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Posted on September 30th, 2010 (10:56 am) by Brandt Kempin

If the “Superfluous Man”, the disillusioned anti-hero found in 19th century Russian literature, listened to CocoRosie for a week straight, spoke Swedish, and decided to write and produce an album, he might come out with something like Drivan’s Disko. Rather than a character from a Pushkin novel however, Drivan is the latest project of Kim Hiorthøy--musician, producer, and graphic artist for the Oslo based-label Smalltown Supersound.

Hiorthøy’s simple, minor key piano riffs, placed over tastefully repetitive drum loops ranging from house to hip hop, provide the background for most of the album, while acoustic guitar, electric organ, and even upright bass sounds can be found interspersed throughout various tracks. Hiorthøy contributes his share of vocals to the album, but the bulk of the singing is provided by three women he met in 2007 while working on a performance piece called The Potato Country: Louise Peterhoff and Lisa Ostberg, both from Sweden, and Kristiina Viiala from Norway. What these three have in common is their soft way of singing that, mixed with the dark, minimal electro-acoustic music, really provides the tone of the album. Drivan, meaning “drift”, is a very fitting title for this project.

While the songs are filled with well placed rhythmic samples and flourishes of various instruments that drift in and out of each song, they are almost all centered around one very simple musical theme that remains fairly unchanging throughout each track. The vocals add to the feeling of drifting around, but not really moving anywhere. They are generally soft and airy, and are far closer to musical speech than any kind of hard vocalization. This lack of strong, overt emotional tone lends them a kind of detached quality that mixes with the soft, dark music in a way that becomes almost apathetic. Listing to Disko, you find yourself in a desolate Scandinavian cityscape watching a cold wind blow last years dead leaves in circles in front of cracking concrete parking lots.

The album opens with “Som en Läderlapp”, a mournful track that sounds much more like a resignation rather than a lament of something lost. Softly played guitar and piano repeat the same sad riff behind vocals repeating the title phrase, which translates roughly to “Like a piece of leather” (Läderlapp was also the name given to Batman when his comics first appeared in Sweden). This song is followed by the more beat-driven tracks “Inget mer sen”, possibly the most dark, dreamy song on the album, and “Kämpa”, which can be translated as “Fight”.

The album shifts directions with “Campingvagn”. Very clean sounding acoustic guitar repeats a rhythmic, folky riff that, compared with the previous tracks, is almost upbeat. The vocals on this track as well are sung with far more force and enthusiasm than they have been up to this point. Hiorthøy rounds the track off with a very tastefully sparse beat that highlights the rhythmic qualities of the guitar. The track stands out because of its clean, earthy sound, which is appropriate, given its title.

“Låt det va” takes listeners back to the apathetic European metropolis in which the album began. A slightly distorted, rolling beat is layered with a bouncy, minor key upright bass line and several layers of piano/keyboard and meandering vocals repeating “yeah, yeah” as the song gets busier and busier toward the end.

The track that redeems the album is “Det gör ingenting”. A simple, hopeful piano melody reminiscent of early Sigur Ros is backed by a pulsing house-beat that works perfectly with the rhythmic piano. As the song goes on, keyboards and bass are added, as is a repeating clap in place of a snare drum. The vocals are soft and airy on this track just like the others, yet, coupled with music that is both sad and triumphant as it builds up only to fade away in the end, they lack the apathetic tone that the majority of the other songs convey. The softness of the repeated phrase “Det gör ingenting” which can be translated as “It does not matter” also serves to highlight the beauty of the Swedish language. This song is fantastic, and would easily stand alone as a single.

While none of the following tracks live up to the standard set by “Det gör ingenting”, there are definitely some powerful moments. The sorrowful force of the acoustic guitar alone in “Hej då” makes the song worth listening to. “Hårt i ögat” opens with a sample of rain, and though the sample fades, the song’s repetition of the same three lonely piano chords retains the feel of a dark, rainy day. The album ends, as expected, on a somber note with “Sönderslagna möbler”. Dark, lounge style guitar and piano drift around on the floor like fog from a cheap smoke machine in a dingy auditorium as a soft female voice wanders alone through the empty rows singing about broken furniture.

Anyone who judges an album by how uplifting it is will certainly miss out on a lot of wonderful, sorrowful music. The meandering darkness that characterizes Disko, however, conveys not a sharp pain of sorrow and loss nor an ache of unfulfilled desires or unrequited love, but a general stagnation and lack of enthusiasm that calls to mind the emptiness in the eyes of a plastic manikin trapped behind the glass of a fancy 5th Avenue shop window. Disko does a wonderful job at capturing a dark, meandering mood, and certain tracks are sure to have you singing to yourself in Swedish for days after listening, but aside from tracks like “Campingvagn” and “Det gör ingenting”, the empty, drifting tone is too overbearing, making it challenging to listen to Disko repeatedly.

Track List:

1. Som en läderlapp
2. Inget mer sen
3. Kämpa
4. Campingvagn
5. Låt det va
6. Det gör ingenting
7. Hårt i ögat
8. Shamshalam, shimshilim
9. Allt man vill
10. Hej då
11. Sönderslagna möbler

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Our Rating

72 / 100
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