How best to describe the self-titled debut album from L/O/O/N in terms of genre... R’n’Bass? Future beats? Aquacrunk? Certainly, this is an instance where an arbitrary name only serves to detract from the multi-layered and unfailingly engaging music that Mikael Kanstad has created. It’s electronic - that much is certain, and there are obvious hip-hop, garage and trap influences.
At times you’d be forgiven for mistaking this for the work of a Glaswegian producer signed to LuckyMe, or an Australian on Future Classic, rather than a Norwegian on the recently launched Balsa Wood label (based in Bergen). And that is meant entirely complimentarily; the influence of Rustie, Flume, and co. is unmissable, but it makes for brilliantly maximalist and hyper-glossy production that displays talents seemingly beyond those of a 21-year-old on his debut LP.
From the garage sounds of the sparse and understated ‘Shift’, the bass heavy ‘Toy Clouds’, and the stormy ‘Superlative’, to the harder-hitting, build-and-drop production on ‘Heat’, ‘Dropping Faces’ and ‘Shtili’, L/O/O/N skilfully navigates between subtlety and grandiosity. Importantly though, despite the variation, he manages to maintain a consistent feel and sound to the album; an impressive feat given his relative inexperience as a producer. Only the EDM-esque ‘Aye Aye’ upsets the overall aesthetic, and it is this track that brings the only real weak point of the album. It tries to do a little too much, and comes across more akin to ‘brostep’ than to the carefully crafted maximalism of his other songs.
At just over half an hour and nine tracks in length, the whole thing certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. But, if anything, this reflects the music within. It’s concise, punchy, it leaves you wanting more and, quite possibly, hammering the repeat button. A really strong debut from an exciting young producer.
Words: James Kilpin
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