Norwegian electronic duo fail to reach previous highs
Since 2009’s critically acclaimed II, not much has changed for Norwegian electronic duo Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas. The two-man production team made up of Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and Thomas Moen Hermansen collaborated frequently during the 2000’s, churning out singles and expansive records that showcase their ambient, space disco aesthetic. But after II, the duo split up, each focusing on their solo careers before colliding again on 2020’s aptly titled III.
During his early musical career, Lindstrøm was prolific, picking up three Spellemannsprisen–the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammys–and his collaborations with Hermansen often garnered similar acclaim. Now, after an 11-year hiatus, the duo has had plenty of time to refine their sound. But unfortunately, III falls short of expectations. In typical Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas fashion, each track is lengthy and expansive, but they have a tendency to plod along without offering much in the way of originality or variety.
Opener “Grand Finale” primes listeners for a maelstrom of sound from the Norwegian electronic craftsmen, but the energy of the track is more akin to scattered showers. Shimmering disco synths launch the listener into the duo’s trademark space disco sound, but they aren’t really built on. A rambling persuasive beat adds some oomph, but there simply isn’t much of a progression from the synths, which flutter in and out of focus as the beat chugs along.
Offering some reprieve is the following track and lead single “Martin 5000,” an extended groove session with some real danceability. The track’s instrumental is minimalist at first, with just some glitchy, wavering synths and a tame beat, but things open up around the two-minute mark with a catchy bass riff and a sweet percussive groove. It’s the closest Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas come to reviving the ’80s in all their disco-drenched glory.
“Small Stream” isn’t a terrible follow up, but it’s a far cry from the groovy goodness of its predecessor. Glossy synths and steady keyboard chords pair nicely with a techno bass, but the mix as a whole feels a bit clunky. It sort of plods along aimlessly in search of a conclusion that it never unearths, and it feels as though the track is missing something, perhaps an extra instrument or layer of tension.
The track “Oranges” is another slow burn. Reverberating synths and psychedelic effects latch onto a lazy beat, threading themselves into a sun-bleached quilt of sound. While the synths and bass receive a nice dose of bounce and womp, the whole composition sounds as if Lindstrøm and Hermansen are fiddling around with a Tame Impala instrument kit on Ableton, complete with a hazy guitar solo that washes over the middle third of the track.
At this point, there’s plenty of anticipation for the eight-minute odyssey “Harmonia,” but it too misses the mark. Synthesizers shimmer and swirl behind a laidback bass guitar riff in the intro, and the whole thing has an airy, fluid feel. About three minutes in, a clunky, clacking beat enters. A few minutes after that, some glittering synths drape themselves over the mix. Not much else happens. There’s not much the Norwegian duo can do to save the track from plunging into redundancy.
Things don’t get much better on closer “Birdstrike,” a static and echoey sonic canvass on which Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas craft free-flowing synth and keyboard melodies. Droning synths, crackling snare hits and some glowing xylophone tones lay the framework for what is essentially a psychedelic jam session. Although the melodies seem playful and improvised, there simply isn’t enough happening within or around them to make “Birdstrike” a compelling listen.
Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas’s reputations precede them, but the beatmakers can’t match the high bar they’ve set for themselves. While each track is carefully crafted with plenty of instrumental nuance and atmospheric cohesion, none besides “Martin 5000” justifies its lengthy run time. The duo just doesn’t add enough cadence and variety into their expansive mixes, and while there are plenty of sweet sounds and clever effects packed into III, they never really combine in a way that feels refreshing.