SWEDEN: Meditation - Atelje
The smooth Swede goes back to his roots and reflects on his career in this somewhat transcendental album
Atelje is the pseudonym of Swedish musician and producer Dan Lissvik, who was once part of the successful electronic music duo, Studio. Lissvik was a key proponent of the ‘Balearic’ revival style of acid house, a genre of club music that harkened back to the 1980s club scene in, well, Spain’s Balearic Islands, where the music, for a while, had taken a calmer, more palatable, and also more eclectic turn. Rock and pop standards, as well as popular tunes of the 1980s were worked into club music. Studio were at the forefront of this wave in Scandinavia in the mid to late 2000s, though by the time Studio had split up in 2012, Lissvik was working on many other projects as a producer which did not necessarily have this sound. However, in 2014, Lissvik returned to the sounds that initially made his name. By using the name Atelje, which is Swedish for studio, he is referring back to his former band, and the first song even pays tribute to that band, as it is named Ode to Studio. Thus, Meditation can be seen as Lissvik paying homage to the genres he started out making music in. But more than that, perhaps, is the fact that Meditation is exactly what it says it is, a meditation on his career and how he got to where he is now.
“Having started with this style of music, he chose after the dissolution of his band to return to it, but rather than bathe in the same waters twice, he once again adds his own flair to it.”
The chilled-out vibes of this piece are, for me, its selling point, though I also rather like the adventurousness of the piece too. While it is laid back, clearly pointing to the Balearic style, it is also not afraid to innovate and bring in genres that might not typically be associated with acid house and club music. In fact, a song like the opening track, Ode to Studio, has an almost post rock tinge to it, and I can imagine it not being too out of place on an album by Sigur Rós or Under Byen. The following track, Bones takes us in a more R&B direction, while Unexpected Token is funkier, more upbeat. It still has instrumental electronica as a basis, but Lissvik plays with genres on each track. Escalator takes a pop rock guitar riff and builds on it, creating tension akin to many DJs building up tension to lead to a drop, but here, Lissvik keeps it at an altogether slower pace, building up with the repetition of the riff, bass, and synth, overlain with a guitar solo at the end. Much like in rock music, the guitar solo acts as the tension release, rather than a bass drop, once again showing how Lissvik likes to mix and match music genre conventions.
When looked at as a whole, it is a very accomplished piece as one would expect from a musician and producer as seasoned as Lissvik, but more than that, it’s a statement by Lissvik about his music, his career, where he began and where he aims to go. Having started with this style of music, he chose after the dissolution of his band to return to it, but rather than bathe in the same waters twice, he once again adds his own flair to it. Like he states himself through the pseudonym he chose and the title of the first track, it is Lissvik paying tribute to a time of his creative life that served him well and that he clearly has much affection for. That’s not to say it’s flawless. I think it is a somewhat mild album, with little in the way of memorable songs or transcendently beautiful pieces. It is good, verging on the great, but not consistently great. Lissvik is clearly on comfortable home turf and that shows. Though it is inventive, he perhaps is not pushing himself as far as he could go, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For what it is, the album is a success on its own terms, and a lovely celebration of the Balearic subgenre.