No matter how you feel about Lindstørm’s first LP of 2012, Six Cups of Rebel, it’s hard to deny the Norwegian producer didn’t lack for guts. There’s a case to be made the cosmic disco titan went straight off the rails into the drink as the record descended from yelping disco heaters into meandering and vacuous prog exercices, but it can’t be said Lindstrøm half-assed it as the thing went down in primary-colored flames. Ultimately, Six Cups of Rebel was a victim of production and songwriting excess and conceptual overreaching. The addition of his own vocals wasn’t at all ill-advised (personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing them return in some form), it was the lack of filter and restraint on everything around them.
It’s hard to tell if Smalhans is a direct reaction to the criticisms of Six Cups of Rebel (I kind of doubt it), but Lindstrøm has released the perfect follow up: six spartan, back-to-basics, five to seven minute space disco burners full of thickly tangled arpeggios, unwieldy new age signifiers, and a tightly wound, maximum impact sense of song structure. Lindstrøm has essentially whittled his sound to its barest components and neatly hit the reset button. While it doesn’t cross into uncharted territories like Where You Go I Go Too or ride the pop euphoria of Real Life Is No Cool, the tracks on Smalhans are a reminder of what the core of Lindstrøm’s sound is capable of.
Each of the songs here follow a distinctly similar outline, opening with a web of jagged, consonant arpeggios before latching onto a slippery groove and gaining altitude. Lindstrøm slowly builds and deconstructs around disco-hatted 4/4s, changing direction, touching on minute peaks and valleys, and blasting each of the tracks with a vibrant web of ever-morphing synths and percussion like an overgrown jungle being expertly navigated.
Lindstrøm’s goal here is to provide six club workouts, and at that he more than succeeds. There’s a consistant infectious and playful electro funk-esque energy to the whole record and the Norwegian is often willing to go big in scale–the heavenly tread of “Faar-I-Kaal” probably even qualifies as widescreen. But there’s a distinct lack of variety on Smalhans. It’s mostly forgivable–almost commendable as single-mindedness–considering the context the album finds itself in, but the record can’t help but feel a little slight for a producer who still only has a couple under his belt. Even next to Six Cups of Rebel it lacks a weight that we’ve come to expect from a Lindstrøm LP.
At first glance, Smalhans feels exceedingly necessary as reconciliation for Six Cups of Rebel, but it’s quite a reliable document on its own. It’s not hard to imagine all six of these tracks working their way into a Lindstrøm set when the proceedings call for some high energy tumult, but as a 33-minute release they set a consistent pace and tone that’s easy to get lost in. Lindstrøm is a master at what he does and Smalhans is a rousing, straight-faced reminder of that.