Dalminjo: Fjord Fusioneer

Tim O'Neil


Fjord Fusioneer

Label: Kriztal
US Release Date: 2004-05-11
UK Release Date: 2003-11-17

Dalminjo is the brainchild of Ole Roar Granli, a Norwegian producer who has previously recorded under the name ORG Lounge. There has been a flood of electronic music from the Scandinavian countries these past few years, and Dalminjo manages to simultaneously meet and defy the expectations created by previous Viking musicians.

If there is one thread running through the oeuvres of groups and artists such as Royksopp, Erlend Oye, Flunk, and Frost, it would be a willfully delicate sense of reserved melody. The wide expanses of the frigid north seem to be everywhere in their music, a space inside the imagination as much as a realm of physical geography. Dalminjo seems aware of these conventions, and eyes them with a studied ambivalence. Certainly, the music is crisp and clear like a Nordic sunrise over the frozen tundra. But there's also an intently studied evocation of orthodox deep house tradition that can't help but crack the glaciers.

The album begins with "Bossa Note", a deep Latin house workout built atop a galloping bongo-abetted rhythm and punctuated with a righteous xylophone solo. "Goodbye", featuring the vocals of Alexandra Hamnede, immediately brings the album into sharp focus. The confluence of modern deep house, traditional Latin rhythms, and Granli's crisp Nordic production creates an intrinsically, intricately interesting sound. If I didn't know better, I'd swear this was a Ubiquity release because of the overwhelming focus on tasteful programming with slight traces of '70s jazz/funk peeping around the corners. If you had put this on the turntable platter sight unseen and told me it was P'Taah or even Louie Vega, I would have had little reason to disbelieve you -- and that is high praise indeed.

"Moon & Sun" is a slightly more moody piece, built atop a two-note muted keyboard sample with various melodic accompaniment built atop in the Latin contrapuntal manner. "Love Affair" steps away from the Latin sound that dominates the album's first three tracks and introduces a more conventional mid-tempo pop format. Hilde Drange provides a vocal performance that is strikingly evocative of Annie Lennox.

"Cruz Persille" reintroduces the Latin elements, but places them at the service of the album's hardest beat yet, a deep and techy 4/4. Despite the driving beat, it's not one of the album's stronger tracks. "All I Want", on the other hand, is one of the album's most interesting tracks, featuring a satisfyingly minimal, techno-infused, broken-beat rhythmic pattern offset against a Herbie Hancock-esque organ sample and an innocuous vocal.

"Departure Lounge" is another strong track, and the album's first authentic downtempo moment. It reminds me of Groove Armada's second album, Vertigo, in a good way -- with a slow, deliberate beat underscoring the gradual reveal of a hauntingly affecting melodic pattern. I'll wager good money that this is going to be on a dozen of those cheap-o downtempo collections before the end of the year. "Rouge" is yet another track totally different from its predecessor -- a jazzy house workout with an ascending upright-bassline in the tradition of St. Germaine (perhaps the title is even a reference to St. Germain's signature track, "Rose Rouge"? I dunno . . .)

"Shine" is an unspectacular mid-tempo deep house track. "So Ooh", on the other hand, is a pleasant surprise -- an undeniably funky, Latin-infused, mid-tempo track built atop the kind of weird filtered synthesizer riff that used to be so prevalent in funk back in the '80s. "And She Said" is the album's fastest track, a refreshingly stripped deep house jam with tech flourishes that almost sounds like something that could have been released on Scotland's Soma label.

The album's final track, "I Need You", another mid-tempo broken beat number with vocals by Ms. Hamnede, is a strong closer to a strong album. Two remixes round out the package, the Terry Lee Brown, Jr. remix of "And She Said" and the Quant remix of "Rouge" (strangely spelled as "Rogue" on the remix credit -- something that I have no idea was intentional or not). The remixes are both escellent, the first being a vigorous and unexpected progressive house rework, and the second being a broken-beat funk redub that reminds me, again, of a great deal of the Ubiquity label's quality output.

Fjord Fusioneer is a good album, but as with many albums in this genre, it suffers from a surplus overwhelming tastefulness. The beats are perfectly processed, the vocals are exquisitely recorded, and everything is packaged in as exquisite a fashion as possible. One or two or three tracks in this vein are wonderful, either isolated or in the context of an expert DJ set, but absorbed en mass in a full-length album, these deep house sounds have a way of becoming extremely repetitive for even the expert listener. Dalminjo is a great producer, and these great tracks deserve to find success on the dancefloor, but Fjord Fusioneer as an album suffers from an unfortunate sameness that is nowhere alleviated by strong songwriting or ambitious sonic precocity. What works for a DJ does not always work so well for the home listener.

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