Friday 11 April 2014

Todd Terje - It's Album Time

‘It’s Album Time’ indeed.  The debut album from Norwegian DJ/Producer Todd Terje, this is basically the Daft Punk album that everyone expected the robots to make.  If ‘Random Access Memories’ had been made with a little less chit chat from Giorgio Moroder and a few more Moog synthesisers it might’ve sounded like this. (For the record, I have no problem with Moroder’s chit chat)

As with Daft Punk, Terje is looking to the past for his inspiration, resulting in a sort of cyber funk disco fusion for a modern age.  Moroder is again a major figurehead (with perhaps a splash of Kraftwerk too) – his influence can be keenly heard in the driving synth bass of the hypnotically modulating Delorean Dynamite and the similarly mesmeric Oh Joy that’s lifted almost exactly from Donna Summer’s I Feel Love.  There’s also an element of Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack in the sometimes sweeping cinematic feel and the frequent space age effects.

Equally, ‘It’s Album Time’ is very much a dance album of funky bass lines, driving beats and a myriad of Latin rhythms.  Strandbar is perhaps the most traditional with its central house piano riff, but elsewhere Svensk Sås (Swedish Sauce) is ironically much closer to Brazil than Sweden and Alfonso Muskedunder is based around a bossa beat.  This is far from a straight disco album, instead incorporating funk, jazz, electro and more.

There’s one thing above all that ‘It’s Album Time’ has in spades: humour.  It stems from the amusing album and track titles, as well as the cover art designed by Bendik Kaltenborn (apparently the two men bonded over “crazy nonsense stupid humour”).  It extends to the music too and the way Terje plays with sound, from the TV soundtrack style of Preben Goes to Acapulco, to the ecstatic Delorean Dynamite or Swing Star, Pt. 1, and to the squelching sounds of Inspector Norse (arguably Terje’s biggest hit to date).  Throughout, this is very much an album that doesn’t take itself too seriously – at least on the surface, as beneath it all is a solid bed of technical musicianship.

It’s for this reason that Johnny and Mary, a cover of the Robert Palmer ballad here with vocals from Bryan Ferry, sounds so out of place.  For starters it’s the only track that features vocals, Ferry’s whispering voice sounding faint and powerless.  More so its downbeat vibes are drenched in a melancholy that jars with the rest of the album.

Terje’s influences may be obvious and, in the wake of Daft Punk, his album lacks the French duo’s gift for melody (though none of their invention in the production department).  Still, ‘It’s Album Time’ is an album that’s full of characterful personality, fun and utter joy that elevates it beyond the usual producer fare.


Gizzle’s Choice:
* Strandbar
* Delorean Dynamite
* Inspector Norse

Listen: ‘It’s Album Time’ is available now.