A hometown lowdown from its musical residents

Norway: land of fjords, incredibly expensive booze, the black metal scene, stunningly beautiful scenery and some essential musical talent - some of it unearthed, some waiting to be plucked from the rugged coastal backdrops. Aptly enough then, Norway’s immensely charming capital city, Oslo, is also home to one of the unearthed talents, multiinstrumentalist and downtempo disco prince, Hans-Peter Lindstrøm, whose easy-going, gloriously laid-back sounds perfectly capture the mellow, warm atmosphere of the city and its people.

As solid proof of this, ‘II’, the latest album from Lindstrøm and longtime collaborator Prins Thomas, is a fine, example of effortless, Norwegian cool - oozing Oslo nonchalance and proper, indisputable grooves from every expertly crafted track.

Musically, Lindstrøm and Thomas come across as kindred spirits, both sharing a knack for creating spacey disco in their solo work and the organic, proggy jazz-funk of their collaborative material. Having already showcased the latter on one album - to much acclaim - the (logically named) follow-up ‘II’ was a given. Lindstrøm explained the direction of the duo’s second record: “This album is more focused. Before we started working on it, we already decided not to make use of drum-programming and quantized synths. Everything is played live. This makes it sound more like a band, not like two laptop producers!”

Though this absence of programmed beats is a slight departure from both Lindstrøm’s and Thomas’ previous solo work, there are glimpses of the downtempo disco and electronic funk that both parties put together so well, except that on ‘II’ it’s just done with - ahem - ‘proper’ instruments instead. Lindstrøm elaborates: “It was important that we were playing with real instruments and recording with human error. None of us are much good at playing, but we’re good at arranging. And we weren’t trying to sound electronic - we wanted an acoustic sound.”

And, luckily enough, they found and nailed this elusive acoustic vibe. Throughout the album, rich waves of bass, warm guitar chords and synth lines mixed with layers of gentle percussion combine to give a very satisfying, human feel. Yet, conversely, Lindstrøm’s unmistakable spacey tones bounce off the instruments to give a weird but strangely comforting organic-cosmic feel to the whole thing. Lovely.

So, how does the man himself see his musical role in amongst all this? “I’m a musician more than anything else - I’m not a DJ, that’s for sure!” A refreshingly modest approach, which totally doesn’t do his electronica credentials justice. It seems fair to assume that this laid-back approach to his music may be related to the easy-going nature of his city of residence - having been there for so many years, the Oslo ethos must surely have rubbed off on him and his work. However, when pressed, Lindstrøm reveals that, in terms of the city being a source of inspiration for himself or Prins Thomas… well, it’s just not: “I’m not really influenced by Oslo. It doesn’t matter where we are when we’re making music, as I don’t really believe in geographical boundaries affecting these things.”

Fair enough (although as an album, ‘II’ simply couldn’t have been made anywhere else. Ridiculous as it may seem, it has, somehow a very Norwegian sound), but don’t for a minute assume that the man has no love for his home city - far from it in fact. As he puts it: “It’s perfect here! It’s my favourite city. I’ve got my studio here, all my friends within reach and a nice little house where we live.” Now, not to get too utilitarian about things, but if more people lived like this, I’m sure the world would be a better place.

The general atmosphere of the city is, as Lindstrøm succinctly puts it: “Relaxed and friendly. Summertime is the best season.” He then goes on to mention that there’s not really much of a club scene in Oslo, and that he doesn’t venture out to such nightspots, instead preferring to stay in and make or listen to music at home.

By now, it’s becoming clear. There’s no denying it - Oslo is in no way a bustling hive of hedonistic activity. However, this certainly has its advantages for the creative mind, both inspirationally and practically, as Lindstrøm explains: “I guess there’s not always that much happening here, so we make music. If you live in London, there’s a lot happening, or if you live in New York, there will be more offers for working with other people. In Oslo, people just go into the studio and lock the door - there aren’t always phone calls from other people in town, so there are no distractions.”

Indeed. Whilst sessioning it 24/7 and snorting powdered fun off various parts off a constant string of groupies may be a right laugh, it’s not actually the most conducive environment in which to write and produce music. Oslo, however, provides the perfect musical antidote to such superficiality. Want proof? Listen to ‘II ’ - it’s a natural, honest and real album, which mirrors the wonderful city in which it was created.

Words by Tristan Parker

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The Great Outdoors
Norway is not a place for sitting around and monging out. Obviously that does go on (stoners can, of course, be found on every corner of the globe), but in order to make the most of it, you need to get out and about and explore this ridiculously beautiful country with sickeningly clean air. Just outside of Oslo are some great spots- if you’re feeling active, check out the hills of Østmarka, which make for great skiing in winter. If you’re feeling lazy, wait until summer and swing by Ulsrudvannet for bathing and general chilaxing. And yes, go see some fjords as well. They’re lovely.

There’s some excellent musical talent emerging from Norway, and the by:Larm festival is definitely the place to catch it. The CMJ or SXSW of Norway, this industry event showcases hundreds of up-and-comers (as well as a few vets, including Lindstrom in 2009) from Norway and other Scandinavian countries. Then there’s Oya Festival, which has a bit of everything (from Bon Iver to Erol Alkan), shedloads of little arty jazz fests and - of course - the Inferno Metal Festival (if you look even remotely emo, I’d stay away from this one unless you’re up for getting lynched and/or sacrificed).

Prins Thomas
Lindstrom’s partner in crime, Thomas also resides in Oslo and shares Lindstrom’s love of downtempo. Again like his musical counterpart, he also runs a couple of record labels from his Scandinavian base - Full Pupp and Internasjonal (Lindstrom runs the Feedelity label). Though his normal passions are more inkeeping with producing and remixing records (for the likes of Simian Mobile Disco and LCD Soundsystem) than writing songs, on the collaboration with Lindstrom, he steps up like a trooper to cover most of the guitars, bass and drums used on the record, also lending his electronic expertise to assist with editing, arranging and post-production. Versatile chap.

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Clash's A to Z of Oslo

Nifty little record shop that does a nice line in rock. Lindstrøm buys more than a few items from here.

Downtempo singer songwriter, producing dreamy, quirky acoustic niceness.

The place to catch contemporary art and exhibitions.

Ace Tortoiseesque ten-piece, blending post-rock and jazzy riffs.

Popular organic bakery,located in Bygdøy. Sells amazing, lush fresh bread.

Experimental post-rocky outfit, mixing wall-of-sound guitars with retro psychedelia.

Bar where you can catch some local talent (bands, that is…).

Oslo itself may not be the prime location to catch the wondrous natural light show, but head as far north up Norway as you can, and all should be good.

The best second-hand record shop in the city. Another location where Lindstrøm spends his hard-earned.

A nice hangout for decent coffee and friendly people, located in Vålerenga.

Yep, the posh cold fish dish of the connoisseur originates from none other than Norway.

This one, however, serves the best darn coffee in Oslo, plain and simple.

Gourmet restaurant serving contemporary takes on traditional Norwegian dishes.

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