Under the leadership of Mona Mørk's tranquil lyricism and breathy delivery, Ai Phoenix formed in Bergen, Norway, in 1997. Dedicated to lush soundscapes and bittersweet classic pop sentiment, the quintet is filled out by Patrick Lundberg, Bosse Litzheim, Espen Mellingen, and Robert Jønnum. Their own label, Ai Phoenix Recordings, was formed in 1998, and by the end of that year, they had released two recordings, The Violence/Mature demo CD and a limited run of their first full-length, Film. After self-releasing another demo CD in 1999 titled Extract, Film was re-released by Norwegian indie DBUT Records, garnering the band a relatively wide-reaching buzz, and started to show up across Europe in small online and print publications. That buzz got considerably louder when, after self-releasing a limited-edition version of The Driver Is Dead in 2000, the band signed to Racing Junior. First releasing the Happy to Get Her 10", and then following up with The Driver Is Dead full-length in 2000, Ai Phoenix found an international underground audience. In 2001 they released "This Is Close" on a split 7" on Racing Junior with St. Thomas and it was nominated for the Best Single of the Year in their native Norway.
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