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coverpic flag Norway - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 27 - 01/02/99

Sister Rain
Illuminated
Voices of Wonder

Sister Rain is a somewhat different plant in the Norwegian undergrowth. Their headquarters at Månefisken (The Lunar Fish) in Oslo make them particularly appropriate for these pages. Some of the guys were well into graphic design and made a logo so cool they had to utilize it for a band. And the band got started about 1987/88. As the name may indicate they were well into The Velvet Underground. One of the songs included here - off their self-titled debut album (1988) - is called Julia (Velvet Dreams) and says it all. Especially the vocalist, Aslak Nygren, seemed to strive with the Lou Reed song-style at the time, but the songs were much closer to the third Velvet Underground album than the Sister Ray and White Light/White Heat mayhem. Well, it was a starting point, but they soon evolved into something of their own kind. Sister Rain made four albums and at least three singles/EPs between 1988 and 1993. Illuminated is a two-disc compilation of some of their most well known songs off those recordings (disc 1), plus a rarities disc of live tracks, demos, radio session recordings and some computer stuff (videos, etc.) released to celebrate the band's reunion.

Illuminated kicks off with Seconds From You from the first album, one of their very finest moments ever. It's a simple two guitars, bass, drum, vocals and vocal harmonies song, but the added backwards guitar makes all the difference. One of the gems from the Norwegian neo-psychedelic wave of the 1980's. I think Sister Rain's best achievement (thus far) is the third album, Wild Flowers Grow from 1991. It has some excellent and playful pop and rock tunes and the production is likewise. Six of the songs on disc 1 are taken from this album. I'm particularly pleased with the really inventive You Could Be Mine, the partly dramatic Across The Ocean, and the title track with some beautifully controlled rough guitars. Though Sister Rain is mainly a guitar based band they often throw in some delicate keyboard playing for good measure. Check out Nothing Like if you can.

Some of the sisters were among the first to play with techno elements in Norway, which goes to show throughout High Heels, the 1989 b-side of Nothing Like. Not totally satisfying to these ears, but the mixture of dance rhythms, disco guitar and Middle Eastern song parts is quite fascinating. The other techno-flirt included here, Shine, has more obvious Sister Rain elements in-between and is an interesting production effort. Along with Wild Flowers Grow it shows why guitarists Eystein Hopland and Ulf Knutsen were among the most promising producers in Norway at the time. On the other extreme is the cosy and folksy Barefootland and Summernight In June off 1993's double album The Neptun Tapes, with several acoustic instruments. Very down to earth and warm.

The second disc is mainly a bonus to old fans. It includes out-takes of well known songs and songs not available elsewhere, some funny (and one quite out of tune) live recordings. I guess only die-hards will play it a lot, though I haven't had any chance to see the computer stuff yet. For those unfamiliar with Sister Rain, the 71 minute first disc ought to be more than satisfying for quite some time. At least until a new album of the revitalized band is available. A gig during the Christmas week was very promising. Let's hope those wild flowers and herbs may continue to grow for a long time!

Voices of Wonder, PO Box 2010 Grünerløkka, N-0505 Oslo, Norway

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