Copenhagen: Digging into the underground music scene

Posted on February 13, 2007

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by tim anderson

Digging deeply into Copenhagen’s underground electronic music scene has its rewards. It also has its challenges, since though it’s out there, its extent is relatively limited – particularly the further below the surface you try to get.

Please forgive the grainy low-quality mobile phone pictures, though poor, they do capture the atmosphere of Lab rather well…

If you’re into electronic sounds, the various arrangements put on by Komponent are about as deep as you can get in Copenhagen – both in terms of music and venues. At least that is my belief after 6 years of exploring.

Komponent’s usual venue of choice is Lab (site in Danish), a space that could not possibly be any less pretentious. It would take about three minutes to convert it into a motorcycle repair shop.

The term ‘underground’ or ‘underground scene’ is not terribly revealing in itself, given that the range of activity that can fall under its broad remit are as majestic in scope as the range of activity that could be said to be ‘mainstream’ (and that’s a pretty wide range). As I see it, about the only criteria for the tag ‘underground’ to be applied to something, is that it can only have attracted a minimal amount of mainstream attention (i.e. press/media).

In other words, by definition, music that could be termed underground is no longer underground once picked up by the ‘mainstream’, even though in itself the music may remain unchanged. To put it another way, music doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘weird’ to be underground, as many tend to believe.

That said, the events staged by Komponent tend to fall within the remit of the more stereotypical association that is made with the term underground. They can be somewhat weird. Sometimes in a very good way, sometimes less so. Attendees at these events are diverse – ranging from hooded, pierced and tattooed types, to those of a more nerdy appearance and disposition. Very few of them would be likely to be asked if they had just come from a classical music performance or an opera.

The music of Komponent performances mostly consists of two elements: an assortment of computer generated/manipulated blips, beats and growls and a visual element – oftentimes an equally idiosyncratic series of video or photo projections.

The visual elements are notable creations in themselves, often astoundingly original and well suited as accompaniment to the eccentric music at hand. All of which one may find eclectically brilliant or just outright strange, depending upon your particular sensibilities.

In terms of my own tastes, I find Komponent events at their best inspiring and refreshing. At their worst, I’m out the door pretty quickly. When a sort of beat eventually emerges during the sets (and it doesn’t always, believe me), or there is some sense of progression to the music (and ideally some portion of it that could be said to be ‘danceable’), they are fantastic – even if it’s not the sort of music I typically listen to at home. Since a good chunk of the music being played is homemade by the DJs themselves, one must appreciate that there is a degree of artistry involved that goes well beyond simply pushing buttons and matching beats.

More importantly, these are the sort of audio and visual performances that can provoke a person to dig into certain emotional corners in a way that just doesn’t happen while watching reruns of ‘Friends’ or listening to ‘U2’ (though I happen to have my occasional moments enjoying both of these, as well). They are, in that way, an acquired taste with an oddly compelling appeal.

For more pictures, visit The Copenhagen Report.

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