by Silje Nes on Splinter SeriesReleased 03/12/2007
We first became aware of Norwegian singer-songwriter / multi-instrumentalist Silje Nes through a unique and utterly charming demo we received out of the blue in 2005. Intrigued and enchanted by the quirkily sprawling mixture of instruments, electronics and sweet vocals, we have been regularly talking with her since, with Silje working on and submitting new tracks and slowly piecing this debut album together. Boldly Inventive and broad-visioned, ‘Ames Room’ announces the emergence of a hugely talented and distinctive young artist. With the sole exception of the opening track - written and recorded with Kristian Stockhaus from Ungdomskulen - the entirety of the album is Silje’s own work and sounds like someone clearly reveling in the act of creation.
Entirely home-recorded, the album gathers together material created between Autumn 2004 and Summer 2007. Attesting to the primacy of the recording process, the songs were actually written as they were recorded. Silje notes the importance of this presence that comes from recording spontaneously, with all its imperfections. “It’s the recording that I enjoy, and I can’t separate that from the songwriting.” Whilst the early recordings were largely instrumental (often wordlessly using her voice as an extra instrument) and more heavily electronic, over the past year her lyrics and vocal have come increasingly to the fore, as has the use of guitar and drums. Gentle and wispily imbuing songs with an almost childlike sense of wonder and awe, Silje’s voice is breathy and beautifully measured, calmly sitting at the centre of the webs she spins like some playful, benevolent animating spirit.
Whilst creating a sound-world entirely her own, ‘Ames Room’ shows a similar single-mindedness and (autodidactic) adventurousness to fellow peers like Tujiko Noriko, Islaja, Lau Nau, Eglantine Gouzy, Foehn, or Leila Arab, also sharing something of the homespun, sprawling beauty of the likes of The Pastels, Pram, or Crescent. Beautifully pieced together, tracks unfurl like a series of intricate constructions, or like some kind of strange blown-up world of insects or curious creatures - the whole teeming with life and a great sense of fun. Broad ranging and full of character, the album moves from languid dream-pop to stomping, upbeat tracks, to more introspective or abstract numbers. With sparkling melodies at times exuding a music-box sweetness, spindly electronics - barbed, bubbling, and tinkling - weave around a vast array of instruments including cello, electronics, drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, recorder, glockenspiel, xylophone, melodica, and trumpet, as well as percussion played on all manner of found objects. Playful rhythms increasingly accumulate, with machine programming cohering alongside layered live syncopations.
Silje grew up in the tiny town of Leikanger, in Sognefjord, the largest fjord in Norway, before moving to the rainy, larger town of Bergen in 2000. She began making her own music in 2001, recording on 4-track demo software through a tiny inbuilt microphone on a laptop. Though she’d previously studied classical piano, when she started recording she decided to do so with guitars and instruments on which she had no previous experience of playing. Simply guided by finding sounds she loved and the excitement of discovering new instruments without learned conventions, she made use of whatever equipment she could get hold of - guitars and an old synth, a cello, a drum kit, a laptop, as well as loop pedals to build layers of her own playing. Little by little she also found ways of including her own voice in the mix, both as texture and song, and her music has organically evolved from there. Although she made a successful live debut outside of Norway with a set at FatCat’s ‘Open Circuit’ festival in Belgium in February 2007, during this period Silje has played her songs for just a very few people locally.
At that Belgian show, she did everything herself and it was mesmerizing to watch - gradually building loops on a loop-station through guitar picking, singing, playing a drum kit and other percussion (tambourine, glass bottle, etc) and a xylophone, sometimes being accompanied by a little robot that was beating a kick drum.