»Hejsan everyone!
I have been thinking about how to start this and I have decided to go with a quote: “Isn’t it strange that I have to go to Munich to realise how great Swedish music is!” Ola Salo said that. Ola is the singer in The Ark, a proper megastar in his native country Sweden. We here at Munich’s Atomic Café had booked his band for a gig in December 2002, around the time their second album “In Lust We Trust” was released in Germany. We had made that night a theme night we had christened “Åtömström”. A word that doesn’t actually make any sense. Allow me to explain.
Over the course of that year I, as one of the Indie-Pop DJ types in the club, had become rather nerdy about the Swedish Alternative music scene. I mean, everybody knows that country has given the world a number of great bands over the years. That’s not exactly breaking news, is it? Still, and it may have been down to the fact that I started using the internet that year instead of relying on the NME to find me new bands, 2002 it seemed to me like a Pop Explosion was taking place up north. There were exciting new bands all over the place, then there were all the established acts releasing great new albums, too, plus there were bands that had released numerous albums in their home country but that were all new to me. I was genuinely thrilled, I spent loads of cash on mailorder CDs and Swedish acts were becoming a substantial part of both my record collection and my DJ sets at the Atomic Café. So when The Ark were coming to town I decided to experiment and play ONLY swedish acts that night.
It was a challenge. Would I be able to keep a party going without any Brits, Americans or Continentals? Looking for a name a silly pun stuck. “Åtömström” mixes the German word “Atomstrom” (meaning electricity produced by nuclear plants) with the common Swedish last-name-suffix “-ström”. We added some dots and that tiny circle that makes an “a” sound like “aw” for that extra scandinavian look and found ourselves with a name that people actually remembered and liked for its sheer playful stupidity.
So the night came. It was a blast. Sold out weeks earlier, The Ark performing at their best. Djing only Swedes? That turned out to be no problem. How could I ever have thought it would? So many good bands, so many songs, so many styles, so many well-known Indie classics, so many unknown classics-in-waiting to shake the floor with. Hanging out with the crowd and celebrating after the show, the band was in best spirits and Ola Salo made the remark I have quoted above.
Since that night we have repeatedly had “Åtömström” nights at the Atomic Café. Bands that played include the Caesars, Melody Club, David & The Citizens and others. Numerous other bands from Stockholm, Göteborg, Malmö, Borlänge and other places have played our club. Also in the meantime plenty of swedish acts, new and established, have released great new music. Turns out it wasn’t a 2002 explosion after all. Turns out the blasts of Indie Pop and Indie Rock or Alternative (or whatever you may call it) just kept coming and coming. People have tried to find reasons for
that incredible wealth of pop music and pop understanding in this country. People have searched for that all-encompassing explanation and have developed numerous theories. I have decided to ignore these theories for this piece, though. None of them are flawless, some are quite ridiculous – and at the end of the day they are not really necessary, are they?
Why explain everything? Let’s just take things as they are and enjoy the music. We have compiled “Åtömström” hoping to achieve a mix that combines some internationally known names with some you yet need to find out about while covering as many bases, soundwise, as possible. You’re missing somebody? Sorry. There’s only so many tracks you can put on a CD and we did have to leave a lot of great artists out. The “Leaving Out” part was a lot harder than the “Choosing”, let me tell you.
But now: The Music.
Let’s rock out to the perfect retroisms of the Caesars, the Hives and Mando Diao (whose track we are particularly proud of – the acoustic version of ‘Sheepdog’ has so far not been available outside Sweden). Let’s sway to the melancholic Indierock of Kent, Eskobar, the Motorhomes, the Sonnets and the Weeping Willows. Let’s gape in awe at the songwriting talents of Moneybrother, Jens Lekman and José González, who use their skills to most differing effects. Let’s scratch our heads bemusedly and then fall helplessly for the colourful splendor, the overblown Überpop of the Växjö-Bands The Ark, Melody Club and The Mo, who not only hail from one city but from one very house (fact!!).
Let’s wonder how some of the biggest bands in that country could have slipped the international radar, when Broder Daniel have been creating such unique, naïvely direct Oddrock for years, when David & the Citizens have been combining original Coral-esque folkisms with emotional demon-chasing like no other band.
We hope this compilation gives you listening pleasure and makes you want to find out more about what is possibly the most thriving musical scene we have in Europe. Perhaps you do find your new favourite band? I wanted to end this with a line like “The Swedes are coming.” But actually they aren’t. They are already there, right in the middle of it. They have been there for years. And stay they will.
Actually 2005 is poised to be another a brilliant year for Swedish music all over again, with heavyweights like Mando Diao, the Ark, the Sounds, Kent or the Caesars all having new albums scheduled for international or national release. Then there’s newcomers like the Sugarplum Fairy and many others we haven’t heard of yet! There might be a need for “Åtömström 2” sooner than you think.
One last thing: This compilation also solves a little problem for me. No more answering questions at the DJ booth with a sheepish “Well, sure, I’ll write that down for you, that band was called Shout Out Louds … but actually you can only get that song in Sweden anyway”. I can now proudly point our clubbers towards “Åtömström”. Good one.
On that note: Hej då, Enjoy the music,«

Henning Furbach, The Åtomic Café, September 2004

Compilation: Henning Furbach
Mastering: MSM
Graphics: S.P.E.C.T.R.E.
Project Management: Anusch Mehdizadeh
Distribution: Groove Attack