Ukendt Kunstner

I first heard Ukendt Kunster’s Neonlys album (free – yes really – download here) this past April, somewhere in the sweeping wilds of New Mexico.

Hooked off the bat. Ukendt Kunstner – Danish for “Unknown Artist” – are Hans Philip (rapper) and Jens Ole McCoy (producer). All their lyrics are Danish. I don’t speak Danish. But the melodies, the beats, and something about the cadence of the rapping, I find spellbinding despite the linguistic barrier. I’ve listened to Neonlys (“Neonlight”) so many times that I can often be caught singing along in my best approximation of words I don’t understand and can’t pronounce.    

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So when Flemming got us the Trailerpark gig, and it turned out Ukendt Kunstner was going to be performing, my head exploded.

Then it did again at showtime. What a show it was! A far too fleeting hour of pure energy and addictive resonance. Hans Philip was a ceaseless dynamo, bouncing around all over the stage like gravity was a throwaway option. Jens McCoy (who had just turned 18), in complete contrast, manned the decks so quietly, one could be forgiven for thinking he would have enjoyed melting into shadows.

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I shot the entire concert on manual focus (except for the portrait above) – the Fuji X-Pro 1’s autofocus is in no way equipped to handle that kind of movement, in the psychotic kaleidoscope that were those stage lights. At f1.4, keeping him in focus while he was leaping manically from one end of the stage to the other, was an effort that left me drenched in sweat after that hour.

I had no idea if I had pictures worth keeping at all at the end of the show. I was prepared to not have made a single picture that captured something of the mad magic they enveloped the crowd in during those sixty minutes.

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I’m no music connoisseur, and I have no vocabulary to talk about music as I simply don’t take that level of interest in it. Like most people though, it’s an intrinsic part of my everyday, providing a backdrop for processing, perspective, emotional negotiation and pleasure. There are certain bands, albums, songs that I love and would consider part of the soundtrack to my life. Ukendt Kunstner is of that soundtrack, being what I listened to a lot during a time where much personal re-evaluation was taking place. There’s something of their sound that threads its way into my movements, gives voice to the essential, and makes itself tangible in unlikely forms. It absorbed itself into the thrum of the engine for many of the 4500 miles in New Mexico, thickened the air between the soles of my feet and the ground  pavement for solitary walks in a German forest, and laced the atmosphere with something extra wonderful in Denmark. I’ve lived a lot of the last twelve months with Ukendt Kunstner playing to the rollercoaster of change. And every single time, the music manages to drag something out from the addled depths of my brain that quiets exterior cacophony, and give me back to myself.

It turned out I did end up having pictures to remember that incredible show by. The Ukendt Kunstner magic infuses itself into everything.

Because the night has me wrapped around a little finger
Distant voices stars glimmer
On my way
And even if the heart flickers the screen flickers
Ask my self what is going on with me
I do things I have never done before

The stars in my eyes ask me if I want to come home with them
Do things I never have done before.
The stars in my eyes ask me if I want to come home with them
I do things I never have done before.

– from the track Lørdag Aften, in the album Neonlys (download it for free here). Thank you Flemming for the translation.

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  1. Great shots Charlene! Especially the first two.

    1. charlene says:

      Thank you Derek :)

  2. petaanne says:

    Wow Charelene, what a journey and the photos say it all. Great post.

    1. charlene says:

      Thanks Peta :) Seeing them live, and getting to speak to them after was pretty damn special. All music-discovery journeys should be like that

  3. Mark says:

    Great stuff Charlene… I just downloaded the album.

    1. charlene says:

      Cheers Mark! You’ll have to let me know how you go with them :)

  4. Amazing pictures and having seen your whole shoot there are 20+ more winners in this set, I really should have filmed you in action on this night – sweating bullets keeping up with HP’s moves using manual focus and being totally in the zone. You were as much in the zone as HP and McCoy. It was a magic night!

    1. charlene says:

      Especially when they performed Langt Væk, for the first time. I couldn’t not be on fire at that point! So much win!

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