Music

Unai: A Love Moderne

The second album from Swedish producer Erik Möller dares you to laugh at its Eurodisco take on romance, then sucker-punches you with genuine emotion.


Unai

A Love Moderne

Label: Force Tracks
US Release Date: 2006-05-16
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Before you even listen to A Love Moderne, you have to either laugh at or marvel at it, or maybe both. The second album from Unai, aka Swedish producer Erik Möller, is an unabashedly soppy affair. From the cover art, a red-on-silver profile line drawing of a couple kissing that recalls those "romance" posters you see at framed art shops in the mall, to un-ironic song titles like "Steps to Heaven Are Steps to Me", this is Möller's attempt to establish himself as Sweden's very own modern Love Unlimited. Wonder how much competition he has on that front?

This stuff might have flown in the US two decades ago (remember that band called When in Rome?), but these days only a Scandinavian could get away with it -- almost. But if you can get past the concept, what does it sound like, anyhow?

Well, A Love Moderne is neither nearly as bad nor as laughable as you might think. Möller trolls around in an appropriately sleek, stylish, and mechanized type of electro-dance that is a bit too minimal to qualify as straight pop and at times too overtly melodic to be labeled as electronica. So, Möller is doing his own thing -- which in itself makes the album difficult to dismiss out of hand. There are strong hints of Kraftwerk and more subtle hints of Depeche Mode and Scandinavian neighbors Röyksopp. Everything is synthesizer-produced, and most of the synthesizers sound analog. Probably by design, Möller uses more or less the same set of sounds and textures on each song. This can be a problem with synthesizer music, and it may be here, because if you don't like the particular sounds that Möller has chosen, you're out of luck. On the other hand, A Love Moderne does function as a song suite. At times it recalls similarly one-note albums by early Euro-technophiles like D.A.F., although the latter made little attempt to smother their horniness in romance.

If you can make it through the first couple tracks --chilly, eccentric Euro-disco with little to hold them together save Möller's soft, reverb-drenched voice-- you'll be rewarded with a handful of songs that you'll have to eventually concede are really good. "I Like Your Style" has the same icy Euro pulse, but adds a melancholy melodic framework. Here, Möller's soulful crooning puts him across as a Swedish Curtis Mayfield -- another analogy you thought you'd never hear. "Lucky Bastard" twists and turns its way out of machine-generated gibberish to establish a surprisingly mean, Prince-like electro-funk groove. "Youngkiss" begins sounding like somebody set off a Linndrum in the middle of a lightsaber fight, but adds tension, atmosphere, and more synths to establish real emotion. "Blissful Burden" brings it all together -- whip-smart programming; a lost, yearning chorus; old-school lead synth -- for a genuinely affecting, not to mention highly-danceable, moment. You imagine that if Bryan Ferry still had an inkling of a finger on the cutting edge of music, this is the kind of stuff he'd be making.

Then, just as soon as it swoops in to quell your laughter, A Love Moderne falls back into nondescript techno and half-baked Giorgio Moroder impressions. But give credit to Möller for going after such a corny concept without the slightest hint of camp, which might have made his album more fun but also as disposable as a pack of Trojans. That he succeeds at least part of the time is a more-than-nice surprise.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.