A work that constantly feels as if it’s building to something more, only to retreat into the familiar.
In the 2000s, Norwegian producer Lindstrøm was one of the foremost talents in the electronic disco revival. Particularly in his collaborations with Prins Thomas, Lindstrøm crafted massive, loose jams steeped in outré sounds and delays that stretched beats into spacey odysseys. Gradually, the producer’s work has edged more toward those elongating, abstract elements, leaving behind the anchors of percussion and rhythm in favor of synthesizer noodling that harks back to the early experiments of the likes of Klaus Schulze.
That increasing fetish for analog nostalgia peaks with On a Clear Day I Can See You Forever, an album of four tracks running 9-10 minutes each. Indebted to Kosmische, the album’s only remote connection to disco is in their shared focus on repetition. Ironically, Lindstrøm’s earlier, more dance-oriented releases proved more hypnotic, riding beats into distended and transportive terrain. On the opening title track, though, whirring synths blurt and hum as if warming up, but it never warms to anything. For 10 minutes, the track buzzes through the same halting patterns, briefly sparking with arpeggiated synths that then collapse into ominous negative space. Its spikes of volume and simple composition prevent the track from being entirely nondescript ambient, but even ambient music has exhibited considerable ambition in recent years, making the album’s first impression a largely directionless one.
Things improve immensely with “Really Deep Snow,” which adds a nervy click track and a burbling synth pattern ready made for a film score. Plinking piano notes occasionally twinkle in the background like wind chimes, and about halfway through Lindstrøm begins to play synth chords with a childish, heavy hand, turning tone clusters into bleary smashes of noise. This only exacerbates the tension of the fundamental pattern, which maintains its looping movement even as new ancillary sounds complicate the percolating paranoia of the main line. Swapping listless ambient for driven purpose, the track shows off the best of what the producer can achieve.
“Swing Low Sweet LFO” falls back on stereotypically cosmic sounds of shimmering, brittle runs of trebly synthesizers offset by warms pulses of submerged bass. Once again, the oddly childlike nature of Lindstrøm’s flourishes reveals its head in arrhythmic notes that ring out against pockets of dead space. As directionless as the title track, the composition nonetheless has more to recommend it, at times dipping into the complex primitivism of early video game music with its bright synths, replicating the spacing of MIDI programming with analog instruments. Once again, though, the lack of follow-through harms the track, its cycles lacking a compelling enough hook to induce feelings of variation or emotional catharsis.
Closer “As If No One Is Here” ends the album on a higher note, once again introducing an added degree of tension in its slinking percussion and darting bass fills. Reflecting post-Blade Runner anxious ambient, the track sounds both ancient and futuristic, using hollow, wooden-sounding percussion to convey notions of tribal music as machines groan and churn overhead. The buzzing sounds are made yet more unnerving by the intrusion of string glissandi that pick up the drone until the tracks falls out into damp chords that bleed out the track’s suspense into one last turn toward the cosmos. This gradual decrescendo lasts for the final three minutes as the track drifts further and further beyond the solar system and the sun’s gravity, ending On a Clear Day I Can See You Forever on the same irresolute note in which it began. That summarizes the album nicely, a work that constantly feels as if it’s building to something more, only to retreat into the familiar.