In these heated, confusing times of economic recession and political angst, unavoidably and inevitably, we all find ourselves listening to music of the more soothing variety to put our world in balance and perspective. Some folks veer towards the classical end of the musical spectrum while others default to country; the cheesier of those among us turn to Kenny G. while the more refined look to Coltraine; but we Anthem staffers increasingly find ourselves on a sonic journey to Scandinavia for our aural Xanax fix.
Maybe it’s the fjords; maybe it’s the omega-3 fatty acid diet; or maybe it’s just the placid snow-covered, oftentimes sunless landscape the Northerners dwell in. Whatever it is, we Americans find ourselves entirely in want of the X Factor that is making the musicians mentioned below (and many more) pump out such mesmerizing and enchanting tunes. Here are some of our favorite new disco/new Balearic/cosmic disco favorites (don’t worry about the genre monikers―just jam).
Hans-Peter Lindstrøm is often seen as the godfather (or maybe reigning crown prince) of new disco (or whatever you care to call the amorphous genre). The Oslo native wasn’t always a disco aficionado, though; back in the late 90s, the man was loosely connected to the Norwegian gospel rock band the Silver Voices, often playing organ. At the turn of the century, he began doing spacey work under the alias Slow Supreme.
It wasn’t until the founding of his label, Feedelity, that he became the lauded cosmic disco maestro he is today. He and his girlfriend, Christabelle (a.k.a. Solale), dropped the warbley, spiraling, somewhat demonic jam “Music (In My Mind)” and the rest, as they say, is history. Lindstrøm, a notorious 9-to-5 workaholic, is impressive in that every one of his releases marks not a creative quantum leap forward, but a calculated, decisive stylistic progression. “Arp She Said” and “I Feel Space,” both of which were released in 2005, represented the first push forward (all 12″s from this period were collected on It’s A Feedelity Affair, released by Smalltown Supersound). Lindstrøm notedly became more epic, stressing the necessity of densely layered tracks and painstakingly restrained climactic buildups. The 2007 EP, Breakfast In Heaven, marked another step ahead in that Lindstrøm finally popped out the club banger we’d been waiting for (diskJokke’s remix of the title track is even heavier than the original―the extended-player was clearly made for peak hours).
In 2008, something big happened: Lindstrøm spawned Where You Go I Go Too, a three-track roller-coaster ride album that merged fanatic prog rock with impassioned yet still ethereal disco melodies and bass lines to a truly trip-inducing experience. Where You Go marked Lindstrøm at his creative peak, for sure, but still, for the most part, the multi-instrumentalist avoided working with vocalists like he had at his beginning. That seems to be changing, however, as he and Christabelle are working together again! The pair are dropping Real Life Is No Cool early next year, and judging by the first track, “Baby Can’t Stop,” we’re in for a doozy. The tune is once again a muscular venture into ethereal dance music, but this time Lindstrøm tips his hat to Cybotron and other early house innovators, leading me to wonder just what marvels he’s got up his sleeve. Like any good magician, Lindstrøm is not about shocking his audience’s pants of, though; instead, over the course of a full career, he hones his skills in a nuanced and subtle fashion, making his “tricks” pop to life in an impactful and stunning manner.
Thomas (Thomas Moen Hermansen) is Lindstrøm’s number one partner in crime. Together, they’ve created four or five “groups” and have worked closely since the early 2000s. They share a studio, too. Thomas is by no means as prolific as Lindstrøm―he tends to stick to making mixes and remixes―but he’s created some pretty awesome material on his own. This year, we saw the release of “Mammutt,” a syrupy slow jam that starts innocently (maybe you’ll bob your head a bit), but climaxes heavy and hard (your hips, feet, hands, legs, and everything else will be fully consumed by the seductive rhythm). To me, Thomas is like Lindstrøm’s editor, making sure the guy never gets too nutty or out-there on their collaborative works. Nonetheless, if he continues to make stuff like “Mammut,” a spectacular solo career is in the cards for him as well.
The youngest of the Norwegians I’m discussing today, diskJokke is no less innovative and unique. Unlike the others, though, he leans more towards the house side of the spectrum, so know that pretty much all of his music is for dancing (and not working or sleeping or brooding). Staying In, his 2007 debut full-length, got me interested, but it wasn’t until the man started churning out remixes like it was his job (it pretty much is by now), starting with, coincidentally, Lindstrøm’s “Breakfast In Heaven.” He did one for Lykke Li… and then Metronomy… and then Foals… and then the xx… and, well, you get the picture. He’s a hot commodity in the indie rock world as he’s known for cranking up anyone’s tune to 11 yet maintaining its original artistic integrity.
Aeroplane is one of my favorite duos right now (something that is difficult to legitimize as they’ve only release a few singles and EPs). The Belgian-based pair are also helming the new disco movement, but they do so with a little more awareness of the past. “Whispers,” their first “hit,” is nothing more than an immaculate homage to 70s steamy disco, thanks in large part to Kathy Diamond’s vocals. Their first song, “Caramellas,” too, is a straightforward modernization of a genre we haven’t seen with this sort of authenticity for three decades.
Word is that the guys are putting out their first LP next year and are currently in the process of mixing and mastering it.