Under Byen: Alt Er Tabt

Hold on tight.

Under Byen

Alt Er Tabt

Label: Paper Bag
US Release Date: 2010-04-06
UK Release Date: 2010-05-18

Under Byen is a Danish art rock band. At least, that's what the press release tells you.

There's some truth to it. They rose to a new level of art-drenched drama on 2006's Samme Sof Som Stof, a gorgeous web of twinkling electronic tunes, lavishly adorned with strings and glockenspiels -- sort of like Sigur Ros' cuter fairy cousins. The sweetness scored some acclaim -- after seeing them on tour, Rolling Stone's David Fricke called them the "best band in the world".

Alt Er Tabt (All Is Lost) is the band's fourth album, but the "art rock" hinted at in the press release could be more accurately labeled as tone architecture. After the departure of principal songwriter/keyboardist Thorbjørn Krogshede, the band decided to make a reactionary album, one that dialed back the grand, sweeping beauty of their previous work in favor of something more subtle... and sinister. The tunes on Alt Er Tabt are stark in the strongest sense, instruments recorded as primally as possible in an attempt to capture their true essence. When cellos saw, well, it literally sounds like a saw. The lyrics have a blank, unemotional quality, even for Danish speakers. If you speak English and have absolutely no clue what vocalist Henriette Sennenvaldt is cooing about, you'll still be able to get the gist of it.

Hooks are virtually non-existent, so don't bother waiting for them. If, after the harsh opening of "8", you feel like throwing in the towel, you should probably go with your gut. If you're looking for the same heart-pumping sugar rush you got from Samme Sof Som Stof, look elsewhere. There is a quality EP's worth of material here, if you're patient.

Really patient.

The title track uses little more than toms and a rusty bassline for most of its four minutes, building to a cathartic finale of strings. It's scary good. "Unoder" works a similar kind of magic, its weaving piano and string lines finally coalescing around the three-minute mark with startling clarity.

Too much of Alt Er Tabt takes too long to get to the point. Too much simply sits there, limp and unmoving, all mood in search of magic. Allow it to absorb you completely, and you'll find some, but hold on tight -- it's a bumpy ride.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.