NORWAY: It's Album Time- Todd Terje
Updated: Jan 20
Simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic, the Norwegian DJ harks back to sounds of the past and makes them relevant for a modern audience
Whilst watching Asif Kapadia’s stunning 2019 documentary film Diego Maradona, I was struck by a song that I was convinced came straight out of the 1970s dance club as the camera panned on the Argentinian superstar tooling around Naples in his white Fiat 128; a not too dissimilar image to that of Michael Caine bumbling around Turin in his Mini Cooper in The Italian Job. Unbeknownst to me, I had in fact come across Todd Terje’s music before it was recommended to me for the purposes of this review, as it accompanied this phenomenal montage. Yet, whilst the striking sound of Terje’s Delorean Dynamite arguably makes it the best track on the album, it is different and varied in its style to much of the other high-quality music on this experimental and exciting album.
“Who knew that during this process of writing articles for Around the World in 200 Albums that I would fall in love with Latin jazz electro fusion from Norway that uses chipmunk vocals? Well, it is just too fun to not enjoy”
What Terje does so masterfully is that he revives old styles and makes them flourish on their own terms in this fun and interesting album. The Scandinavian DJ takes inspiration from a few genres which are not seen as cool or mainstream any more, such as jazz, swing and disco and fuses them into incredibly danceable electronic tracks. Nonetheless, it would be unfair to say that Terje is trying to hide the essence of these tracks in an attempt to make charts music. Far from it, the Norwegian’s music is anything but conventional as only one track, Johnny and Mary, contains a structure that resembles of normal ‘popular’ music.
The title-track kicks off the album with a space-age feeling that feels ever-present throughout, despite the album having its roots deeply sewn into music from decades gone by. At first one could claim that this would be perfect music to be played in a planetarium but as the second track, Leisure Suit Preben, comes along it is soon clear that this entire album could be the backing track to an '80s arcade game . Preben goes to Acapulco then still maintains this retro whilst futurist vibe albeit less synth heavy than the previous track. Whilst enjoyable up until this point, I began to worry that this was all the album was going to be. This, however, is where the album starts to really come into its own and I could not have been further from the truth in my assumption.
Who knew that during this process of writing articles for Around the World in 200 Albums that I would fall in love with Latin jazz electro fusion from Norway that uses chipmunk vocals? Well, it is just too fun to not enjoy. Svensk Sås introduced me to a genre that I never knew existed and yet, four tracks later Terje perfects this further with Alfonso Muskedunder. This fast-paced lounge music, which is full of hints of bossa nova to it, is not only amusing but it sounds great. However, it is between these tracks that the album shines with Stranbar, Delorean Dynamite and Johnny and Mary; three firecrackers that are weird and wonderful in their own unique way.
Strandbar lures you in with a funky start before it hits you with a drumbeat that makes it turn from an intriguing piece of funk into a proper disco house banger. I can imagine being at a swanky rooftop day party in the summer boogieing along to this belter. Then we have the aforementioned Delorean Dyanamite. A track that starts of as a fairly simplistic trance track before it turns into more than just an ordinary disco toe-tapper. It has me moving my whole body, grooving to the music. This creates an immense contrast with the following song Johnny and Mary in which former Roxy Music star Bryan Ferry’s beguiling voice is combined with a soft yet powerful electronic backing track. A truly beautiful track.
After a return to the Latin electro fusion, one would think that the album would start to wind down as it enters its final third. However, Terje defies expectations here as he takes the listener on a audio rollercoaster with Swing Star, pt 1’s increasing pace until the last 20 seconds in which the song fades out into Swing Star, pt 2 which has a similar funky quality to Strandbar. Then enters the slower intro to the exultant disco electronica track Oh Joy. If you were not to have access to the track listing one might imagine that this would be where the album ends, however Terje packs one final punch with his most famous track Inspector Norse.
This space disco track is almost Terje’s way of showing off that he still has the skills to keep the album exciting and fresh after nearly a whole hour. Not only is Inspector Norse my favourite name for possibly any song ever but it leaves you feeling exhausted after an hour of eclectic and energetic electronica. Despite that exhaustion, and the fact I am not typically an aficionado of many DJs, this album has left me gagging to see Todd Terje live and I believe his work can be enjoyed by anyone who is sceptical about modern day house and techno. A true musical masterpiece.