When Softcore untd.'s name started popping up in the periphery of my musical consciousness earlier this year, I made a mental note to remember the name and investigate later as I had a strange sense of familiarity before I'd ever gotten around to press play. Chalking it up due just to the fact that the Bergen music scene isn't particular ginormous, it turns out that the reason for the familiar was due to the core duo behind Norwegian rock outfit Verdensrommet Andreas Høvset and Vetle Junker make up the newly minted quartet consisting of Emir Hindic aka Onge Sushimane of Bergen hip hop duo Sushi x Kobe, Oslo based producer Mathias Humlen aka FAKETHIAS, as well as Høvset and Junker.
Considering their past two collaborations with Hindic "Aldri idjen" and "Du vet det kan gå feil", their team up with Hindic and Humlen isn't too much of a stretch. But while Hindic's contribution were folded into the membrane of what Verdensrommet, Softcore untd is an entirely different beast: an strange and wonderful fusion of influences and sounds into something that really never quite falls into any of those categories. Softcore untd. finds the foursome's various backgrounds converging at a delicate nexus point. Humlen's atmospheric tapestries and penchant for beats meets Hindic's melodic flow and both Høvset and Lunker's instrumental capabilities, with Høvset's vocal ability and Lunker's dazzling production talents.
The most thrilling thing about "Sjansespill", the third in a series of tracks released by the foursome, is that you don't really need to understand Norwegian to regard it as an amazing song. Roughly translated as "game of chance", "Sjansespill" is both a piece of absolutely skilled production and emotive songcraft. Though lyrically, the song recalls the sometimes precarious nature of first impressions with Hindic and Høvset trading vocal duties to describe their influences, that's not really required to have an emotional reaction to the song. The deliveries of their individual verses as well as the growled choruses capture both restlessness and helplessness that the song seesaws between. Despite the fatalism of Hindic and Høvset's vocals "Sjansespill" exists in a place both hopeful and resigned. Everything's a game of chance, the right sequence of words, the right sense of timing, there's not really much to control besides making yourself available to those chances. Without the lyrics as a guide, the song impressively illustrates that sort of emotional tug-of-war. The instrumentals consist of bright flashes of guitar and warm electronics, pulsing percussion, sense of ease and fluidity of composition that's largely unimpeded by the rougher, more raw vocals from Hindic and Høvset. They contrast but in a complementary way like boulders in a stream.
With it's propulsive forward momentum and effortlessly stacked layering "Sjansespill" is remarkably different than their foursome's previous efforts and demonstrates a ridiculous learning curve. "Skolebenken" and "Fjern" were slower tempo affairs where the stitches of the quartet's Frankenstein assortment of skills showed a bit but "Sjansespill", with it's range of cultivated sounds from hip hop to dream pop, rock and dance music, streamlines them into a feat of production and idea synthesis that hints at more fruitful collaborations. Here's hoping there's more in store but considering both the distance involved in the Bergen/Oslo artist collaboration as well as what's sure to be a busy year for each of the artist's individual projects that might take awhile. But considering Softcore untd. was essentially started when the four all converged on the Norwegian music festival circuit anything is possible and any song as great as "Sjansespill" is well worth the wait.
"Sjansespill" is available as a digital single in the US on Cascine and worldwide via Norway's Eget Selskap.