Robert Solli Burås, guitarist and songwriter: born Bjervik, Norway 12 August 1975; died Oslo 12 July 2007.
The long, dark winter nights in Scandinavia mean musicians there are often more technically accomplished than their British or American counterparts. Robert Burås, the mercurial guitarist with the Norwegian rock band Madrugada, spent his teens practising five hours a day and developed a fluid style and bluesy sound that became a trademark of the group. An intuitive and fiery player, Burås provided the perfect framework for Sivert Høyem's moody baritone and helped the band achieve success throughout continental Europe over the last eight years.
Named after the Spanish word for the blue hour before dawn, Madrugada - which also included the bassist and songwriter Frode Jacobsen - made regular visits to the UK and received rave reviews for Grit, their third album, and for the incendiary shows they played at the 100 Club and Dingwalls in London. In 2004, their broody ballad "Majesty" was playlisted by Radio 1 and 6 Music.
In December 2005 they released their fifth album, Live At Tralfamadore, partly recorded at the Oslo Spektrum in front of 8,000 fans and issued in record time 12 days later. After this the band took a break. Burås concentrated on My Midnight Creeps, the side project with which he also sang and made two albums, though in recent months he had started work on the next Madrugada studio album.
Born in Bjerkvik, a village with a population of 160 in the Nordland area of northern Norway, in 1975, Robert Burås made his own entertainment as a child. He heard "Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis Presley and "Rock'n'Roll" by Led Zeppelin and formed his first band at 12. Brought up on the Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, Jimi Hendrix, the Stooges, and the Jesus & Mary Chain, he met Høyem and Jacobsen, from neighbouring towns, and the trio formed Madrugada in the mid-Nineties.
The group signed to Virgin Records Norway and didn't expect their 1999 début album, Industrial Silence, to be released internationally. Back then, most Norwegian bands were lucky if they made it as far as Sweden or Denmark (the Eighties group A-ha were no exception since they were signed directly to Warners in the US). However, Madrugada's angsty, panoramic sound on Industrial Silence and their sepulchral 2001 follow-up, The Nightly Disease, caught the imagination of alternative rock fans as far afield as Belgium, Holland, France, Greece and Germany. The rockier Grit, recorded in Berlin with PJ Harvey's producer Head in 2002, established them further.
In 2004, Madrugada worked at Sound City in Los Angeles with the producer George Drakoulias and the mixer/engineer David Bianco on The Deep End, their fourth album, which featured a collaboration with the film composer Angelo Badalamenti on the ominously beautiful "Hold On To You".
With his red curly hair and sideburns, Burås cut a distinctive figure. Ostensibly the most rock'n'roll member of the band, he was warm, generous, very personable and lived for music. He seemed at his happiest treading the boards and trading licks with the guitarist Kid Congo Powers - of the Cramps, the Gun Club and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - who guested on Live At Tralfamadore. A big fan of Kurt Vonnegut, Buras had been reading Slaughterhouse-Five on tour and thought the imaginary planet - Tralfamadore - would be a perfect fit for an album compiled from various concert recordings. "
"In the book, Vonnegut explains his emotional relationship with his daughter and this disconnection that he sometimes feels. It's kind of what it's like sometimes, when you're on the road. You're just moving on and on. That's your world, what you create there, at that very moment. It's just us and the audience. That's Tralfamadore..."
Over the eight years I knew Burås, I would occasionally question his lifestyle and he admitted: "I should probably take it easy sometimes. Not go too far." He was found dead in his Oslo flat last week.
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