Saturday, May 12, 2007

Pining for the fjords.

If you're a raging disco nut like myself, there's no more fertile stalking ground than the Norwegian fjords right now. Since around 2004, in fact, Norway's DJs, producers and record labels have been steadily making the kind of luscious, organic disco music that's as informed by prog and pop as Larry Levan or Studio 54. Not for Norwegians is the garish hedonism that is often a trigger response when someone mentions the word 'disco' to you. They prefer their 4/4 beats with a more psychedelic but no less immediate or fun tint.

Which brings us to two of the Norway kosmische scene's leading lights, Lindstrom & Prins Thomas. With hindsight, we're allowed to label the pair as godheads of a scene (alongside the much-missed Erot, Per Martinsen aka Mental Overdrive and the venerable Bjorn Torske) that's recently entered an exciting second generation, as evidenced by recent releases from upstarts such as Magnus International (actually a scene progenitor as one-third of Kalle, Magnus & Daniel with Kalle Risan Sandaas and Daniel Tjus Andersen), Blackbelt Anderson and DiskJokke. L&PT's self-titled debut of 2005 was one of that year's best dance records (inasmuch as you can call it a dance record, with its jazz and prog overtones) and has grown in stature ever since. It is such a rich, well-orchestrated album with ambition and warmth to spare and still stands as probably the defining statement of one of the few scenes that actually seems to exist.

The end of May sees the release of Reinterpretations, a compilation of tracks from the 12"s that L&PT released from that album, along with two new tracks. The emphasis is on dancefloor-aimed reworks of that album's downtempo grooves, with 'Turkish Delight', 'Claudja', 'Feel AM' and 'Boney M Down' all getting a more danceable, Saturday night makeover. For fans, there isn't a lot here that you won't have heard before, but it's still worth getting as a companion piece to the well-thumbed original.

Despite the tracks here being more designed for the club, there are still many startling, sparkling gracenotes that you don't often get in a genre where the more functional and effective a track is, the more successful it is. L&PT refuse to pander to genre expectations and are more preoccupied with producing something that's as intricate as it is funky. Witness the overlapping, multifarious percussion on 'Claudio', for example, or the skeletal, echoey 808 line in 'Nummer Fire En', the album's 20 minute-plus highlight.

As with other compilations, this is probably more catered for newbies to the Lindstrom & Prins Thomas canon, but this stuff just doesn't get old. No matter how many times you listen to the Can cover, 'Mighty Girl', those arpeggios, even though they aren't an L&PT creation, still send a shiver up your spine. Reinterpretations avoids any accusations of cynicism purely by virtue of L&PT's take on disco being absolutely peerless and needing to be heard by everyone.

Pre-order the album from amazon.

Up until recently, Prins Thomas was in danger of remaining forever in the shadow of his more ubiquitous production partner. That's all been blown out of the water by Thomas' recent, incessant string of quality remixes for the likes of Justus Kohncke, Sorcerer, Simian Mobile Disco and Studio, to name but four. He's also about to release the remix of the year and the DJ mix of the year, too. You heard it here first.

Prins Thomas' epic take on Hatchback's 'White Diamond', forthcoming on This Is Not An Exit, is a superlative seventeen minutes and eighteen seconds that makes any kind of brainless baiting of the remix as an artless artform by Thomas' twinkly, soaring do-over being quite possibly the best piece of music I've heard not just this year, but for the last five years.

This is a track that ushers forth comparisons to the likes of Philip Glass, Can, Manuel Gottsching, Steve Reich and the like and you have to say that you don't often get that with a Digitalism re-edit. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to post it yet. Not that I don't want to, in fact, this is exactly the kind of music that I want to share with as many people as possible. I just don't think it would be fair to a new, upcoming label like This Is Not An Exit to post something that is guaranteed to raise their profile ahead of its release. This is one of those tunes that every DJ worth their salt, nay, every self-respecting music-phile is going to want to get their hands on, so why should I let them get it for free at this early juncture?

Anyway, the DJ mix of the year comes in the form of Cosmo Galactic Prism, a two-disc set to be released next month on Eskimo that takes in pretty much every kind of music that's informed Prins Thomas' own work. Kicking off with Joe Meek & The Blue Men's eerie sci-fi-doo-wop classic, 'I Hear A New World', it then goes on to cover kraut-disco (Holger Czukay's 'Cool In The Pool'), Japanese disco metal (Metalchicks' 'Tears For Fears/Conspiracy'), techno, both minimal (Matias Aguayo) and Detroit (Carl Craig in his Tres Demented guise) and a healthy dash of prog (Zombi and Hawkwind).

The mixing is seamless and often dazzlingly outlandish (the transition from Dubarchanoid Trim's 'Perfumed Garden' into Aguayo's 'Radiotaxi' is particularly breathtaking), but the whole thing hangs together so well that it makes you wonder why all DJ mixes don't take as many risks as this does. Just perfect.

Pre-order from N.E.W.S.

For more insight, read the interview with Prins for Fact Magazine.

In other news: read my reviews of Electrelane live, the new Arctic Monkeys album (although I swear I gave it 3/5, not 5/5 like the review states) and The Procession's album, all at High Voltage.

Also, I'm the featured blogger on this week's Blog Fresh Radio (until Monday at least), so you should all listen to that.

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