Here at So So Gay, we are always on the look-out for interesting new talents to pass on to our readers. One such talent that has recently piqued our interest is Danish duo, Shanghai. Currently unsigned in the UK, but on the Sound of Copenhagen/Sony label in their home country, Shanghai are an intriguing listen.
While harnessing the ever-popular electronic sound of the 80s, Shanghai create music that is quite avant-garde in nature. All the tracks they released have been rather melancholic affairs, with almost a feeling of being extracts from some epic soundtrack, something along the lines of Vangelis’ stellar work on the soundtrack for the 1982 film, Blade Runner.
The aforementioned guys that comprise Shanghai are musician/producers Nicolai Kornerup and Niels Brandt. They initially met in 2007, following on from Brandt’s return to Denmark having lived in London for the previous five years, however they didn’t actually form Shanghai until 2009, though released their first demo, ‘Smoke and Mirrors‘, soon after.
Niels Brandt is Shanghai’s lead singer and guitarist. Having communist parents, he grew up with, and absorbed, unconventional and revolutionary music. He was signed to RCA UK in the mid 2000s with his band Airman and has worked with notable producers such as Fraser T Smith, Dimitri Tokovoi, Martin Terefe, Youth, James Sanger and Guy Chambers.
By comparison, Nicolai Kornerup grew up playing classical music and has a Masters degree in piano from the Danish Music Conservatory. As well as being keyboard player in Shanghai, Kornerup also plays accordion in the popular Copenhagen klezmer band, Mames Babegenush.
Their name, Shanghai, was thought up in a rather unconventional way, as they explain: “We thought of the name by imagining Michael Douglas, as seen from behind in his full Wall Street outfit, looking out over Shanghai from his penthouse hotel room, whilst listening to ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ on the hi-fi stereo.”
Influenced by the song-writing and melodies that pre-date the Millennium, Shanghai’s sound is ambient and ambitious with a touch of theatre and drama, heavily influenced by legends and pop luminaries such as David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Tears for Fears. Indeed, from a singing perspective, Brandt’s vocals are at times not entirely dissimilar to those of Bowie.
They have dubbed their own brand of music as ‘Arabesque Pop’, i.e. accessible music, with an intricate harmonic structure. First single, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ was immediately picked up in its initial demo form by two notable Danish DJs, Le Gammeltoft and the late Kjeld Tolstrup, earning the band some early airplay on a major radio station. This led to the band being signed to Gammeltoft/Tolstrup’s label, Sound of Copenhagen (through Sony Music), enabling them to release their first EP, The Priest, in May 2011.
Move forward a year, and the duo have just released, ‘Wet Summer’ (see below), a song very much perpetuating their melancholic 80s vibe. The accompanying video is befitting of the 80s throwback sound, with Brandt and Kornerup’s faces appearing on the screens of CRT television sets. Maintaining this retro imagery, Brandt looks rather androgynous in the video, being visually reminiscent of Sinéad O’Connor in the video for her 1990 mega-hit, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. At the moment, the pair are working on our fair shores, putting together their début album, with an intended release date of some time during 2013.
Shanghai’s latest single, ‘Wet Summer’, can be downloaded from iTunes now.
For further information visit their website.