When you are a pioneer of a specific musical identity, mid-career reinvention is almost expected. In an interview with Mixmag, Hans-Peter Lindstrøm, simply known as Lindstrøm, alluded to his inclination to try something different on his most recent album: "Initially he wanted to make an album of female-fronted collaborations but scrapped the idea when it was almost finished – he wasn’t feeling it,” Mixmag’s Thomas H. Green writes.
Instead of blindly following a new concept, Lindstrøm preserved the best parts of the experiment and started over. The three vocal tracks from the original project are the tent poles of It’s Alright Between Us as It Is. To fill out the rest of the album, Lindstrøm spins familiar fluid disco, sticking to what he knows best, but still surprising you along the way. As the album title suggests, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
A founding father of the current Norwegian dance scene, Lindstrøm, along with frequent collaborators Todd Terje and Prins Thomas, have fostered a movement. Reminiscent of Italo disco, French house and other funky Euro bastardizations of American dance music, Norse disco holds well-regarded footing in the crowded electronic universe. It contains the characteristic building crescendos found all over EDM, but instead of being rewarded with the typical ground-shaking bass drop, there is an explosion of instrumentation. Conga beats, piano, bells and horns pop up, adding earthy human elements to spacey beats. Tracks are long, usually clocking in around seven minutes, and can range from sparse and minimal to loud and frenzied all within one song.
Unsurprisingly, Lindstrøm’s It’s Alright Between Us is a lot of things. There are effervescent dance moments. There is the inventive incorporation of fellow Scandinavian musicians, Frida Sundemo and Jenny Hval. There are also a few misses.
It’s Alright Between Us is split into three acts. The first third of the album makes for a strong, standalone EP. “Spire,” “Tensions,” and “Sorry” are sly and lively. The tracks are laced with crisp kicks and twinkling synths, exemplary samplings of Lindstrøm’s genre. “Sorry” has silly, Italo-disco style lyrics that are a perfect match for Sundemo’s breathy vocals.
The second portion of the album is thoughtfully executed but misses the mark. "Versatile Dreams” is an atonal piano track, scrambling to lay the groundwork for the clunky “Shinin.’” But despite nearly a three-minute exposition, the following vocal track is difficult to consume. The vocals, provided by Los Angeles singer Grace Hall, are mixed a touch too loudly. Her voice lacks depth and she sings in a strained American vernacular, mismatched with ambitious Eurobeat. The line “chilling with you at the park” reminds you of just how embarrassingly un-ironic disco can be.
The third act is one of redemption. Those familiar with Jenny Hval, the avant-garde musician often associated with her occultist pop performances, would probably not expect her to show up here. But her presence is a boon. “Bungl (Like a Ghost)”, a self-referenced “cemetery disco” track is the most inventive and captivating work It’s Alright Between Us has to offer. Her spooky, spoken-word style is a smooth accompaniment to screwed-up echoes and a restrained drum beat. A smattering of the atonal piano that damned “Shinin” is welcome here, adding instead of subtracting from the end product. “Bungl (Like a Ghost)” is sandwiched between two tasty tracks, “Drift” and “Under Trees.” Both are stamped with signature Lindstrøm-quality production, dance that lands between bangers and thoughtful meditation. An EP of the last three tracks could be one of the best dance albums of 2017.
Despite its disjointed feel, you need to give credit to Lindstrøm for stepping outside the Norwegian comfort zone. When he does, we are gifted “Bungl (Like a Ghost)” and earlier creations like his collaborations with Todd Rundgren or unexpected disco remixes of popular songs. He is a maestro of his genre, and now, a jack of some trades.
Notable Tracks: “Bungl (Like a Ghost)” | “Drift” | “Sorry”