Review Summary: makes me wish I owned an old pair of rollerblades and a strobe light.
I have a penchant for all-things ‘80s, which is probably why I fell so madly in love with M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
, because it’s such a throwback to classic films and pop tropes of that time. It’s an album that, through its loveable naivety, insanely huge pop choruses, and spacey synths, was able to evoke a distinct ‘80s sound - one that was simultaneously recognizable and refreshingly new. But why am I mentioning Anthony Gonzalez in a Lindstrøm review? Because what Hans Lindstrøm has done on Smalhans
is akin to Gonzalez’s approach to Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
. That’s not to be taken out of context though; the two have very prominent differences, which is blatantly obvious from the start. What I mean is that Hans Lindstrøm, like Gonzalez, has managed to successfully capture the very essence of music representative of a particular time.
In this case, that time is predominantly ‘70s disco with a distinct ‘80s atmosphere. It’s cheesy, it’s danceable, and my god is it ever retro. Those words alone are probably enough to deter people, but it’s incredibly hard to turn away from once it’s on (this is ridiculously infectious stuff), and at the short run-time of just over 33 minutes, why would you want to? Lindstrøm is dabbling in a genre we don’t typically hear much of these days, and the music to come from ‘60s/’70s disco is usually mocked more than listened to, so it’s an interesting endeavor to say the least. The aforementioned ‘80s sound is discernible in the synths and overall atmosphere - an atmosphere that can be likened to the works of Tangerine Dream. Together, this hybrid of atmospherics and retro disco has been dubbed ‘space disco’. Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably nauseated by all of these subgenres of genres and sub-sub genres of subgenres, but ‘space disco’ is a surprisingly apt description of Smalhans
. However, Lindstrøm isn’t so much a disco revivalist as he is an appreciator of the genre. Obviously a lot of his music is dance-ready and suited for strobe lights, but, much like what Gonzalez did with Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
, Lindstrøm has done here. That is, he’s taken the best parts from an antiquated past and made something wholly unique out of it.
The music is teeming with life and pounding with bass, and thankfully everything works incredibly well in tandem. The opening track (whose name I’m not even going to try to spell with all of those umlauts) sets the stage perfectly for what’s to come. Lindstrøm develops an analog synthesizer and crunchy beat into a maddeningly infectious hook that continues to build as it goes. The same can be said of most songs here, but it never feels formulaic, even if it kind of is. Additionally, through the process of some analog tweaking, Lindstrøm is able to create a sound that’s not only reminiscent of older film/music, but of video games as well. The synth in the fifth track, for example, sounds like it was lifted from some long lost video game from my youth.
is a surprisingly enjoyable album that just works, despite all odds. The length is perfect, especially for those who thought Where You Go I Go
’s tracks were wearisomely long; the music is extremely infectious, surprisingly nuanced, and best of all, nostalgic; and so on. The only problem inherent with music like this is that it might seem too uniform at first. It’s something that needs to be played multiple times in order to properly differentiate tracks and pick out all the cool little quirks, and it rewards repeat listens. Highly recommended.
Cool little tidbit: The album's title translates to 'poverty' and the tracks are named after Norwegian foods (don't ask me what they are though).