Album Review: Todd Terje - It’s Album Time

It’s truly mind-boggling that It’s Album Time is the first record we’ve seen from Todd Terje. If you’re fond of disco, house, and easy grooving summer dance tracks, you’ve probably been putting Terje on your afternoon mixes for years in one way or another. The man has more phenomenal remixes than you can count. And his production credits seem to trail on into the horizon forever, most recently including collaboration with Franz Ferdinand and Lindstrom. But if there ever was a way for Todd Terje to make an impactful and memorable statement on his own behalf, It’s Album Time is just that. The record is an hour of pitch-perfect electronic mastery, spanning the wide horizon of Terje’s many loves and influences. From the latin freakout of “Svenk Sås” to the Bryan Ferry feature “Johnny and Mary” finds itself amongst the crooning veteran’s best work, It’s Album Time is a rainbow of Scandinavian dance magic. Todd Terje gives long time underground followers as well as brand new fans a breath of fresh air on the electronic landscape that will be spinning on record players across the globe for months to come.

One thing that makes Terje’s work so lovable is that the man tells stories in his work. Remixing classics from the 70s and 80s as well as newer artists, Terje always finds a way under the skin of his main character and give the listener a deeper understanding of the sensual, pulsating heartbeat therein. Sure, all but one of the tracks on It’s Album Time is totally wordless, but that doesn’t mean that each track interweaving with the next doesn’t spell out a narrative. The opening two tracks give us a day and night in the life of Preben, a lounge lizard that finds his way through the evening with or without a care. “Leisure Suit Preben” is a lazy, wandering 6/8 at a walking speed, whereas “Preben Goes To Acapulco” sees the same man on a cold evening looking for a companion. Later, between the shimmering disco banger “Strandbar” and the 80s gloss of “Delorean Dynamite”, the listen takes a time traveling trip through the night like Marty McFly looking for a club. “Alfonso Muskedunder”, the album’s shortest cut, gives us a snapshot at a cassa nova type with high class and a complicated introduction. Next, “Swing Star” parts 1 and 2 travel space with a hurried sense of anxiety, then click into gear for a scorching house track that moves at lightspeed. Finally, the record ends with Terje’s most commercially successful solo track to date, “Inspector Norse”, whose accompanying video sees a Fargo-esque detective wander about the mysteries of his own life with about as much understanding as a piece-meal crime scene. Everywhere on It’s Album Time, there are characters, and that’s what makes Todd Terje one of the most attainable and relatable electronic artists on the scene. You may have your opinions about electronic or house or whatever, but everyone loves a good protagonist, and Terje has a pocketful.

Of course, when Terje does us the divine favor of accompanying his musical narrative with the heartbreaking whisperings of Bryan Ferry, the tears start flowing. “Johnny and Mary” fades in after “Delorean Dynamite” has a full minute of ambient wandering to cool down and allow for another massive emotional buildup. The track starts an easy pop ballad and fleshes out into a shimmering new wave masterpiece. The rendition here is a far cry from the upbeat drive of the Robert Palmer original, but the emotional captivity is communicated equally. The couple suddenly find themselves torn out of the naivety of youth, trying to find their way running aimlessly in the cold, dark world that surrounds them, with only the hope of a dimly burning love holding them together. The love might last, but only if they give it their all. The musings are classic Bryan Ferry, even covering one of his contemporaries, and Todd Terje makes the story come to life with a brilliant artistic direction.

But Terje steals his own spotlight back time and time again on It’s Album Time. “Inspector Norse” remains one of the best house tracks of the last few years. The spacey groove gives you three and half minutes to get comfortable before Terje pulls the rug out for a psychedelic house breakdown that could melt speakers if played loud enough. But, to close out, Terje puts a jacket back on and cools off just enough to keep you hooked for another 27 listens. After all, this is only LP #1, and there’s plenty of Terje to hear in the years to come. But for now, I’ll be listening to It’s Album Time on repeat. It’s just too smooth to pass up.

It’s Album Time is out this week on Olsen Records. Terje has no North American dates posted at this time.

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