Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Scandinavian Sensation

diskJokke - Staying In (Smalltown Supersound, 2008)

Although part of a movement amusingly dubbed Oslodisco in his home country of Norway, I’m not sure why Joachim Dyrdahl’s debut album has been so casually banded with Hercules and Love Affair and Kelley Polar in some nu-disco movement. As the album’s title suggests, this is, for want of a more imaginative term, a more intelligent breed of electronic album, perhaps more for the discerning ear than the hedonistic clubber. ‘Staying In’ completely eschews the glamour and excess of the Hercules and Love Affair record, although the title track’s punctuating horns and conga patterns possibly suggest some residual link to the disco movement.

Any classic influences are focused with a distinctively Scandinavian lens though, and the album’s bleepy, games console-esque sounds place it nearer contemporary dance music than any disco revival movement. By the standards and conventions of electronic music, ‘Staying In’ seems carefully composed. Whilst it’s certainly repetitive, built on the solid foundations of infectious basslines and insistent melodic phrases, each track also seems to undertake a journey or clear musical arc. The crucial element differing ‘Staying In’ from those other nu-disco records is that it rejects vocals. There’s enough going on here in terms of composition and melodic invention not to require them.

It’s also a bright sounding record, with a notable lightness of touch. The opening piano chords of ‘Folk I Farta’ and the intertwining synthesisers on ‘Storre Enn Forst Antatt’ make for a jovial, celebratory atmosphere. Throughout there’s an intriguing combination of tropical colour and Nordic detachment that is tremendously effective, particularly on the memorable and pretty ‘Interpolation’. This is about as sprightly, unaffected and direct as contemporary dance music gets, and is all the more welcome for that.

When the music does become more rigorous and scientific, as on the percussion-heavy workout of ‘Cold In’, it somehow retains its innate sense of fun and celebration. On this track and the ridiculously titled ‘I Was Go To Maracco and I Don’t See You’ (sic), there’s a sense that Dyrdahl is making real mischief. He also seems the inexhaustible appeal of a good squelchy bass line.

Dyrdahl is both a classically trained violinist and a mathematician, but he seems far less likely than his contemporaries to wear these formative influences on his sleeve. Instead, he has both tapped into the physical energy of dance music, and the capacity for varied sounds to invoke thought and pleasure. These tracks have the relentless, unstoppable qualities of house music, but rarely focus exclusively on one sound or idea. It’s rare to find electronic music this compositionally advanced that is also light, airy and good fun. I go out too much - perhaps I should stay in more often.

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