The Alexandria Quartet
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The Alexandria Quartet

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Look out Snowpatrol, Coldplay and Kasabian...you've got big competition.

There are four people (obviously) in Norway's Alexandria Quartet - Martin Skalnes, Oystein Braut, Chris Holm and Kim Age Furuhaug. They've moved from their hometown of Bergen to the east end of London to get their burgeoning career up-and-running.

This is their debut and it's very impressive - indeed. It's taken some 18 months to get it right, and it's been worth it.

Singer Martin is a dead ringer for Rufus Wainwright who can also switch to sounding like Turin Brakes' Ollie Knights. Also, it seems, TAQ have the same ambitions, musically, to match Wainwright's grandness fused with urban folk-pop and U2's stadium rock vision.

This is epitomised by the string arrangement that opens The Dark Side Of The Blues their debut single which turns into a stomping pop-rocker that draws on the bluesier elements of rock.

In contrast, I Need Someone To Love, is a sharp ballad that builds into a magnificent mini-opus. The key to the success of this is the attention to detail instrumentally, featuring a sizzling guitar solo.

Into The Light is an out-and-out attempt to impress even more, as if we haven't been so far. The piano (Skalnes) and drums (Furuhaug) provide the hook with Braut providing the economical Byrds-like jangly guitar.

Somewhere is a whopping, mature ballad. Again some gorgeous piano leads the way, followed by strings and some understated Pink Floyd guitar fused with shades of country, whereas Get Lost In The City echoes the popier side of Turin Brakes with some stylish and edgy guitar interludes. Arguably the best track on the album - You Could Be My Mirror - is the sort of song I expected Coldplay to deliver at sometime in their career, but never arrived. It has enough stadium rock appeal with huge sounding riffs and a cool pop edge with sumptuous guitar breaks.

Wainwright's shadow looms large on the piano lead ballad Ace Upon The Sleeve providing the collection with a touch of sophistication. It would have slotted perfectly onto his Want Two.

Once again the stadium rock flavour returns on the thrusting Justine, and on first listen, could actually be U2 because of the reverbed riffs.

And finally. A Monster's Lullaby is a mini-masterpiece. This gentle Beatles-esque ballad (Macca would love this) is the song which showcases their collective and individual talents. Its starts slowly, building (with masses of strings) into one mother of a crescendo, and a fitting way to close a really, really classy album.

The verdict - One of the most promising bands of 2009. Love them.
Elly Roberts - Allgigs.co.uk


Discography

The Alexandria Quartet - EP
The Alexandria Quartet - album
"Dark Side Of The Blues" have been listed at XFM and NME radio in UK, SRW3, Radio Eins and Radio 7 in Germany, and P3 in Norway.

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Bio

Originally from Bergen, Norway, but now residing in the East End of London, The Alexandria Quartet have been holed up in studios and rehearsal rooms around Europe for the last 18 months perfecting a collection of beautiful songs… stepping out every now and again to play shows, including a recent European tour with Travis. “The tour was insane! We came directly from our tour in the UK and played the first show in front of 1800 crazy Danes in Copenhagen. We were blown away!” says TAQ frontman, Martin.

His thoughts on relocating to London are just as enthusiastic. “London is a huge city compared to Bergen so the move was a big change for us. Just the fact that you are 15 minutes from the centre of a world metropolis is really overwhelming. Moving to a completely new place to follow your dreams really makes you feel that you’re a part of something that not a lot of people have experienced or dared to do. It does something with the mentality within the group and also makes you become closer as a band.”

Martin was born in Kopervik, a small city on the west of Norway best known for, as he puts it, “its drunks and its Christians.” Martin soon found out how to set his own agenda and while his friends were at church his parents would be playing him music - he states without hesitation that the first song he heard was ‘Needles & Pins’ by The Searchers, although REM would usually be on the car stereo and it wasn’t long before he fell in love with Oasis. By the age of 6 he was working out his first chords on the guitar and by 7 he was playing the piano. His first song, ‘Maybe’, was written when he was 11.

The band’s story began when Martin’s friend Øystein – The Alexandria Quartet’s future guitarist – moved to Trondheim and met Kim, a drummer, on the gig circuit. When Martin called from Bergen one day to tell his friend about a label who were interested in his music Øystein and Kim were on the next train. Last to join was bassist Chris Holm, and ‘Into The Light’ - the first song the band wrote together and one which is captured brilliantly on the album - became a key song for the band. “I was in a completely new environment,” Martin remembers, “and the lyrics are about a relationship whose communication problems are spelling the end.” These little snapshots help to bring The Alexandria Quartet’s songs to life.

During the making of the album, another standout song was written - ‘The Dark Side Of The Blues’. “Sometimes when you write a song it just slips out of you,” Martin explains. “I love to name songs weird things. The title ‘The Dark Side Of The Blues’ just popped into my head one day. I guess the name fits how the song became. It’s kind of bluesy, it’s dark and also has a psychedelic side to it. I also remember we struggled for a while to get the drum beat right. It's really weird how it just completed the song. I think it’s perfect. I love the disco/blues combination!” Just one thing! Don’t ask the band about their name – they took it from a series of novels by Lawrence Durrell, which none of them have yet read. “We just thought the name sounded good,” Martin laughs. “I tried reading one of them, but it’s a bit long…”