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Lindstrøm Smalhans Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

The return of the space disco cowboy.

Wyndham Wallace 2012

When Hans-Peter Lindstrøm released Six Cups of Rebel earlier this year, fans of the Norwegian producer might have wondered what they were putting in the Oslo water.

Instead of the throbbing disco techno that helped make his name – evident on albums like 2010’s wonderful collaboration with singer Christabelle, Real Life Is No Cool – they found complex prog-electronica spiced up with treated vocals. It was impressive, but it was, like it or not, sprawling.

Smalhans finds him returning to more familiar, more concise territory, its six tracks totalling only 34 minutes. Full of his trademark crunchy, richly textured synths – the ones that earned him a reputation for ‘cosmic’ or ‘space disco’ thanks to their kinship with the likes of Giorgio Moroder – it was mixed by fellow traveller and compatriot 'Todd' Terje Olsen, who allows these multi-layered instrumentals to pulse and surge with an unflagging but never exhausting energy.

Comparing his music to Norwegian cuisine – each track is named after a traditional dish – might seem somewhat prosaic, but it emphasises Lindstrøm’s fixation with old-school, analogue settings, albeit given a new twist with contemporary ingredients.

Opener Rà-àkõ-st – raw vegetables, so hardly a testing recipe – sets the tone, its synth melody resonant, its rhythm track full of stuttering bass lines and RotodruM fills. Its spacious, almost luminescent quality is maintained throughout: Vōs-sākō-rv – a sheep’s sausage, don’t you know? – is a perky, shuffling number so cheerful that it’s almost funny, while Vā-flę-r (Waffles) is a slice of warm, rich retro-futurism that Underworld might undertake if they’d grown up on Buck Rogers.

If there’s a weakness here, it’s in the lack of variety to Smalhans’ structures and sounds, the emphasis on arpeggios and keyboard lines that arc ever higher, like Jean Michel Jarre’s, sometimes too formulaic. But, taken individually, each ‘song’ is rewarding in its journey, and Lindstrøm remains one of those artists making dancefloor-friendly music that also works well in a domestic environment.

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