Winter can be a bleak period within the year and 21/22 seems to be one of the harshest on record for a number of reasons. With this in mind, the Norwegian electronic music community are just emerging from an enforced hibernation and it would seem they are hungry for the next stage in its evolution. Having been locked down since the beginning of COVID-19 they, like a number of scenes have suffered a few false starts. This has thankfully come to an end and life can once again is returning to the once thriving community.
To get a more accurate picture of the Norwegian scene we travelled to Oslo where we linked up with the Det Gode Selskab collective and label. A close knit crew of friends that are celebrating their tenth anniversary the very weekend that we are in town and even from the short walk from the station to our hotel chatting with founding member Terje Dybdahl it was clear that their passion for enriching the local scene was paramount. Another striking aspect of Terje and his crew was the effortless focus that they exude. While being one of the humblest artists we have come across they have already made serious inroads to the wider European scene and have already formed alliances in Berlin, Amsterdam and the UK.
With a sumptuous meal at local eatery Smalhans on the cards for Friday night this would be the perfect opportunity to find out more about the DGS collective. Our private dining room was soon filled with excited chatter about the esteemed history of their standing in the local scene. With their delayed tenth anniversary event from 2021 being one of the first to take place after the enforced COVID lockout the venue that was to play host was perhaps one of the grandest we have come across. This was also not the first time that DGS had produced an event at the old library as their first event there had taken place 2 years prior. Karl Fraunhofer explains that their goal is to throw parties in venues that have perhaps been used before but in a completely new way. Terje adds to this about the brand’s DNA, “it is important for us to do day time parties and to extend the amount of hours available and allow people to be more relaxed. It is also key to forming friendships and to spend time with people and connect easier.” This ethos is echoed by fellow DGS founder Thomas Refvik, “we are unable to extend the nights so we extend our events the other way and start earlier in the day and have the option of transitioning from day to night time in the same venue. This way you get two or three different experiences throughout the day.”
With the ten-year period of parties under the DGS banner really helping to stamp their name into the Norwegian scene there was of course a precursor to this. For an impressive four years, every Sunday the crew would take over one of Oslo’s finest clubs Jaeger. Chris Solaris also makes a very valid point that with this Sunday event series the blueprint if you will would come from Secretsundaze, the UK sound and also the way in which parties take place. It would transpire that the Sunday day time event would also be a seldom found element in Oslo and this would perhaps be the catalyst for future events of this nature in the city.
This would mean that the majority of the artists that would go on to release on the DGS label would form the backbone via these Sunday sessions. This would also fit with another part of their ethos of nurturing local talent. Sure, there would be remixes and original tracks from stand out artists such as Robert Dietz, Dandy Jack and Mike Shannon but it is their goal to push up the wealth of talent that Norway has on their doorstep. While earlier events have featured huge artists, it is of the utmost importance to shine a light on the local scene. This sentiment is perfectly encapsulated with the collaboration between DGS and techno upstarts Fucket Freakkvens, Terje explains what they bring to the table, “They bring value to our concept which compliments us. They play an intense, high energy, high BPM rave sound and this new style from the underground fits very well with our own high energy minimalistic and housey style. They also have the right attitude and a message that they convey in their events.” Being a queer friendly event series also dovetails very nicely with DGS’s own stance and with a another sister concept named called Everysome this will look to further empower minorities to further explore their sexual identity and love of music in a more safe and expressive situation.
Chris goes on to add a very valid point on the Norwegian scene, “Even playing house music in Norway has a stigma attached to it and even the soundtrack may attract attention from the police. It doesn’t have a notable house music scene. We try to make house music a bit more acceptable and less antisocial. We have always ensured that the monetary side of our events are above board.” It is clear that as well as throwing top events the DGS crew are well aware of the economic aspect that the authorities keep a close eye on. This led on to an interesting conversation about sponsors versus creative control and with Absolut Vodka being a main sponsor of the birthday event it was interesting to learn that this has become a major part of their events. This has in the process given DGS events the freedom to introduce their domestic market to electronic music culture.
Moving onto the topic of the 10 year celebrations and what is next on their to do list, “Next is international. It is difficult to fit into European clubs this year due to COVID restrictions, but we have allies in Berlin, Portugal and also in Amsterdam. The latter being a good fit for us and once we finish the summer season in Oslo we hope to showcase in Portugal. Oslo is good for business but not where we want to focus all our efforts.” Terje goes on to add that they will be piloting events at their own venue. It transpires that this venue was not what they are looking for but the event was successful and the next step continues. With these huge steps being taken the crew are still very grounded and by the very name of Det Gode Selskab meaning “society” they are an inclusive platform designed for the local and international community. Thomas explains a little about how they have also been able to remain relevant, “Being one of the longest running brands in Norway, certainly Oslo, and going on year 11 and still being able to fill a venue with 1500 people we have still been able to stay on point and true to our roots. It’s not about being the biggest or having the biggest crowds but instead being in tune with our community. We don’t have the mass of community in Norway so all genres are all part of the same ecosystem but all share the same ethos.” Terje adds a point in line with the COVID restrictions, “We are in the dancing business. With the dancefloor being one of the last points of culture being one of the last places to open, we feel the dancefloor is important for peoples’ wellbeing and connecting with other people.”
Discussing their label and again the attention to detail is again plain to see and the concept for the current line of releases centres around the senses. The first EP is titled “The Nose” and features original track ‘Nese’ from A:G with remixes from Karl Fraunhofer, Tod Louie & Solaris as well as the poetic Dandy Jack & The Sniffing Orchestra. Next came the ‘The Eye’ EP with Tod Louie’s Øye which included remixes from Chris Solaris and Mike Shannon. The latest available EP comes from Berlin based family member Alexander Skancke with a remix from DJ Fett Burger and ‘The Hand’ which will be Karl and Chris and a remix from Argenis Brito will be out before the summer distributed by Vinylfuture. Completing the series will be ‘The Ear’ as well as a ‘DGS 10 Year’ EP which will also include a collection of family members over a three-part series.
Conversation soon turned to their own music tastes. Contrary to the restaurant’s private eclectic vinyl collection available in the private dining space that included Donna Summer, Alice Cooper and The Beach Boys it wasn’t long before more pertinent sounds were produced. Long standing member and recent father Christian Solaris produced a copy of Swayzak’s VA ‘Groovetechnology, Vol. 1.3’. While this is an on-point collection of tracks by most people’s standards it became apparent that the reason for the purchase was solely based on the inclusion of Akufen’s super rare dub houser ‘Architexture’.
This level of digging certainly came as no surprise, however the attention to detail raised a few eyebrows. It also became apparent that this love for forgotten gems was shared by all those gathered in the intimately set dining room this evening. So, after a few Aquavit’s and many glasses of wine later we took the scenic route back to the hotel and nipped into Oslo institution The Villa. By the time we made our way down through the labyrinthine walkways to the main room Bjorne Torske, a prevalent member of the Norwegian music scene and instigator for the world-famous space disco movement was already putting the oversized F1 sound system through its paces.
After earlier discussions with DGS crew regarding their place in the Norwegian scene a late-night chat with Alexander Schanke uncovered a devils advocation in the form of where the queer community fits into the current “minimal” or “micro” landscape. Being of Norwegian origins but now residing in Berlin it was interesting to hear that in his opinion there was a distinct lack of queer ambassadors in these scenes. Chris Korda immediately springs to mind but being appreciative of the minimal sound palette is certainly no substitute for a sound produced by queer artists for queer dance floors. Obviously, there is a serious amount of subtext within the minimal scene regarding the queer and trans community in most parties of note, but a queer friendly promoter that has this to say about the genre needs careful consideration. This is certainly something that Alex was hoping to rectify with his Quirk series of parties that will soon be taking place at Hoppetosse. Having just launched this party with S.A.M., Eli Vervene, and Henriku there is a clear indication that queer friendly parties now have a firm point of contact within one of the finest exponents of minimal music in Berlin.
Oslo is a breath-taking city and so a day’s sightseeing was an absolute must. With the visually stunning Oslo Opera and Munch museum being a stone’s throw from the city centre it is clear that design and architecture runs deep within the DNA of the city and even informs some DJs’ record collection. Perhaps the previously mentioned love for Akufen’s dub techno creation means a bit more than these clean lines of glass and stone but if this track had been released since the collection of these buildings there could be cause for citing this vista as his inspiration. No city trip would be complete without a visit to a local record shop and that location was Filter Records. Offering a huge selection of house, techno and more alternative sounds it was refreshing to see that minimal was also well catered for. In amongst the selection of vintage synths and turntables I was able to pick up a copy of Ricardo Villalobos’ classic remix of 2raumworung’s ‘Wir sind die anderen Frühling’ was snapped up as well as a clutch of minimal and tech house classics.
Having covered so much ground already it is finally time to make our way to the main event. Taking place at the imposing Det Gamle Biblioteket (The Old Library), an impressive creative and culture hub that has for the evening been transformed into a multi room rave with varying shades of house and techno. As previously discussed the rising, new sound of the underground, Fucket Freakkvens have been brought in to add to a high BPM flavour to the two of the four rooms in operation tonight. Meeting with Karl as soon as we arrived he took us on the full tour of the venue that began at the back of the cavernous main room that featured massive floor to ceiling pillars.
The similarly sized book shelves that lined each side of the room were still packed full of the original books from its past life as a working library. Opting to check out the other rooms first again every aspect of the night as been thought of, from the Funktion One sound system in the smaller of the rooms, full L’Acoustic rig in the main room, right down to an atmospheric monochromatic light installation in the walkway between the main room and the back room that is being held in a purpose built live recording room.
Heading back towards the main room Tod Louie is already warming the already heavily gathered dancers. Setting the tone nicely for what is to come with tuff, muscular house Tod shifts effortlessly between his record bag and the decks totally at ease with the massive stage that has been set. With DGS being the first promoters to throw parties they have got the massive production down to a fine art and there are absolutely no flaws to the operation. From the bars, to the sound systems and of course the programming, all elements work like a well-oiled machine. Taking over in the main room is in-house sound engineer Karl Fraunhoffer and by the time he takes over the crowd has swelled considerably under the control of Tod Louie.
Keeping with the punchy grooves Karl takes things in a more UK routed direction with some excellent garaged tinged tech house. Wanting to take in the whole experience we spent the night flitting between all rooms and the quality of music in each room was impressive. From the punchy grooves in the main room to a more minimal leaning sound track in room 2 that would be taken care of by firstly Henriku and then a b2b from family member Alexander Skancke and Chris Solaris there was never a point where a track stuck out as being played in the wrong context and the flow was evident.
Arriving back in the main room in time to see the end of the epic B2B from Karl Fraunhofer and Tod Louie, and the energy levels had increased considerably. By this point the pair had the crowd eating out the palm of their hand and the huge L’Acoustic line array was purring like a muscle car. With the main room now at capacity and every track was being lapped up by the crowd. Switching between upbeat piano house, techno and even the inclusion of the odd trance classic was never lost on this dancefloor. It is important to bear in mind that this was the first large-scale event in Oslo since restrictions ended just a few days prior. This meant that the event was completely sold out before the doors even opened.
Meanwhile in the back room Henriku had joined Chris Solaris for the remainder of the evening and we walked onto the dancefloor just in time to hear the unmistakable squelch of Ricardo Villalobos’ banger ‘Logohitz’. Not wishing to miss the action in the main room we head back to catch the end of Tod and Karl’s set and were rewarded for our efforts with one of the best breakdowns and subsequent drop committed to wax. Size 9 vs. Rockafellas’ ‘I Am Ready’ may be a bit before the time of much of the crowd but the extended break and intense build up is one of the most recognisable in house music history. If the crowd were not familiar with this track then there is little chance they will be aware that it came via techno legend Josh Wink. The release of this track was satisfying and there are more than a few connotations at play here with the state of much of Europe’s club scene more than ready to hit the floor once again.
For such a young crowd, there was a refreshingly distinct lack of cameras and most were more than happy to get lost in the music. Taking over from the pair of founders is core team member Thomas Refvik takes over for the closing moments of the night and after such a rousing set previously he kept the energy to such a high standard it was as if the same DJ’s had continued playing. This symbiosis between each of the founding members of this group is almost a super power. Each has their very own distinct styles but they mesh in such a way that they are always complimenting each other.
Packed full of breaks and techno Thomas kept the dancers doing what they do best right up until the very last beat and when the tear jerking synths and goosebumps inducing breakbeats of Bicep’s ‘Glue’ edged into the mix we knew that the night would be given a fitting and quite emotional ending. My time with the Det Gode Selskab crew ended in exactly the same way that it had begun, full of smiles, warm embraces and a knowing sense of accomplishment not just for themselves but for the greater good of the city and Norway as a whole. One of the most down to earth and at the same focused and immensely driven collectives that we have come across we are sure it won’t be long until the DGS brand is welcomed to the hottest events in Europe. Watch this space.