Pigen og Drengen
(GO, 2002)

The Danish quartet Phonix has four albums to its credit so far; Pigen og Drengen ("The Boy & the Girl") is the most recent one. The group's lineup on this album is Karen Mose Norgaard (vocals), Anja Praest Mikkelsen (bass clarinet), Jesper Vinther Petersen (accordion) and Jesper Falch (percussion). Katja Mikkelsen guests on recorder, flute and violin.

This is a terrific band, tight but not slick. Norgaard's vocals are up front where they belong, but the propulsive sound of the band behind her moves the music along as effectively as her words. The songs are mostly traditional texts that are frequently matched with original melodies written by band members. The appropriately dreamy "Drommen (The Dream)" is an original song by Katja Mikkelsen. Three instrumentals, "Lydian," "Palindrom" and "2002 2002 2002," are grouped together in the middle of the album; almost everything else has words.

Love and its problems is the topic of most of the songs. Some are simple declarations of affection ("Ind og Ud," "In and Out") or lust ("Lordag Aften," "Saturday Night") but the ballads, typically, are more complicated. Appearances are deceiving in "Mangelus," while the dead should be left alone in "Dronning Dagmar (Queen Dagmar)." A woman's beloved takes on her seven brothers with bloody results in "De 7 Brodre (The Seven Brothers)." The liner notes have complete Danish lyrics and English translations.

While listening to this album, I was reminded of other Nordic groups like Gjallarhorn, Jord and Groupa, but Phonix has its own sound, making any such similarities fleeting. Pigen og Drengen shows that Denmark has as much terrific music as the other Nordic countries, and that it's in equally good hands.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 28 February 2004