On first listening, anyone could be forgiven for thinking that Chain Wallet were from anywhere in Norway but with their debut self-titled album, these newcomers have managed to create a beautifully melancholic soundscape of their home city, Bergen.
By delicately crafting sparse guitars around gentle synth, the playful and often quite danceable lo-fi sound is often quite contradictory to the lyrics themselves which, on closer listening, project quite a dark and dystopian side to life in what otherwise seems to be a quite uneventful city in Norway.
‘Muted Colors’ is a sparkling New Wave-sounding track which leaps quickly into the chorus after describing the scene in the city of Bergen, “Muted colours seem to shadow me”, and ‘Shade’ sends echoing guitars far above the ghostly lyrics. Indeed, it’s no coincidence that many of the tracks have a ‘colour’ theme somewhere either within them or within the title. It’s all part of conjuring up the dystopian image the band have set about creating.
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In true lo-fi fashion, the lyrics are often a little washed among the flanging guitars and synth and while this sound adds to the atmosphere, it can sometimes be a strain to hear what’s being sung which is a shame as the lyrics are quite poetic – something else which is reminiscent of the New Wave bygone bands of the eighties. “A faded fight puts us to rest tonight, begging for the moon to find us” describes the toils of a strained and failing relationship on ‘Faded Fight’.
It is, however, an album of beautifully crafted indie-pop that can be listened to repeatedly and a confident debut for the Norwegian trio who have put their home town of Bergen on the map in the same way that Nordic Noir has popularised TV crime dramas to the rest of the world. It’s not all sunshine and flowers where everybody gets along, but a beautifully morose oxymoron which, ultimately, is all part of the charm.