120 Days 120 Days [Vice]

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Rating: 7.25

Imagine being in one of the coldest places in the world—a land known for desolation and long, dark nights. And imagine being in a packed club filled with the most beautiful people you’ve ever seen, dripping with sweat from hours of dancing. Sound nice?

In 2001 four nineteen year-old friends, Jonas Dahl, Arne Kvalvic, Kjetil Ovesen and Adne Meisfjord got together and formed the band, Beautiful People in Kristiansund, a little town in Northwestern Norway. In 2002 the band left Kristiansund and traveled to Oslo, the Music capitol of Norway and one of the most expensive cities in the world. There they lived together in a small trailer for months, practicing non-stop and honing their sound—a sound that would eventually become 120 Days.

In early 2004, they released their first album, Sedated Times on Public Demand records. The album was acclaimed in the Oslo scene and the band released a second EP in late 2004 that furthered the buzz around Beautiful People. With this momentum they got a gig at By:Larm, (think South by Southwest… only in Norway) where they grabbed the attention of the music industry and gained the opportunity to play the prestigious and generally awesome Reading Festival and the slightly lesser known but equally awesome Sonar Festival.

Although the band still hadn’t released anything outside of Norway, they were not only becoming the talk of the European electronica scene but had also caught the eye of Vice Records, who’ve signed notable artists like The Streets, Death From Above and Block Party in recent years. Now calling themselves 120 Days, the artists formerly known as Beautiful People found a record label they liked in the Norway-based recording company Smalltown Supersound, and prepared to release their debut in the fall of 2006. The band’s self-titled debut as 120 Days leapt off the shelves in the UK and Norway and is being distributed by Vice here in the US. The album itself wins over fans of both electronic or dance, and those who appreciate a more organic sound.

It is an important reminder of how deeply the place a band calls home can influence their sound. Frozen drones, pop-synthesizers and crisp sunless beats contrast the brightness of the vocals and help the album come across like the stark opposites in beauty that surround the place it was composed. Like the music of the Talking Heads came so perfectly out of the New York underground, the sound of 120 Days pushes out from desolation as if it were the pulse of its home.

If you don’t trust me, trust Vice. They haven’t picked many losers yet, so when ever they get involved with a new project it’s worth taking notice.

And although I haven’t seen them live, the tone of the media is unanimous. Spin magazine referred to their live shows as, “Awe inspiring,” and the New York Times says, “It takes a live performance to appreciate them….”

If they actually live up the hype that they’re better live than recorded, you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to see them perform. The album itself is not—in any sense—a collection of studio throwaway tracks. Each track welds together the sounds of machines with the emotional cognition of humanity as if both were willing participants in a great work of art.  120 Days succeed where many fail in tying together two polar sides of music.

– Kennith J. Ball

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