diskJokke diskJokkeEn Fin Tid
When Joachim Dyrdahl put out his first album, “Staying In” (Smalltown Supersound, 2007), nothing especially outstanding happened. The world didn’t stop turning. Nobody stuck their head out the window to shout about the good news. Some magazines published positive reviews, some DJ’s played his songs and became faithful devotees to his sound, several hundred fans from all over the world took up the message and supported it from afar, but it was not at all like what happened to his fellow countryman Hans-Peter Lindstrøm when his odyssey album, “Where You Go I Go Too”, came out a year later. There were no medals around his neck, nobody pointed him out as a star of the cosmic revival of disco music, because that was Lindstrøm’s destiny; Lindstrøm was already the main head of what was then already called the “Oslo disco mafia”, the same clan to which Todd Terje and Prins Thomas belong. So Dyrdahl had no extensive tours, no lucrative job offers, nor was he mentioned on lots of websites. But with that LP he did awaken enough interest to allow him to quit his job, dedicate all of his time to music, add remixes to his CV (the best ones are on “Dislocated Remixes 2007-2008” where he provides synthetic lifts for Bloc Party, Lykke Li and Foals, on another album that didn’t cause any outstanding uproar), and take his time recording his second album. And here it is, having arrived almost without warning.
I like it when splendid albums show up unexpectedly. Listening tends to be uninhibited, even without expectation, and the enjoyment tends to be more satisfactory. In its day, I listened to “Staying In” all the way through a couple of times, and I got the feeling that diskJokke was a name to follow closely, although there were circumstances that could keep him out of the limelight forever. The space disco fashion wasn’t going to last forever, and although he had a touch that was a bit more IDM (I would even say pop), the fact that he was Norwegian pigeonholed him. There were other conditions that could decrease his importance: having not been a pioneer on his local scene, not being as close to the leader’s entourage as others, not having an image, not having put out the right album in the right place. These things are coincidental: the day that they were handing out the roles in this sci-fi sound film, he got the supporting role. But supporting cast members sometimes win Oscars, and “En Fin Tid”, which translates as something like “a moment of happiness”, is a better album than the first one, and a better album than that of his countryman Prins Thomas; it has the advantage over Terje, who doesn’t even have an album out, and he weighs in with Lindstrøm at two LPs each. But the success of “En Fin Tid” especially rests balance, as well as doing justice to the title: diskJokke’s pop focus is still there, but he has reduced the structural complexity and percentage of harsh textures. From the beginning to the end, he takes us on a trip through the galaxy without losing his smile or the desire to have fun. It isn’t a solemn album—which “Where You Go I Go Too” was, in a sense– but rather it is a carefree parade of pieces that bring together the stereotypes and valuable arguments of the disco revival: percussion with lots of congas ( “Big Flash” drums as it seeks inspiration in old Hi-NRG) and constant references (voluntary or involuntary, that’s what matters least) to the names from the past who helped to usher in the era of synthetic music.
For example, in “Reset And Begin” I seem to hear an homage to Kraftwerk (songs like “Europe Endless”, which was never part of the German quartet’s most popular repertoire) in how the melody marks the pace firmly and elastically, which at the same time adds that romantic touch to help make listening to this music simple and natural. There is not only more elasticity, but also firm conducting, thanks to rhythmic patterns that don’t beat around the bush: they can be more or less slow –the beat in “The Bund” is lazy, heavy like an elephant’s footstep– but they always head towards the depths, the distance. So ten-minute cuts come to diskJokke with an incredible naturalness. A lover of all things retro, his palette of registers goes beyond cosmic disco or paying tribute to all of the old music made with synthesisers, picking at details of acid house in “Nattestid” and in the brief “En Fin Tid”. But it is surprising how little intransigent purism he transmits in the album overall. diskJokke covers the whole spectrum from Moroder to Walter Gibbons, and from there to Gino Soccio, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Patrick Cowley and D-Train. There are times when the production sounds more organic—percussion with drums and congas, synthesiser pads where the gracefulness of the melody obligates you to forget about the retro texture – and others where it is ragingly synthetic (and not always retro: doesn’t “Big Flash” sound like Underworld in 1993?). But “En Fin Tid” is unprejudiced, happy entertainment. Joachim Dyrdahl says that he started to think about this album when his son was born, and perhaps there’s no need to say anything more. An album that arrives unexpectedly, which has come from his soul, and which always catches you. And he will still not be “in,” but his music will survive. Richard Ellmann