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Todd Terje and Prins Thomas Launch New Albums
by Joshua P. Ferguson
Affectionately referred to as the holy trinity of Norwegian space disco alongside fellow musical cosmonaut Lindstrøm, veteran producers Todd Terje and Prins Thomas are both embarking on new territory with albums releases this month. The former's It's Album Time, Terje's long overdue full-length debut, is freshly out as of yesterday on his own Olsen Records, while Thomas' third LP, fittingly titled III, is scheduled for release later this month on Full Pupp, the label he runs with Steve Kotey (which is also celebrating its 10th birthday this year).
Both artists share a common genesis point encompassing balearic, old school electro, psychedelia, dub, and, of course, disco, and yet each record displays just how much the two can take these common roots and weave them into strikingly different works that build on the sound they helped create and propel its diversity.
Terje's It's Album Time is the culmination of the breezy, tiki-lounge disco that took summer dance floors by storm with "Inspector Norse," Terje's runaway 2012 hit and probably his biggest track to date. Across the record, he stays the course he set early on with singles like "Eurodans" and while establishing his label's sound with "Spiral" and the tropical boogie of "Strandbar" (also featured here), but the LP proves the true versatility of his 21st century exotica.
"Preben Goes to Acapulco" is slow-mo synth odyssey that honors David Axelrod and Donald Byrd as much as it does Vangelis, while "Johnny and Mary," which enlists visionary Bryan Ferry, is a somber retelling of the Robert Palmer classic that fits in well alongside anything from the Italians Do It Better catalog. When he's feeling more playful, Terje further mixes up the dance floor pulse with the lounge oddity "Svensk Sas" and the bossa breakbeats of "Alfonso Muskedunder."
Still, across any of the space disco purveyor's finest moments—from "Eurodans" to "Ragysh" to "Inspector Norse"—it's his upbeat moments that show the most charm. Lead single "Delorean Dynamite" turns to a dominant Italo bassline that blasts a straight shot through the song's core while synths, boogie guitar, and electronic flute dance around it. And while late album cut "Oh Joy" bears the sound that most typifies the Nordic cosmic disco motif, "Swing Star (Part 2)" is the album's shining star, a mid tempo burner glazed with icy chimes, swirling digital coos, and a bossa house beat.
In contrast to Terje's masterfully bright, beachside beats, Prins Thomas' latest displays what he's recently described as having lots of space but not a lot of space disco. And even though telltale disco effects surface throughout, the mellow proceedings on III couldn't be summed up more succinctly.
"Arabisk Natt (dub)" recalls his chill-out work with Lindstrøm, mixing a haunting middle eastern melody with an off-kilter chug to establish an otherworldly vibe early on. Later, on "Hans Majestet" twinkling chimes and the taught plucking guitar strings texture stacks of melodic synth lines for a soothing and atmospheric turn.
That's pretty much the theme of III though. Tracks like "Kameleon" and the lovely "Trans" ease into themselves with extended ambient intros before evolving with feelings that are variously psychedelic and subdued even at their most energetic. The album's centerpiece , "Luftspeiling," is a 12-minute beatless lullaby that fits the bill for how Thomas and his cosmic compatriots would likely soundtrack drifting through space—and not in a harrowing Gravity sort of way, but rather as if Spike Jonze were the one steering the ship.
There's little question that the rise of Terje and Thomas over the course of the last decade has established a distinct map for the cosmic disco sound. But where others spend their studio time trying to travel within this universe, these two spend their time expanding it—and uncovering entirely new sonic territory along the way.