Hailing from picturesque Bergen, Norway, synthpop quartet Casiokids are back with the Norwegian-language Aabenbaringen over aaskammen (The Revelation over the mountain), the band’s second U.S. release and third album overall. The follow-up to last year’s favorably reviewed Topp stemning på lokal bar (Great vibe at local bar) is a winning combo of danceable beats, catchy pop melodies and ethereal vocals that builds on the successes of the previous album while showcasing generally tighter production and some new tonal directions.
It’s a daring venture to release foreign language albums in the U.S., particularly when other Scandinavian indie and synth acts (The Whitest Boy Alive, Röyksopp, Miike Snow) have traditionally released in English, even in their native countries—not to mention France’s Phoenix or Germany’s The Notwist. Despite the apparent language barrier, Aabenbaringen over aaskammen succeeds, just like the group’s previous album, by relying on the universal appeal of catchy tunes featuring tight beats and great vocal harmonies. Most American listeners won’t understand a word that frontman Ketil Kinden Endresen belts out, but the tone and resultant emotional impact come through clear as day.
There are a wealth of stand-out tracks on this album despite the occasional creative misstep. Gentle instrumental opener and album namesake “Aabenbaringen over aaskammen” transitions smoothly from tail-end forest sounds into the initially muted, but steadily climbing, marching pace of “Det Haster!” The first single off the album, “Det Haster!” pounds along amiably with a martial beat and wobbling synths, but the instrumental opening track could have easily been half as long while still achieving the same effect.
Next up is “Dresinen,” which combines a jaunty, uptempo beat with a stellar mix of distorted electric guitars, well-chosen synths and a great vocal delivery that ranges from low and smooth to higher-pitched fragile wails. “Dresinen,” alongside the upward-sprialing “Selskapets triste avslutning” and the thumping instrumental “Kaskaden” form the core of the album’s effective shift in direction from the bouncy, lighthearted tone of their last album towards a cooler, more autumnal sound. “Golden Years” (a surefire single) and “Olympiske Leker” are fan-pleasers representative of Casiokids’ earlier sound that fit nicely among the other tracks.
Unfortunately, slower paced “Elefantenes hemmelige gravplass” threatens to become boring, while the final track “Aldri ska me ha det gøy” absolutely crawls at a snail’s pace, utilizing none of the group’s gifts for leg-moving beats and ending an otherwise great album on a somewhat sour note.
In total, Aabenbaringen over aaskammen is still a great album. The creative missteps of the two less-than-effective tracks and the longer-than-necessary opener nonetheless showcase a distinct level of care and craft—even when it doesn’t satisfy, nothing on the album ever feels phoned in. What’s left then is a large number of effective, tightly constructed tracks that are sure to please a wide range of indie/synth pop fans, regardless of the language they speak.