[Feedelity Music, 2012]
Nick Torsell, November 14, 2012
Earlier this year, Norwegian producer Todd Terje released “Inspector Norse,” a highlight on the excellent Its The Arps ep. It’s an elastic track-of-the-year candidate, marked by bright synthesizers and a gluttonous build-up. It was a mission statement for Terje, making something substantial without subtracting fun. Terje has returned with a producer credit on his Norwegian compatriot Lindstrøm’s new release “Smalhans,” a Technicolor revisit to the sound mined on his 2008 breakthrough Where You Go I Go Too.
It’s a timely collaboration for Lindstrøm, Smalhans is a return to the dance-floor after the more experimental Six Cups of Rebel, released earlier this year. Where Rebel had a kitchen sink quality, Smalhans’ building blocks are poppier. In an interview with Spin, Lindstrøm says this was measured. “After I finished Six Cups I had this reaction against everything experimental and weird and strange. I also decided I would make something more straightforward and easier for me to play when I’m on tour and doing shows.” Compared to the patient and wandering tracks on Where You Go I Go Too, Smalhans focuses on the immediate. While Where You Go I Go Too was cosmic and expansive, Smalhans is concentrated. Talking with Playground Magazine, Lindstrøm explained, “I wanted to make the songs as clean, simple and structured as possible.” Tracks like “Vōs-sākō-rv” yield uncomplicated pleasures, an earworm without the guilt. Built around a synth 1-2 strut, it creates and subsequently disintegrates sonic obstructions until all that’s left is the sticky-sweet hook.
There’s an endearing playfulness running through Smalhans. The tracks, named after traditional Norwegian dishes eaten by Lindstrøm as a child, sound euphoric and satisfied. “Ęg-gęd-ōsis” begins sinisterly only to veer into sunnier territory soon after. It’s original dark Moog pulse fades while layer after layer of chirpy keyboards are added on until the track is completely transformed. Lindstrøm gives each track a framework to attach a narrative, leaving the listener to fill in the their own meaning.
The last track, “Vā-flę-r” begins with synth flurry that sounds a whole lot like Kraftwerk’s “Europe Endless.” The feeling of déjà-vu fades soon after, but it hovers over the remainder of the song. Kraftwerk’s ode to train travel makes for a good companion to Smalhans, each contain some of the elation and dread of not knowing what you’re heading towards. The relatively short album in the end plays like a travelogue, trading in the peaks and valleys of an unseen Europe for dance-hall ebb and flow.
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