One can easily say that Bel Canto were the start of Norwegian electronica. Being the influence of bands such as Røyksopp, Bel Canto mixed catchy pop tunes with an arctic electronic sound.
It was in Tromsø. Once capital of northern Norway, that Nils Johansen and Geir Jenssen found Bel Canto in 1985. Today Tomsø, on the north-east of the country, is well known for its fishing harbour, its university, its breweries and of course, depending of the seasons' its never-ending days or never-ending nights. Nils, barely twenty years old, had a strong musical background acquired by learning classical violin during ten years. The two musicians looked for a girl singing and a few months later discovered the very young - sixteen year old - Anneli Drecker and they tempted her away from the band she was singing in. Anneli had an important background of choral singing at the time. Fate was on their side.
Bel Canto seeked refuge with Crammed Discs, the Belgian indie record company. White Out Conditions, their first album was out on this label in 1987. Their following album, Birds of passage, was released in 1989. The albums became popular due to the bands special arctic sound dominated by Anneli's marvelous voice. Birds of Passage is to day considered as one of the founding records of what is called the Tromsø sound. Geir Janssen left Bel Canto in 1990 to work on his own project, Biosphere.
Shimmering, Warm and Bright was released in 1992 and propelled Bel Canto into an international band status. Taking advantage of the album success, Bel Canto played more than 150 live dates all over the world, especially in Europe, in the States and in Japan. During this world tour, Anneli and Nils discover the sounds from India and the percussion from Africa and Middle East which was used as a rhythmic framework for Magic Box, the 1996 album (Atlantic Records). Recorded in London and Oslo, Magic Box is released with two very special guests: The Can former drummer, Jaki Liebezeit and Jah Wooble. Anneli had already worked with Jah on Take me to God, his 1994 solo album. Magic Box was energy time for Bel Canto's. Images, their next Bel Canto production was a back-to-the-roots album. Recorded in their Tromsø home-studio, Images is a mix of cosmopolitan influences as much as a perfect illustration of the arctic sound from Tromsø in the last part of the 1990’s. The album was released on EMI in Norway and on Saint George label in France and continental Europe.
Anneli released a solo album in 2000 called "Tundra" on EMI, and the band was on hold for a while as she also toured as a special guest with A-ha. In 2001 they started working on a new album and released a compilation of songs called “Retrospect” from all their previous releases as the band had been existing for 15 years. The new album took Bel Canto firmly into the new century. Most programming on the album was done by Nils and Torbjørn Bruntland from Röyksopp. This album called "Dorothy's Victory" from 2002 is as of today the last of Bel Canto's releases.
Now in 2009 both Anneli and Nils now resides in Tromsø, so we can probably hope for another album within a year or so.