Self-made Norwegian musician and producer Lindstrøm has been putting out music on his own Feedelity label for several years now, garnering attention in the world of electronica in Europe as well as overseas. A number of awards such as the Spellemann awards, Norway’s iteration of the Grammy’s, have gone his way.
Smalhans, the latest album from Lindstrøm, is a very European collection of dance tracks that reach back to the days of italo-disco, a genre that arose from Europe’s refusal to give up on disco after the States disowned it. The spirit of running beats, groovy bass lines, and layers upon layers of synthesized melody seem to still have a dear place in the European heart. That’s essentially what Lindstrøm is putting out with this record: solid, modern, Euro-disco.
The problem with this kind of music is that it’s greatest strength is its biggest weakness. The music adheres to a formula that’s been established and explored for a number of years. Layers of arpeggiated keyboards coalesce into a kind of electronic disco fugue. At some point the beat will drop, and then it will come back in. Lindstrøm does all this very well, of course, and Smalhans contains some very sophisticated work. However, it’s tough to deny that this has been done. Aside from amazing production, there really isn’t much unique about this music.
In its stronger moments, Smalhans conjures up tracks that are reminiscent of New Order, Daft Punk, and some of the classics of electronic music. If nothing else, this is an album that will please listeners who may have been put off by Lindstrøm’s earlier 2012 release, Six Cups of Rebel. a record that really didn’t seem to know what it was doing. The latest effort is tight, polished, catchy and highly danceable. There are no kitschy vocals here, just smooth running grooves. It’s certainly good. It’s sexy and fun, but it doesn’t quite seem to go anywhere.
Listening to Smalhans is somewhat like running on a treadmill. From the beginning of “Ra-ako-st” to the end of “Va-fle-r”, you’ll be up and moving, bouncing and swaying. It will be a great workout, it will make you sweat, and you’ll have a great time all the while. But when it’s all over, you’ll open your eyes and realize you’ve been running in place all along.