Hearing Lukas Nystrand Von Unge for the first time, on his début for Axel Boman’s peerlessly smart and genre-morphic label Studio Barnhus, was a real eye opener. There is, I think, something inherently conservative in contemporary music that tends to isolate ideas, trapping them within a particular and artificially constructed framework where it is easier to make a single concept shine. Much of this is down to human nature, and the way that we tend to try to pigeonhole everything. It’s all around us: the bigger online stores and web-magazines are largely predicated upon this reflex response; categorisation is supposed to make it less difficult for us to find the sort of thing that appeals to us, and to put those things in a place where they can be surrounded by other objects of a similar quality.
Of course, it is the music that makes this possible in most cases, and even within the underground it is rare to find artists who genuinely kick against the totality of a sound, to buck against the prevailing trends. House and techno obviously have long traditions of producers who move between genres, releasing garage records one week, acid the next and maybe a jungle on the week after. But this isn’t really what I am trying to get at here. Within those genres the producers are still, mostly, working to the singular beat of particular drum and often doing so with a different name each time.
What is far rarer are those artists who bring together a mass of vastly disparate influences together under one roof and attempt to do something different. It sometimes lead to a mess, a sound that lacks definition and meaning, like an attempt to do something different for the hell of it. But when it comes together, in the oeuvre of somebody like Matthew Herbert for example, or Luke Vibert, it can be an enthralling lesson in how sound really works.
Lukas Nystrand Von Unge’s EP for Studio Barnhus was very much in this grand but seldom seen tradition. It bordered on the uncategorized, and seemed to draw on just as many traditional elements as it did electronic. Largely, it was house music but across the six tracks it pulsed from neo-disco to big room bangers to pieces that seemed purely created from a crystalline shard of dream, no thicker than a breath and just as transient. Each were unified, though, not by the traditions of house music, but something far older. The whole record was informed by an organic understanding of how differing emotions and sounds could hang together in ways that did not at first listen seem to make sense. Because of that the EP is defined by unique grooves and textures that unify the finished article in a way simple syncopation never could.
Formodligen was, and remains, my favourite track from last year. I think it is down to the way that vocal sample never quite seems to fit with the drums, nor the drums quite fit with the synths, and the way that the synths loop back on themselves half a beat before your brain tells you they should. In some ways it sounds like it is harking back to a golden age of classic yet experimental pop that never actually existed, and pop that had been informed by generations of folk music at that. The final kiss of brilliance is the ferric grub of tape that the tune feels like it has been washed in, giving the feel that the whole thing has been found on an ancient C-90 cassette in someone’s attic and brought to light. This is true outsider house. They don’t make them like this very often anymore. But then, They never ever did. Frayed, alien and so detached from our reality it’s forging a new one.