Rebekka Karijord / Linnea Olsson - Union Chapel, London (live review)
Part of a week-long festival of specially-curated events to celebrate the restoration of their historic (130 year-old, no less) Henry Willis organ, north London’s Union Chapel hosted a night of established and emerging Nordic music talent, headlined by Stockholm-based musician Rebekka Karijord. The unifying theme was all artists making full use of the Chapel’s organ, an almighty yet mysterious instrument, the unique feature of which is the fact it is near-completely hidden from the view of the audience, behind decorative screens. It allows all of the artists playing tonight to twist, rework and amplify their songs in very different ways.
Swedish singer and cellist Linnea Olsson’s simple, often fragile songs are perfectly suited to the immense surroundings of the Union Chapel. Drawing mostly from last year’s debut ‘Ah!’ album, Linnea’s charming set of love songs – which are built on nothing more than her voice, cello, and a use of pedals to loop her vocals – are captivating to watch, with album highlight ‘Dinosaur’ sounding particularly impressive. The short set introduces a number of new songs, including the spiky ‘What’, suggesting a second album will be worth keeping an eye out for.
Part of Iceland’s Bedroom Community collective, composer Valgeir Sigurðsson’s powerful, electronic compositions, played together here with organist Jamie McVinnie, are an entirely different beast. The set sweeps from minimal, Olafur Arnalds-esque neo-classical electronica, to other-wordly walls of noise, deftly fueled by the addition of the organ. It’s a world away from the set which precedes it (and indeed which follows it) but again is one which perfectly plays to its surroundings.
Singer-songwriter Rebekka Karijord appears every inch the headliner. Her presence on the stage is powerful, and the songs – particularly those from most recent album ‘We Become Ourselves’ – certainly have an epic quality to them. ‘Use My Body While It’s Still Young’s’ tribal rhythms are a high point, and whilst other songs veer too close to tasteful power-ballad territory, there is much to admire in Karijord’s performance. It rounds out a successful evening where, unusually, the instrument hidden at the back of the stage is perhaps the biggest star in the room.