jannok: ‘Viviann’. The songs have definitely shaped my life in an amazing way.
Recommended for you: Tomos Williams leads the Welsh jazz/folk band Burum and the Indo-Welsh band Khamira. Here he presents the twenty songs that mean more to him than any other, with a bit of background on each one.