For the Discerning Electro Music Fan
There are few pleasures closer to touching the divine than losing oneself in a sea of dancers. The sensation has to be the closest most of us will ever reach to dissolving the ego and disappearing into pure sensory pleasure. I know that sounds like an incredible overstatement, but it was a feeling I couldn’t shake after Norwegian DJ Lindstrøm’s performance at Smart Bar last October.
Lindstrøm was touring behind his album, “Smalhans,” released in November and one of our candidates for album of the year. His set at Smart Bar was liberally sprinkled with tracks from the new record, and based on the blissed-out trance he invoked in the crowd, the new songs are well-received by his fans. DJ performances can fall into two categories, often the DJ disappears behind a laptop and gives the sense that they pressed play, and not much else. Lindstrøm did the opposite, his shaggy, bobbing head was an active part of the performance. He was clearly vibing with the enthusiastic dancers throughout the space and brought the songs to climactic peaks again and again.
Lindstrøm’s music fits in a narrow but satisfying niche of electronic music. His beats and melodies are complex and long-form. It is easy to imagine his music accompanying the soundtrack to nature documentary as the camera soars over ice-packed peaks. He doesn’t quite have the intellectual rigorousness of groups like Pantha du Prince or The Knife, who are compelling but not always fun to dance to. That said, he also avoids the saccharine commonality of international electronic music stars like Tiesto or Swedish House Mafia, whose beats are fun but can leave listeners with aesthetic indigestion when over-consumed. Perhaps the best comparison is with another Scandinavian group, Royksopp, who also balance the between aural stimulation and gratification.
Lindstrøm provides the best of both worlds. His melodies are complex but always inviting. They soothe and beckon without ever sounding cheesy. Meanwhile his beats are vigorous and original. He avoids the repetitive banality of so much electronic music by keeping the listener guessing. On songs like “Eg-ged-osis” rhythm and melody are inextricably intertwined and play a fascinating game of ascending stakes. At Smart Bar, Lindstrøm also performed the opening track from “Smallhans,” “Ra-ako-st.” The heavy synth melodies reflect the trend of electronic artists re-appropriating 80s music (see: Soundtrack for Drive). Lindstrøm takes the seemingly simple structure and adds complicated rhythmic structures and accentuating melodies that build toward a satisfying conclusion.
Hans-Peter Lindstrøm’s success story is something of legend in the electronic music world. As a relatively unknown producer he created his own label in 2002, Feedelity, and released a handful of EPs and 12’’ singles. Over the years he gained increasing international acclaim and became well-known on the club circuit. His music has garnered a loyal following among the indie hipster-set, his performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival in 2009 drew a large crowd.
Graciously, Lindstrøm avoids the wanna-be glitch and layered bass orchestrations that ruined dubstep and continue to bleed into all other forms of popular music. On “Smalhans” the emphasis is on melodic complexity and steady rhythmic builds. The bass is one of the many tools utilized and it is matched with other components, instead of dominating it.
Lindstrøm closed his set with the track “De Javu” from his other 2012 release, “Six Cups of Rebel”. When you combine two great albums and an uplifting live performance, Lindstrom had the best 2012 of any DJ. While it’s impossible to relive a live performance, putting on my noise-cancelling headphones and playing “Smalhans” just a little too loud is almost just as good.