A fascinating album of evocative warmth and unusual spontaneity.
Garry Mulholland 2010-03-29
The recent upsurge in electronic music isn’t all about auto-tuners and precision-tooled 80s pop revivalism. Out at the synth-driven margins, far less chart-friendly sub-genres have emerged and found a surprisingly large audience.
Prominent among these is cosmic disco, or kosmische, a convenient catch-all tag for a music which seeks to revive the prog-electronica of the 70s and 80s – Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre – while adding some much needed dancefloor rhythm to those acts’ much-maligned science fiction-influenced grandeur.
Prins Thomas, along with his fellow Norwegian friend and collaborator Hans-Peter Lindstrøm, stands at the forefront of this mini-trend. A beardy long-hair who makes little attempt to hide his 70s hippie influences, he has already clocked up six years’ worth of singles, plus remixes for the likes of Roxy Music, LCD Soundsystem, Doves and Simian Mobile Disco, before finally committing to his first full-length album. And catchy club electro it ain’t.
Clocking in at an hour and featuring just seven tracks that range between six and 10 minutes in length, this eponymous debut makes a virtue of its anti-pop attitude. One-man band Thomas improvises with guitar and analogue synth over his own ‘real’ drum and bass rhythms, rejecting vocals (apart from a few gentle chants on the excellent Nattønsket) and conventional song structure in favour of atmosphere and a loose, jamming feel.
The most obvious influences are Krautrock legends Can and Neu!, whose seminal blending of prog experimentation and beat discipline have set the template for almost 40 years of rhythm-driven art-rock. Thomas pays loving disco tribute to another influence on Wendy Not Walter, a reference to the transgender electronic pioneer Walter aka Wendy Carlos, whose synthesizer reinterpretations of classical pieces provided the soundtrack to Kubrick’s movie version of A Clockwork Orange.
It’s Thomas’s guilt-free love of mavericks past that lends such evocative warmth and unusual spontaneity to a fascinating album that could have been pure self-indulgence.