The Norwegian electronic producer's first solo album in a half decade finds him replacing "space disco" with cool, '80s-influenced arrangements.
Like a lot of pioneering artists, Hans-Peter Lindstrøm eventually reached the point where he struggled to move beyond his signature creation. For Lindstrøm, that was the far-out, retro-leaning “space disco" sound and his landmark 2005 single “I Feel Space".
Over the subsequent decade, he has expanded and refined that sound, as on his debut full-length Where You Go I Go Too (2008). But he has also branched out and, to some extent, tried to move on, recording the more sultry, song-based Real Life Is No Cool (2009) with vocalist Christabelle, the off-the-wall Six Cups of Rebel (2012), and the lush, ambient Ruddans (2015) with veteran Todd Rundgren and fellow Norwegian Emil Nikolaisen. Lindstrom has never completely abandoned the pure electronic dance music he made his name with, though, as evidenced by Smalhans (2012), his last solo album.
It's Alright Between Us As It Is is very much a follow-up to Smalhans. It continues Smalhans' more streamlined electronic approach. It also adds a greater degree of eclecticism within that context and moves closer to pop than Lindstrøm ever has before. Although its nine tracks run continuously (each side of the vinyl is a single, multi-part track), it comes across as a bit disjointed, a bit uneven and, like Smalhans, a bit cold. But that is not to say It's Alright Between Us As It Is isn't enjoyable or well-made, because it is both.
“Spire" certainly has a retro feel. Like a fair amount of It's Alright Between Us As It Is, though, it recalls the '80s more than the '70s. It announces itself with a punchy Linn Drum rhythm straight out of the Human League's “Don't You Want Me" before an ascending series of synth sweeps begins to saturate it. Add some handclaps and chirpy arpeggio and the result is made for parachute pants dancing. Likewise, the more reflective “Sorry", with wistful vocals from Swedish singer Frida Sundemo, is anchored by a vintage drum machine and the electro-pulse that marked the era when producers and synth duos started to adapt Giorgio Moroder's motoric disco to their pop arrangements.
“Tensions" and “Shinin" employ the no-nonsense beats and staccato synths of classic Detroit techno. The latter, with yearning vocals from Grace Hall, is a highlight. The other vocal track, “Bulgl (Like a Ghost)", featuring poet Jenny Hval, is a bit of a minimalist mess that attempts to creep the listener out with some random piano tinkling. When Lindstrøm goes for more atmosphere, the results are mixed. The aptly-named “Drift" has some nice synth sweeps but fails to leave a lasting impression, and “Under Trees" attempts to mix some jazzy keyboards with hovering, airy tones straight out of the Destiny video game.
It's Alright Between Us As It Is shows that Lindstrøm has moved beyond “Space Disco" once and for all; nothing on the album qualifies as funky. Instead, there is a sense of the producer exploring and combining his various influences and whims while leaving the door open for some radio play in the current EDM-friendly environment. The album favors polished professionalism and sharp arrangements over risk-taking, so while there aren't any duds, there aren't any of the special moments that got Lindstrøm to this point in the first place.