Razika: Chicago Reader review




You can read it

here

.

In his review a couple weeks ago, Ben Ratliff of the New York Times made an astute observation about the debut album from young Norwegian quartet Razika: "Enjoy it while you can; one gets the sense that some aspect of this group's mood or musical ability will fall and harden, like a soufflé, and never be the same again." It's not hard to think of examples of the phenomenon he describes. There are bands that spend lots of time before making their first record working on their songs and their sound, passionately driven by the newness of the endeavor, and then there are bands that arrive at something magical almost in spite of themselves. There's nothing wrong with either path, but in both cases something's often lost when bands move on from that first record—charming naivete, maybe, or depth of engagement. Or both.

I'm not sure which if any of these scenarios might apply to Razika's wonderful debut Program 91 (Smalltown Supersound), a loping, sweetly melodic blast of crystalline guitar pop propelled by simple ska-like rhythms, but it's hard to image anything similar being made by seasoned musicians. All four members of the band are 19 (all born in 1991—hence the album title), and they've been playing together for about six years, which has allowed their vocal harmonies to achieve an appealing effervescence. The guitar playing of Marie Amdam and Maria Råkil is clean toned, bordering on bubbly—maybe they're interested in East African guitar music, but I'm betting the similarities are accidental. Possible sources of inspiration aside, their bright, alternately chiming and skittering lines are infectious, and perfectly buffet the guileless, tuneful singing.

The record reminds me of early Britpop bands like the Flatmates, Talulah Gosh, and others of the the C86 era; the superficial borrowing of ska grooves also connects them to even earlier Rough Trade bands, though the comparisons to the Slits I've read seem misguided if not downright sexist (being all-female at this point isn't really a strong similarity). In any case, Program 91 has provided an unexpected summer pop blast—at least for the two weeks I've had it. My interest could fizzle soon—sudden infatuation is sort of how this kind of stuff lives and dies—but for now I'm hooked. Below you can hear one of the Norwegian-language songs. About half of them are in Norwegian and, naturally, make the whole thing even more appealing.