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"Program 91"

Razika – Program 91
19 August 2011, 14:25 Written by Andrew Hannah

Now, this is what I call fun. Youthful female foursome Razika are from Norway and have joined in the C86 bun-fight, adding their own spin on the revival with more than a little bit of skanking, turning debut album Program 91 into a record of endearingly shambolic Ska-pop.

The title of the record comes from the fact that all four members of Razika were born in 1991 (plus cribbing from a Norwegian Ska band called Program 81), making them instantly a sickeningly talented bunch of young women. They’ve recorded an album that’s captured the freedom and naivety of youth, the sound of holding hands for the first time in the park, and the inevitable heartbreak that follows in formative relationships. One rule of fiction is “write what you know”, and this can be applied to song writing too. If you’re all 20 years old and been friends since you were children, why not just write about that? That’s what Razika has done, and the joy and – sometimes – pain of those years shines through on this collection of songs.

Singer Marie Amdam has described the songs on Program 91 as being light, poppy and positive, and that’s immediately evident on opening track ‘Youth’. Not surprisingly it’s a song about being young, and Amdam sings “let me share my youth tonight / together with you” while being backed by almost Afro-pop guitar lines and a vibrant rhythm section that betrays the band’s love of Ska music. The theme of youth continues with ‘Why We Have to Wait’, a song about taking the plunge with that boy you’re being told is no good. It’s a sunny girl-group song, and Amdam’s vocals are sweetly clear and crisp.

The skanking makes itself known on the Norwegian-sung ‘Vondt I Hjertet, which starts off arthouse-moody before breaking into a sunshine chorus complete with choppy 2-Tone guitar riffs. The same sound is there on ‘Taste My Dream’, full of snotty teenage attitude and on the verge of falling apart at any time. And that’s the key to many of the songs: there’s a ramshackle nature to the record, and that’s down in part to the drumming of Embla Karidotter Dahleng. On first listen you might think she’s struggling with the rhythm, but listening more and more to the record I tend to think she’s an instinctive, intelligent drummer much like Meg White. Dahleng’s drumming just adds to the charm of Program 91, it brings a smile rather than a scowl of frustration.

There are other fine moments to enjoy, such as the folk ditty ‘Alrdi’, the funky ‘Eg Vetsje’, the addictive chanting of ‘Middelalder’ and the album ends on the surprisingly mellow ‘Walk In The Park’. The track recalls the quieter moments of Saint Etienne, or a song from an as-yet unmade Audrey Tautou film, and is a lovely realisation of the innocence of youth and burgeoning romance.

Marie Amdam has said that the mix of Norwegian and English singing on Program 91 is very much typical of her country’s punk ethic, and she should be proud of her band’s contribution to the continuation of that legacy. The album isn’t a game-changer, but I’ll put this in the simplest terms possible – if you don’t like Razika, you don’t like life.


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