Todd Terje, It’s Album Time

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[Olsen]


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You’ll have to excuse the language in this review, but It’s Album Time is fucking Grade-A, highfalutin schmaltz. There’s no other way to put it. On paper, it’s the exact shit we should detest. The role of grim-faced music critic is not an enviable one, but sometimes someone somewhere needs to put a foot down. Rational logic would state that there are so many musicians in this world attempting to break in — artists who would sacrifice limbs and their future-born for a mere press mention. So why laud someone who so blatantly tickles the line of what can be considered parody, who is seemingly kicking back and taking the piss at the same damn time? Well, largely for that exact reason. Todd Terje makes it look easy. His effortlessness is enviable and his debut album deserves to be embalmed and hung above a fireplace like a boar’s head — a relic that could conceivably be dated to any era, but one we should feel privileged to call our own.

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A quick trace of lineage aligns Terje with an upstanding cast of Norwegian countrymen, most notably Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas. Strain to think back 10 years and you’ll remember that Norway was then poised for a takeover. Though Terje wasn’t as vaunted as that dynamic duo of space disco, the core kept a tight rapport, touching up each others’ tracks and pushing the cosmic fold beyond their country’s borders. And for a while, it was a hit, earning their soaring synth workouts some serious crossover acclaim. But recent years has seen the faction peel apart a tad. Most recently, Lindstrøm had a 2012 foray into chintzy prog with Six Cups of Rebel and there’s a thick krautrock/jazz/house haze surrounding the current work of Thomas. Terje, however, has evolved into an entirely different beast, a veritable virtuoso with an ear for melody so infectious it borders on subliminal. He crafts the sort of tracks that cause those with the faintest knowledge of dance music to perk up with recollection upon hearing them. And his current unbeaten streak is nearing ghastly, almost to the point where you half expect him to release a dud with his next one and feel foolish for doubting him every time he comes up aces.

As such, one can’t help but feel the title of his debut album is pointed. It’s almost as if he’s challenging himself. Terje is capable of turning out 12-minute sun-kissed anthems like a mustached Berry Gordy, but what about a proper long-player that ticks off all the boxes? Given the sheer latitude on display here, it’s safe to say he’s pulled it off, masking the quirky tongue-in-cheek-isms referenced above with undeniable mastery. The coat of irony weighs heavily at times. “Svensk Sås” is a calypso send-up played straight, and album centerpiece “Johnny And Mary” is a cover that finds a super-sincere Bryan Ferry assuming the role of Robert Palmer. Taken on their own, both tracks are confounding, B-side fodder. But it’s difficult to find much fault with their inclusion here, acting as buffer from the surrounding hoopla.

And boy, is there ever hoopla. Following an effective title card intro, the opening suite of “Leisure Suit Preben” and “Preben Goes to Acapulco” find Terje weaving through orchestration he’s never before mined. Xylophone cascades over a staunch bass line which lends the passage a real “procedural cop drama” vibe. “Strandbar” and “Delorean Dynamite” are the first glimpse of the flailing Terje we’ve grown to love. The former burrows until it hits pay dirt in the form of a stabbing piano run, while the latter is cocaine excess in audio form. It cascades, relying on some more brusque bass work to lend its defining flourish. Following the Palmer cover, the album’s tail delivers an unflinching string of highs. “Alfonso Muskedunder” sparkles itself into a lather, eventually climaxing in a flute-drum combo that is so shiny you can see your reflection. And “Oh Joy” is the standout of the release, taking an entire three minutes to build before absolutely splooging in a triumphant and extended synth climax.

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Despite being around for over two years now, “Inspector Norse” closes the album. And it’s a testament to the track’s wonder that it doesn’t sound played out in the least. Most of us could recite it in our sleep and his decision to fade the track out into the recording of an audience chanting along with the famed hook is noteworthy. As mentioned, Terje’s uncanny grasp of melody is his moneymaker. If the guardians of pop radio had any sense about them, they’d contemplate giving Terje a push akin to the one Disclosure’s received over the past year. Of course this isn’t likely — Terje doesn’t seem the type to welcome a gussying of his image — but still, in a perfect world, this would be topping all charts, not merely those belonging to DJs.

Darcy K  on April 29, 2014 at 9:23 AM

Todd Terje always hits the spot. Oh Joy sounds like an extended track for Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road. Love it.

Trackbacks

Little White Earbuds April Charts 2014 – Little White Earbuds  on May 2, 2014 at 1:19 PM

[…] [HUSH] (buy) 08. Rick Wade, “Cloud Envy” [Third Ear Recordings] (buy) 09. Todd Terje, “Oh Joy” [Olsen] (buy) 10. The Central Executives, “High Roads” [Golf Channel Recordings] […]

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