In this week’s notable releases, Byen finds nü-disco fixture Bjørn Torske blending more ambient textures into his playful sound, while Chicago footwork pioneer RP Boo gets melancholy, and NYC art-rockers Bodega debut with the lyrically stellar but musically weak Endless Scroll.
Bjørn Torske, Byen
Norwegian producer Bjørn Torske is one of the leading Northern lights of the cheekily dubbed “nü-disco” genre, a warm and bubbly idea of neon dance music as reimagined by people who live in freezing, perpetual darkness. Byen, his first solo album in seven years, follows a duet with countryman Prins Thomas from 2017, and it continues that album’s melding of more ambient textures into his playful sound. “Clean Air,” with its reverberating piano tones, hazy groove, and near-subliminal conga line, is a spaced-out wonder, as are the shuffling prog jazz of “First Movement” and the kosmische funk of “Fanfatas.” Torske occasionally lapses into autopilot here—“Chord Control,” while expertly layered, is boilerplate deep house—and the Latin shuffle of “Night Call,” though it would make an excellent ’70s detective theme, falls just this side of cheesy. But he also surprises: Some of Byen’s best moments are when he lets some of that permanent midnight in on his aural sunshine, like the horror-film chorus that suddenly joins in on the clavinet-funk of “Gata,” or the baroque piano of ominous closer “Natta.”
RIYL: Prins Thomas. Floating Points. Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. Dance music for wallflowers.
Start here: “Clean Air” best captures Torske’s skill at weaving trippy, cumulus-cloud layers into gently propulsive rhythms. [Sean O’Neal]
RP Boo, I’ll Tell You What!
Minimalist even by the standards of footwork, the first full-length of original material from the veteran producer and DJ Kavain “RP Boo” Space offers a dozen tracks of thumps, clicks, cut-up vocal samples, and digital percussion. That parts of I’ll Tell You What! are barely danceable is beside the point; at its best, footwork crafts the oldest and most overused sounds in electronic dance music into restless and mantric forms. But rarely is the tension that defines this Chicago-based genre so literal. “We are at war in the street,” repeats “At War,” and glitch sounds snip through the haze of “Cloudy Back Yard,” while the penultimate track, “Wicked’Bu,” sounds like an outtake from a horror-movie score. “U Belong 2 Me,” the closest thing the album has to a conventional dance track, repeats its pitched-up vocal sample obsessively; in a section in the middle, the beat drops out for doleful synth brass. Space has been releasing music since the late 1990s; I’ll Tell You What! reflects his confidence in making every sound count, but its outlook is melancholy.
RIYL: Foo-foo-foo-footwork. RP Boo’s first compilation, Legacy, might make a better entry point for beginners.
Start here: Kicking off with wubs, croaks, and digital handclaps, the opening track, “No Body,” sets the tone for the rest of the album. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]
Bodega, Endless Scroll
Brooklyn quintet Bodega has been rightly praised for its lyrical fusion of biting wit, emotional insight, and philosophical restlessness, but musically, the group still needs time to evolve. Debut album Endless Scroll is an enjoyable but occasionally generic combination of carnival-barker speak-sing and new-wave post-punk influences. The sound of Wire, Devo, and early LCD Soundsystem-style repetition and simple beats suffuse the album, as well as a thumping bass-and-drums rumble wedded to basic guitar riffs and single-note melodies reminiscent of many an art-school minimalist musical aesthetic. While sardonic rave-ups like “How Did This Happen?!” and “Gyrate” offer pleasantly familiar party music, and the record embraces a brevity of song form (only four of 14 tracks exceed the three-minute mark), the strongest and most ambitious cuts break from the formula. The best of these is the surprisingly moving yet still archly self-aware “Jack In Titanic,” in which singer Ben Hozie actually lets his voice emit some nice melodies. Once the band develops the music to match all the verbal fireworks (and reportedly transformative live shows), Bodega will truly earn all those “best new band in New York” plaudits.
RIYL: Wire. Devo. Music as performance art. Performance art as music.
Start here: “How Did This Happen?!” is the anthem that kicks off the record and best embodies its style and sound, though “Jack In Titanic” is the more promising demonstration of potential. [Alex McLevy]
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