Todd Terje - It’s Album Time

The definitive elevator music for the year.

Additional Info

8.8

ALBUM: It’s Album Time

ARTIST: Todd Terje

2014

Electronic

Grab a drink, it's happy hour.

Todd Terje's debut album has been ten years in the making. And rightfully so - it couldn't have come at a better time. As if he prophesied the call of the enigmatic duo, Daft Punk, and their own resurgence last year with Random Access Memories, Terje popped up out of nowhere in 2012 with an EP, It’s the Arps, featuring a stark and vibrant approach to this unique gem of a genre. From nu-disco, to dizzyingly hallucinogenic pop, to, well, whatever Terje has on his mind at the moment, the EP provided a glimpse at those prepared to answer Daft Punk's call to "give life back to music." Although the French duo created an undeniably excellent record, where they were perhaps too self-indulgent or even somewhat deadpan, Terje is all-encompassing and appears to be endlessly open to influences and free-association. Where they felt trapped in their own soundscape, Terje is free to explore. And so "it's album time."

On this record, Terje forgoes any sense of self-importance, any pragmatism, any inkling of cynicism, in an attempt to wholly embrace whimsy. From the silly, yet immediately engaging, "Intro," complete with "it's album time" chants and an explosion, of all things, to end the track, the cartoonish roots of the record are obvious. “Leisure Suit Preben" follows the fictional protagonist of this album in a an equally merry way, almost bouncing along in a gallop alongside the man's drunken stride as he heads for a night out in the town. There's a keen sense of pace in the songwriting, strings fluttering in and out of focus, aesthetic shifts mid-track, but it's all grounded in a higher understanding of what it means to let loose. Even as "Preben Goes to Acapulco," the night airy with keys scattering across the soundtrack and the rhythmic bass subtly carrying his swagger, and then finds himself in the happy hour twilight of "Strandbar," Terje manages to carve a cohesive course for the disconcerted man.

But however resourceful Terje is in channeling his sense of joy, in order for him to reach the unfiltered adoration of "Oh Joy" or "Inspector Norse," he realizes the importance of a centerpiece to provide perspective. And so with help from Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry, he manages to recreate Robert Palmer's "Johnny and Mary," with more brooding nostalgia than the rest of the album combined. It's a fantastic move in terms of sequencing, and only helps Terje help us, "Preben," "Johnny," and whoever else is paying attention, understand that happiness is in the uninhibited.

In every frantic build-up, or beautifully mellow lull, Terje continues to emphasize his new vision. It's Album Time plays like an afternoon of whimsy leading into a night of mischief, running into a bit of existential woe, and then embracing it all - without a hint of cynicism. There is only Terje feeling right at home and in his groove; even in the most '70s influenced jams ("Delorean Dynamite"), or the bizarre swing of "Svensk Sas," or the Pink Panther noir-turned-franctic prog- rock aesthetic of "Alfonso Muskendunder.”

The self-aware album cover, album title, and song titles are all hard to ignore, and Terje doesn't want you too. He wants you to embrace the aesthetic and "elevate your body" to this elevator music (his words, not mine). I mean, even that pun should help us better understand where he's coming from - nonsensical humor, unbridled whimsy, a love for life. So settle in with your cocktail, everything's groovy here in Terje's lounge, and "lose yourself to dance," for real this time. And with scattered applause closing out “Inspector Norse,” here’s to hoping it doesn’t take another decade for an encore.

“It’s album time”

1. Intro (It’s Album Time)
A deliberate “intro” track that begins with a eery twinkle and soon morphs into an immediate, and groovy, counterpoint to last year’s Random Access Memories. Daft Punk’s self-seriousness, although justified and essential in theory, was hit or miss for much of their sophomore effort. Contrastingly, Terje forgoes any sense of burden and beings this record in a satisfyingly lackadaisical manner, whispering “it’s album time,” and ending the song with an explosion. 8.0
2. Leisure Suit Preben
As "singer, dancer and party animal," Preben, begins his shenanigans, Terje uses this track as a whimsically stroll down the street - preparing for the night. The “sort of official” music video suggests as much, with Preben already sufficiently intoxicated before his date, galavanting and painting the town a dizzyingly hallucinogenic array of colors his forte. The track is a perfect score for whimsy, with it’s steady pace and circulating noises swiping through the air. The melody after the initial build up is even more carefree in it’s direction, slowing and picking up as most nights out in our “leisure suit(s)” often do.9.0
3. Preben Goes to Acapulco
Now that the night’s mischievous misdoings are underway, this track wastes no time in build up and continues the eery yet wholly comforting atmosphere instilled by the first two songs. The keys twinkling in increasing succession, only to disappear for a brief lull, something that might’ve caught our guide’s eye, before returning to it’s uninhibited folly. The familiar melody bursts into a sporadic barrage of twinges before several tiny beat drops, sounding like miniature explosions, allow the track to skillfully segue into another movement, with riffs laying just under the surface, reverberating throughout the background and carrying us into the next song.9.0
4. Svensk Sas
A muttered chant turns whimsical in a matter of seconds as Terje flexes his technical prowess in this shorter, interlude-type segue into the "Strandbar." The martini-tipsy joy and tropical fever carries the track through a jazzy dance, slowly building on the original melody with a series of dizzying instruments. The vibe of the mellow tango is offset by the rhythmic scratches and Terje's other quirks as a DJ - and host of this happy-hour.8.5
5. Strandbar
One of the tracks pulled from his 2012 EP, It’s the Arps, "Strandbar" dives into that happy-hour headed by the previous track. A slew of squeaky lasers zap throughout as a more prevalent melody is weaved by the deep bass. A futuristic take on familiar disco that comes together beautifully on this album, sequenced around the record's climax.8.5
6. Delorean Dynamite
My fellow fans Bollywood will know what I'm talking about when I say that this track reminiscent of one of the item numbers in Shahruhk Khan's "Don" ("Aaj Ki Raat"), if only for the vintage retro-disco vibe. This track struts the ‘70s dance influence with brazen bravado, as more subtle strings swoop and echo throughout the song as it builds over its six minute runtime. The pop-synth influence at the core is never forgotten, but rather infused with a nostalgic twinge. You can almost see the neon lights when the funky guitar kicks in half-way through.9.0
7. Johnny and Mary
The album's sole feature comes from Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music, and the duo's rendition of Robert Palmer's "Johnny and Mary" is a measured ode to "runnin' around." There's a sense of restrained hopefulness in the lethargic and airy cadence, skillfully avoiding any cliched pitfalls Terje instills a subdued, yet triumphant, backdrop that gleefully carries the brooding track for it's extended run time. It’s a reminder of where life can bring you down to, while the rest of the album is the pick-me-up.8.5
8. Alfonso Muskdunder
Perfect for the next "Pink Panther" reboot, Terje conjures an endless array of instruments in this high-tempo samba - melding an all-too-familiar melody with swift and nimble precision. The warble of the synths and the claps of the enthusiastic snares join in unfiltered ceremony under the playfully aggressive melody, never a momentary lapse of tempo. The track climaxes in an almost frenzied, prog-rock influenced, breakdown, rhythmically pounding drum rolls, electronic guitar solos and all.9.5
9. Swing Star (Part 1)
Beautifully engaging, "Part 1" of this two-part set, pulled from the same EP as "Strandbar," simultaneously continues the pace of the "Alfonso Muskdunder" and acts a reprise of sorts. It's much more muted in it's chaos, literally allowing the keys to "swing" in cyclic harmony. It repeats this simplified yet captivating mantra, adding a bit of emphasis in the form of various instruments when necessary, until it reaches the calming conclusion - and "Part 2" bounces in from stage left.8.5
10. Swing Star (Part 2)
Counting the mellowed approach of it's counterpart, "Part 2" is every bit as giddy in its rhythm as Terje showcases his intuitive ability to construct seemingly free flowing songs into deliberate and impacting packages. The instruments not only compliment each other, but also the negative space he allows to accumulate when bringing the song to a steady lull. The concise notes dangle in the air, flutter with the wind, and alter freely with Terje's mood.8.5
11. Oh Joy
The penultimate track refuses to let go of the almost juvenile joy of Terje, but continues to mold it in an increasingly mature fashion. Paced out in a meticulous manner, so as not to overwhelm or subvert the listener, but still brimming with confidence and swagger. It's an anthem for joy (I tried really heard not use "ode"), and a celebration of, well, celebration. It's Terje looking back at his peaks and valleys with equal amounts of nostalgia, and choosing to make a landscape out of the scenery - rather than isolate the idiosyncrasies.9.0
12. Inspector Norse
If "Oh Joy," and the previous nine tracks (in spite the brooding of "Johnny and Mary"), were the relentless come-up, incessantly teasing euphoria and triumph , then "Inspector Norse" serves as the inevitable come-down. Except in Terje's vision, there's no such thing. The night is no longer young. Smoky and liquored up, Preben stumbles through the urban surroundings - simultaneously at peace and nostalgic. Nodding in and out of the vibes, daring to close his eyes and wish away the world. But none of that's necessary, seeing as how Terje has the secret for our burdened protagonist: joy. Pure, unadulterated giddiness, whether in the form of a stifled giggle or a uproarious laugh, muted or maxed-out, never needs to be more than a few happy jams away. And there's nothing left to do besides applaud Terje for trying to show us the light.9.5
Narsimha Chintaluri is a creative writer currently satiating his need to write by venting about music, tv and film on any given platform.



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