Looking for all the world like they’ve just arrived from three different periods in 20th century history – perhaps by way of entirely different planets – Nina and the Butterfly Fish defy logic and genre. Coming as it does out of the incredibly fertile Nordic jazz scene, it sounds neither Nordic nor anything like jazz.
With popcorn-machine melodies woven through with spidery basslines and liquid drumming, the trio are full of unexpected surprises, quirky detours, angular juxtapositions and multiple time signatures – but always over a solid groove and never being simply clever for its own sake. They are here to entertain.
Imagine the B52s had killer jazz chops but had only ever had pop music described to them second hand. Edie Brickell crafting songs out of clouds and filigree. Joni Mitchell playing hopscotch with Ry Cooder in a candy store. Seriously playful and playfully serious, Nina and the Butterfly Fish craft songs as if from Lego bricks with the instructions thrown away: brightly coloured, surprisingly shaped, adventurous and fragile – but locking together perfectly at every turn. It’s complex and surprising – but always accessible, bright, welcoming and, above all, fun.
The band gets its name from a real creature – but a real creature that Nina had invented and painted long before she ever learned of its actual existence.
Composer/guitarist/singer Nina and bassist Dan met at the Trondheim Jazz Conservatory where their broad enthusiasms were encouraged and given space to grow. Two years down the line and with no drummer that really worked for them, they had a chance encounter. As Nina puts it, “Suddenly we saw Hans outside of our window. We waved him in, he sat down and began to play – and something clicked right away. He had to run again after 10 min, but the communications, chemistry, we felt sparks and colours. Bang.”
It’s those sparks and colours that we get treated to as an audience. Like the winged, rainbow coloured creature from which they take their name, Nina and the Butterfly Fish are so delightful and so unlikely that if they didn’t exist, we would have to invent them. And like their namesake, they skip across the tops of waves as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
NINA KRISTINE LINGE – vocal, guitar, composition
DAN PETER SUNDLAND – electric bass
HANS HULBÆKMO – drums, percussion, mbira, jew’s harp