Scandinavia is a land of nearly mythical stature among globally minded pop connoisseurs. Music critics talk about the region’s producers and songwriters less as artists or businessmen than as scientists attuned to the physics of pop in a way that makes their counterparts in L.A., London, and Tokyo look amateurish by comparison. From ABBA to Ace of Base to Robyn, it’s Stockholm in particular that appears to have undertaken pop’s answer to the Manhattan Project, unveiling a new, chart-busting weapon of mass infectiousness at least once a decade.
But after 10 years of strong Norwegian exports, we may be witnessing a shift in Euro-pop’s balance of power. Bergen’s Casiokids would be an exciting act in any context, but their sophomore album, Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen, is especially worth hearing for how effectively it blends the most winning strands of recent Norwegian pop into a forward-looking, satisfying whole. You can hear electro-pop a la Annie and Röyksopp on “Det haster!” and “Kaskaden,” Sondre Lerche-style guitar pop on “Selskapets triste avslutning,” and prog-pop in the vein of Shining or Jagga Jazzist on experimental numbers like “Dresinen”—disparate styles united by little more than the band’s conviction that they should all be fun to listen to.
Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen‘s most vital resource is Casiokids’ boundless sense of playfulness, which enables them to effortlessly blend the familiar with the transgressive. As much as the album’s well-calibrated synthesis suggests that the band has internalized the global pop scene’s rule of success, there’s enough offbeat moments to guarantee that any future breakthrough will be on the band’s own terms. Its all-Norwegian libretto is the first sign (nearly all acts eyeing a global crossover perform in English), though it’s certainly not the most substantial. When the album opens with an instrumental composed of flutes, horns, and accordion only to seamlessly transition into disco on “Det haster!,” or when “London Zoo” gives vocalist Ketil Endresen a chance to do his best Thom Yorke impersonation, you’re left with the impression of a talented young group that’s mastered the pop rulebook only to rewrite it.