It’s funny how things turn out. Commissioned by Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Norway’s premiere art centre, to record a piece in 2017, the subsequent live performances convinced Lindstrøm that something could be salvaged from these sketches to form a new record, now revealed to be On A Clear Day I Can See You Forever. It’s his sixth album, perhaps a further step away from the dance music he’s most known for, alongside contemporaries such as Prins Thomas and Todd Terje, but a personal reconnection with the keyboards and synths he learnt his craft on.
“Initially, I was thinking maybe I could do a live album, but instead I ended up editing and using some of it [for the album]. Usually when I’m travelling, I’m always travelling very lightly with a laptop but, for the arts centre, I was playing lots of synthesisers and stuff like that.”
He credits this increased use of hardware and a new-found freedom in “just playing” as rejuvenating. “More and more, I was doing the programming side of the music anyway. I’ve really been trying to get away from sitting in front of the laptop. I think it’s possible to express your inner musical visions using a lot of hardware, because it sounds different when you’re mixing everything together. I think it’s important for me to use the technology and not be limited by it, and express what I want to say with my music. I find that much easier with big synthesisers, old stuff, than with a laptop.”
Lindstrøm’s approach, he freely admits, had become sterile. As he talks, it’s clear that a change was needed and he found it in On A Clear Day… “It’s a really liberating way to work in an old-fashioned sense. It’s also a different way of recording and arranging, instead of sitting in front of the laptop and stopping and quantising and doing all the tricks you can do in Logic or Ableton. Maybe I will go back to back to the laptop one day, you never know, but it’s important for me not to bore myself to death. If you’re going to the studio and feeling ‘Ah, I really don’t want to go this morning,’ you should probably do something else.”
With his computer sidelined, he pondered how to keep things fresh for both himself and the listener, “Especially after playing festivals and clubs and realising that people don’t really want you to be complex and weird. They want it to be something they can relate to.”
On A Clear Day… isn’t primed for the club and it’s all the better for it. With all four tracks almost stretching to ten minutes and recorded mostly in one take, Lindstrøm’s soundscapes feel unforgivably immersive and limitless in scope. ‘Swing Low Sweet LFO’ particularly feels like it could have fallen from a faraway galaxy, destined to be a breathtaking spectacle when unleashed in concert halls.
“Sometimes I’m bored with myself and my sounds and whatever I’m doing,” he reveals. “I don’t really want to put out music for the sake of keeping my career going. I found myself with Smalltown Supersound; they really want me to do my thing.”
“I think it’s possible to express your inner musical visions using a lot of hardware.”
Buoyed by the musical liberation granted to him by the label, On A Clear Day… brings Lindstrøm full circle, drawing on his diverse past and early love of classical music. “I started playing synths in a heavy rock band in the late 80s and I’ve been really into country and western. I’ve been busking on the street, singing in a symphony choir…”
He continues: “The thing is, with classical music, what really draws my attention is the actual songwriting and the complexity. A lot of the composers are visionaries. I think it’s sometimes hard to find interesting music, especially when it comes to chords, whereas with classical music, it’s really inspiring and it’s harder to find in new music. That’s the main reason why I’m trying to listen to more classical than contemporary electronic music.”
“And it’s all about being curious and trying to explore new sounds,” he confirms, with infectious enthusiasm. “I realised I can afford to do an album like this and hopefully more in the future and to just keep on being curious and reeducating myself.”
“For me, maybe it’s because I’m 46. A lot of people I know hit 50 and 60 – they start studying again… maybe I’m there.” Despite this being Lindstrøm’s re-education, On A Clear Day… proves that we’re the true beneficiaries.
Photo by Lin Stensrud.