Monday, 29 October 2012

Lindstrøm - Smalhans

 

I never thought I'd use the metaphoric comparison of saying Lindstrøm's releases come to us like buses: you wait for one, and then two come along instead. But surprisingly, that's the case. It's rather quite fitting, not because Hans-Peter Lindstrøm - to give his full name - is one of my current favourite musicians/producers within the disco/dance confine, but also because the two 2012 releases in question are as yin and yang to one another as you can get. With 'Six Cups Of Rebel' in February, Lindstrøm explored more experimental and eccentric sounds that were as much quirky and stand-out, as they were in places, varyingly risky. Regardless of whether you welcomed the change, or completely threw it to the lions - hopefully, without throwing your toys out of the pram - fans of both camps will find 'Smalhans' both welcoming and reassuring in its return to full-on dance-disco rhythms, that Lindstrøm has not forgotten what it is he does best. And while it's just over half the length of Rebel, it holds as much, if not more, energy and sense of voyage than its predecessor.

I've already discussed opener 'Rà-àkõ-st' in detail, and while I could simply skip to the next, what I will raise is that which I haven't mentioned yet. And that's the tracks multitude of luscious sounds that fade to and fro from one another. One listen and you might find yourself hooked to the bobbing of synths and drums for the most part. Next listen, you'll be whisked away by the flurry of electronics that pass by in multitudes throughout. Likewise, when the track gains full momentum, you'll find yourself reeled in by the lavish darting of synths that only mount the track from what was a passing flurry, into a full-on colossal of space exploration. Indeed, this is the Lindstrøm we know and love - a delicate Norwegian mind laying delicate lavishes of electronics into 4/4 patterns that both drive as much as they drill us into the momentum of modern disco. 'Lāmm-ęl-āār' adds a true sense of discovery and venture in Lindstrøm's sound and the waver of electronics adds true dimension to the track's cosmic speed. The padding of synths may be lesser in breadth than they are on previous listens in the man's discography, but the continuing drive loses none of its rhythmic appeal, the grittiness of one hook doing just as much as the more twinklier and star-gazing sounds of others.

'Ęg-gęd-ōsis' has less of a forward drive and more a static jiggle about it, but that doesn't take away from the way the music moves about the empty space surrounding us. Incorporating more of a house structure and less about discovering - feeling more like it's rummaging through what's already been discovered - its bubbly electro groove sends ripples of synths outwards as the clapping beat of percussion carries the song throughout. It's funny then that even when I talk about tracks merging together and reacting to one another in terms of their individual components, it's the tracks with a lead element or overly dominant tone, that catch my ear and drag my attention away from the rendezvous point, and straight into the actual journey being taken. 'Vōs-sākō-rv' makes it known straight from the word go where the potential lies, and therefore, where its attention is being centred on. The track's primary loop of a polynomial synth line slowly but gorgeously transcends, mutates and twists into string-like streams of patterned disco, leaving the surroundings a sort of reactive outline to the flutter and darter of the track's primary electronic riff.

The concept of discovery and adventure does, admittedly, come up on numerous occasions on these tracks, as they usually do in a Lindstrøm composition. And while it would be understandable for you or someone else to take this as assuming the album may be linear or one-trick in its nature, it's the way the Norwegian uses, in places, a minimal palette of synthesizer hooks, drumbeats and overlays of spacious effects that intensifies and gradually builds the album up into something far grander in scale. As is the case then with 'Fāār-i-kāāl', the choice in sound and way of composing and arranging such sounds may be deemed less of a surprise musically than previous efforts. Lindstrøm, however, instead focuses on the differentiation between tone and assumption that it actually creates quite an awe-inspiring shine of electronic music. The music glistens and glows - every fade into lighter tone and every descent back into finding somewhere else to reach for - felt evermore as if you can imagine Hans-Peter himself twisting and turning the countless knobs and controls on the hardware and equipment he's using.

If that is the case, and the penultimate track to this 33-minute outing is like a setting-up or preparation of sorts, 'Vā-flę-r' then is the rocket that blasts off and sails majestically out into the open void of space disco sound. While it opens with as much a quirky innocence and simplicity of percussion as his last release may have hinted at, it soon finds itself taken command by the shine of a synth pattern that rises and rises until it's left with no other option than to sail increasingly further out into the glorious full-scale beauty of the stars. Holding as much glistening audio as it has metaphoric visuals in the music's assumption, it's a delicate yet sturdy foray into disco rhythm, the solid padding of drums mixed in with the gaseous flutter of layered electronics, it's an immaculate listen both for its sense of direction as well as for the way it's so easily hooks people into seeing beyond the horizon where the glistened synths finish and the track leads us straight on past it all - past the escape velocity of Earth and out into the unknown.

All this talk about space and stars and exploration, and I can't help but refer to the most peculiar and possibly most revealing fact of this album: each of these track's names derive from the names of traditional Norwegian cuisine. It's revealing not because of its bizarre personal relation, but despite this sort of subject matter relation surrounding an album like 'Smalhans' (that itself literally translates as 'thin hans'), it's the fact we talk about this music invoking so much about exploration and venturing of the cosmic beyond, it's a testament to how far Lindstrøm can take us sensually, with his sounds. One of the reasons I enjoy this artist's music was because he was one of the first I discovered when I went looking for new discoveries in electronic music. That discovery may be far larger in actual scope than I had originally imagined, but it still demonstrates why Lindstrøm is a name to admire. With an album like this, it's a firm reminder as to the wide scope visuals and means of reference electronic music can often create.
~Jordan

8.1

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