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Live Review: Ja Ja Ja Festival (Friday) @ Camden Roundhouse

Like a fiery-hearthed lodge on the iciest of Nordic nights, this year’s inaugural Ja Ja Ja festival at the iconic Roundhouse offered the perfect shelter from what was an especially downpour-ridden Friday night in Camden. The festival, which celebrates the best music coming out of Scandinavia, saw an eclectic line-up drawn from all corners of the region alongside a deluge of tasty treats – smoked dill lollipops, anyone? – and a lovingly curated selection of asides ranging from film screenings to a record label market hand-picked by Bella Union’s Simon Raymonde.

After a blissful, beat-laden DJ set from Ja Ja Ja’s in-house DJ duo Project Fresh Socks draws the attention of a gradually busying main room, we’re treated to our first live set of the night courtesy of Finnish folktronica trio Husky Rescue. Taking to the stage amidst cascades of incidental ambience, the three-piece eventually segue into Country Falls favourite ‘City Lights’ as serene bleeps and blips patter across the ether and frontwoman Johanna Kalén lets rip on a rather humongous floor tom.

Across the course of their 45-minute set, the three-piece manage just the right balance of moodiness and danceability. Long Lost Friend cut ‘Tree House’ being a particular highlight; from humble beginnings dominated by warm synth pads and a gentle bass plod, it’s gradually overtaken by a four-to-the-floor stomp and waves of woodblock percussion. Imploring the crowd to clap along in unison as the track reaches its lofty conclusion; it’s pure, unadulterated fun for all involved.

At this point in the evening, we decide to take a bit of time to explore the Roundhouse and see what else is going on. After a refreshing beetroot-flavoured ice drink, we catch partial performances from Icelandic legends Múm and their fellow countryman Sin Fang, who you may also remember as Seabear. The former’s set is at times lost on the cavernous expanses of the Roundhouse’s main room. A cavalier rendition of ‘The Colorful Stabwound’, though, replete with choppy drums and crunchy guitars certainly lifts the heavier ambiance brought about by some of the collective’s more delicate, wrought arrangements.

The stand-out show of the night however takes place away from the imposing, expansive main room; instead, it occurs in the sweaty basement venue occupied by the Ja Ja Ja stage. There, amidst a raucous rabble – and more of those delicious beetroot beverages – we find Stockholm’s Postiljonen: an ambient pop trio whose Best Fit Recordings-released debut album, Skyer, has been one of 2013’s best-kept secrets.

Opening on sampled koi pond pitter-patters, the young Swedes delight from the off, tearing through buoyant, slick renditions of ‘Supreme’ and ‘Skying High’. ‘Help’, meanwhile, slows proceedings down slightly before eventually ascending into a Balearic-tinged electro-pop gem. ‘Plastic Panorama’ is another clearcut highlight; rife with lush, canyon chords and group handclaps. The brilliance of the three-piece’s set is cemented by closer, ‘Atlantis’, which from an initial series of fugal string sounds succumbs to jittery drum rolls and cocktail strip sax solos. It’s pure pop brilliance and everything that one could want from a night at Ja Ja Ja; a glowing end to a highly successful first night of the festival.

- Alex Cull

Header Image: Sébastien Dehesdin

You can find out more about Ja Ja Ja – and brush up on your Nordic music knowledge – by heading to their website.


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