The premiere edition of 8 Pieces of Danish Music For Perfect Hygge focused on recent releases of instrumental, film-score style. It, however, instantly inspired me to create volume 2: Dark Hygge. Picture this: you are chilling in your room, there is just a bit of light coming through your closed curtains. You have not opened your windows for a while, and it is a bit too warm. Your feelings are mostly numb, your thoughts are foggy. This is what I imagine as the perfect time to put on some dark hygge music. It is cozy, but not in an uplifting way. It is more like sinking deeper and deeper into the comfort of your own inner darkness. Danish artists especially have mastered converting this mood into music.
Here, I will give you a little insight into this world. I present to you well-known artists of this genre like Trentemøller, The Raveonettes and Josephine Philip, as well as fresh newcomers such as Marsmachine and Kasper Svendsen. This, however, is a subjective and incomplete list. If you can think of other songs that belong here, please bombard me with them via e-mail.
The Raveonettes – Wine (In And Out Of Control, 2009)
Let’s start with a classic—The Raveonettes. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo are your safe bet for driving indie and garage rock sound from Copenhagen. And they have been for almost two decades now. If you look closely through their discography, you will find few slow, dense songs that classify as dark hygge. Most of their music makes you dance and want to rock out.
But there is “Wine”, off their fourth album “In And Out Of Control”, which was not as well-received as The Raveonettes’ other LPs. But I am all here for the underdogs. Sune and Sharin managed to summon me completely with their voices and their minimalistic instrumentation on this song. To me, “Wine” is the softest, most innocent entrance to dark hygge one could give. Keeping it low but not being too heavy on you.
TOM And His Computer – Future Ruins (2020)
Thomas Bertelsen, better known as TOM And His Computer or one half of Lulu Rouge, stands for retro-futuristic noisy edginess. Previous works include “Small Disasters” and “Playing In The Night” EPs. He just came out with his magnificent new single “Future Ruins” (featuring Roxy Jules on vocals), which I just needed to put in here.
“Future Ruins” is a post-apocalyptic song built up by noisy guitar layers and screaming synths, contrasted by Roxy Jules‘ bittersweet voice. 100% dark hygge if you ask me. It is accompanied by a thrillingly creepy music video by Martin Garde Abildgaard. The music video illustrates the words “Future Ruins” in a shocking but incredibly innovative way. There is more to come: TOM And His Computer‘s debut full-length album is set for release in October 2020.
Marsmachine – Humanecho (2019)
This one came out in January 2020, when nobody could have imagined how dark the year would become. Jokes aside, Marsmachine‘s “Humanecho” was one of the first pieces I wrote about here on Good Because Danish. It is a simple but well-thought-through drum- and synth-driven track by a promising newcomer Marcus Gyldenløve Kyed from Aarhus.
As he says best himself, “‘Humanecho’ is a track created by the interaction between a human being and a computer. The acoustic drums processed by a digital system, the computer-generated sounds fighting the organic sounds. In short, this is a fusion of two wildly different worlds having an enormous impact on each other.” “Humanecho” tells a story with no need for words.
Kasper Svendsen – Amon Zu (Synthsolation, 2020)
Following up, another newcomer! Kasper Svendsen, also involved in the alternative/retro-pop project KASPER&KRISTIAN is debuting solo. In lockdown and isolation, Kasper decided to get closer to machines instead of humans. The result is a seven-piece electronic album with an obscure post-apocalyptic feel. Definitely worth a listen!
“Amon Zu” has a stable beat and a soft synth bed. Here and there, Kasper sprinkles slightly unsettling effects that feel like little shots fired at you. These effects keep you awake without disturbing your cozy hygge state too much. The track comes with an amazing crescendo towards the end, getting more dense and dramatic.
JBRIX – Totally Separate And Apart (Wrongdoings, 2020)
JBRIX, aka Jeppe Brix Sørensen, is a musician and composer who has recorded and toured internationally with Danish artists such as Marie Fisker, Howl Baby Howl, and Trentemøller. “Wrongdoings” is his first solo work, and it might be not for everyone. As Jeppe states, it is “a bit like a fine old wine just hiding on the shelf, I really couldn’t open it up for you before now… and also it’s pretty damn intense so drink lightly”. Agreed.
“Totally Separate And Apart” is of the same minimalistic instrumentation as the other tracks off “Wrongdoings”. It inherits such a slow build-up that it either puts you into a meditative state or bores you. With JBRIX, we have now entered the experimental sub-path of dark hygge. I recommend listening to this with high-quality headphones or a sound system. It makes a big difference.
Trentemøller – One Last Kiss To Remember (Obverse, 2019)
This man needs no introduction. Seriously. If you are in any way into Danish music and never heard of Trentemøller, you must have been living under a rock for the past 20 years. Anders Trentemøller is a Danish master of darkness when it comes to music. He has nothing left to prove after masterpieces like “The Last Resort” and “Fixion” but still releases new music regularly and has collaborated with most artists on this list. Pro-tip: try to catch him live at least once because the experience may change your life. Yes, you can quote me on that.
The track “One Last Kiss To Remember” off Trentemøller’s latest album “Obverse” turned out to be my favourite song instantly. It starts with distinct drums, then explodes into piercing, almost brutal noise. I remember listening to it for the first time and hearing a breathless “wow” coming out of my mouth. Lisbet Fritze’s voice adds an apocalyptic feeling to it that drowns you in the most enjoyable way. Perfection.
Kasper Bjørke feat. Justin Strauss – Nothing Gold Can Stay Kasper Bjørke Ambient Version (Nothing Gold Can Stay Remixes Part A, 2020)
Ambient soundscapes on one hand, danceable club hits on the other: Kasper Bjørke‘s production skills are versatile. He has been working solo, in collaborations, as well as remixing and DJing. In terms of ambient, Kasper came out with the completely beat-less “The Fifty Eleven Project” two years ago, and I really enjoy this side of him.
Kasper Bjørke’s ambient version of his “Nothing Gold Can Stay feat. Justin Strauss” is brand new and dark hygge as hell. He recently came out with the first part of a double Remix EP, overall a very club-oriented piece. But Kasper’s ambient rework accentuates the dark component of the original “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, a recital of Robert Frost’s hard-headed poem of the same name, combined with minimal instrumentation.
MANOID feat. Josephine Philip – Take Me (Truth, 2018)
Most listeners know Josephine Philip through the band Darkness Falls or her latest collaboration with Christian Löffler on “The End”. Here, her hypnotic voice complements the fine producing skills of Polish MANOID, which usually are quite dark but go more into an upbeat techno direction.
Through the influence of Josephine, “Take Me” turned out to be a lot slower than one could expect from the Warsaw producer. Strictly speaking, this is not fully Danish. Still, Josephine Philip‘s vocals add the pinch of nordic noir, if you will, and that makes it dark hygge enough to be included.