dødpop Records – dødpop Vol.1

A fledgling label’s first compilation release bears a lot of responsibility. It has to establish the label’s musical ethos; achieve a level of cohesiveness made intrinsically difficult by having to assemble perhaps disparate artists on an album that should be more than just a collection of disconnected songs; and it has to get its label noticed, to act as a mission statement and a foundation stone. dødpop’s first compilation also has the added burden of being Norway’s first full-length skweee release. Thankfully all of these are challenges that the label’s maiden issue meets more than adequately on an album that is full of variety but also strongly cohesive, and acts as an excellent introduction to a burgeoning genre.

Skweee, or ‘Scandinavian synthetic funk’, sprung up just a couple of years ago in Sweden and Finland; it’s sound a sleepy hip-hop funk backdrop splashed with creaky 8-bit synths, and Oslo’s dødpop joined the revolution not much over a year ago, offering up the first Norwegian skweee 7″ at the beginning of 2009. That release, in what has been adopted as skweee’s signature format, featured a track each by Melkeveien and Beatbully, two DJ’s at the core of dødpop’s roster and both of whom offer up a pair of efforts on dødpop vol.1. Indeed, it’s Melkeveien who, vs. Nino, is served with the task of opening the record, and ‘Tirsdag’ proves a perfect statement of intent. Firing up in medias res light and cheery synths immediately tide the listener into the sea of skweee on a bubbling wave of repetitive playful hooks. The next track, Beatbully’s ‘Skweeed’, isn’t a massive deviation from that opener, but it takes the same ingredients to a darker more reflective place and intersperses the synth squeaks with Balearic echoes.

It could be argued that skweee is more of a scene than a genre – the participating DJ’s all work with very diverse musical palettes – but there is no denying the distinctiveness of skweee’s core sounds, and it is the recurrence of these elements that lends the album a distinguishing unity even as the songs on dødpop vol.1 increasingly deviate and throw up surprises. Sprutbass’s ‘Matt Huffley’ adds a backdrop of industrial house crunches and theatrical bursts to the anticipated 8-bit squeals, providing evidence of one of skweee’s biggest assets: the ability to strip usually overblown funk and hip-hop elements of their pompousness by marrying them to an early-computer-technology DIY aesthetic; and if you think you have skweee pinned down after Fulgeance’s ‘Hardi’ plays with the same toys the middle section of the record is sure to overturn your expectations. ‘Romeo November Tango’, Beatbully’s second effort here with Slow Hand Motëm overlays the languid funk strains with an addictive spoken-word vocal take that isn’t so much rap as something that might have been recorded from someone’s blissful naptime mumbles. Spartan Lover’s ‘Outo Vouto’ offers a wake-up kick with what sounds like a looped vision of Squarepusher in a Star Wars blaster fight with an injured Jabba screaming into a vocoder, before the jittery squeals give way to more conventional rhythms. This experimental moment is followed up by the driving hip-hop swells of Hedmark’s ‘We Put The World On It’, which features Twan and former Brand Nubian New-Yorker Sadat X spouting stuff about ‘the Oslo flow’ and ‘krone’ – it’s short and sweet and the kind of aggressive but slow-paced synth wash that 50 Cent should be lending his lazy drawl to if he wasn’t so busy being shit. Then comes what is probably as close as dødpop vol.1comes to a potential club hit – Sprutbass’s memorable ‘AKV’, and evidence of the genre’s debt to dubstep in the bass bursts and grimy wobbles of Melkeveien & Nino’s murky ‘Yo!’. From there Markus Price’s ‘Kandidat’ offers flighty exoticism and subtlety, Beatbully’s ‘Buck Fergen’ goes to town with Gameboy laser bursts

A fledgling label’s first compilation release bears a lot of responsibility. It has to establish the label’s musical ethos; achieve a level of cohesiveness made intrinsically difficult by having to assemble perhaps disparate artists on an album that should be more than just a collection of disconnected songs; and it has to get its label noticed, to act as a mission statement and a foundation stone. dødpop’s first compilation also has the added burden of being Norway’s first full-length skweee release. Thankfully all of these are challenges that the label’s maiden issue meets more than adequately on an album that is full of variety but also strongly cohesive, and acts as an excellent introduction to a burgeoning genre.

Our recent Skweee feature outlined the scene’s origins in more depth, but in short, Skweee, or ‘Scandinavian synthetic funk’, sprung up just a couple of years ago in Sweden and Finland; it’s sound a sleepy hip-hop funk backdrop splashed with creaky 8-bit synths, and Oslo’s dødpop joined the revolution not much over a year ago, offering up the first Norwegian skweee 7″ at the beginning of 2009. That release, in what has been adopted as skweee’s signature format, featured a track each by Melkeveien and Beatbully, two DJ’s at the core of dødpop’s roster and both of whom offer up a pair of efforts on dødpop vol.1. Indeed, it’s Melkeveien who, vs. Nino, is served with the task of opening the record, and ‘Tirsdag’ proves a perfect statement of intent. Firing up in medias reslight and cheery synths immediately tide the listener into the sea of skweee on a bubbling wave of repetitive playful hooks. The next track, Beatbully’s ‘Skweeed’, isn’t a massive deviation from that opener, but it takes the same ingredients to a darker more reflective place and intersperses the synth squeaks with Balearic echoes

It could be argued that skweee is more of a scene than a genre – the participating DJ’s all work with very diverse musical palettes – but there is no denying the distinctiveness of skweee’s core sounds, and it is the recurrence of these elements that lends the album a distinguishing unity even as the songs on dødpop vol.1 increasingly deviate and throw up surprises. Sprutbass’s ‘Matt Huffley’ adds a backdrop of industrial house crunches and theatrical bursts to the anticipated 8-bit squeals, providing evidence of one of skweee’s biggest assets: the ability to strip usually overblown funk and hip-hop elements of their pompousness by marrying them to an early-computer-technology DIY aesthetic; and if you think you have skweee pinned down after Fulgeance’s ‘Hardi’ plays with the same toys the middle section of the record is sure to overturn your expectations. ‘Romeo November Tango’, Beatbully’s second effort here with Slow Hand Motëm overlays the languid funk strains with an addictive spoken-word vocal take that isn’t so much rap as something that might have been recorded from someone’s blissful naptime mumbles. Spartan Lover’s ‘Outo Vouto’ offers a wake-up kick with what sounds like a looped vision of Squarepusher in a Star Wars blaster fight with an injured Jabba screaming into a vocoder, before the jittery squeals give way to more conventional rhythms. This experimental moment is followed up by the driving hip-hop swells of Hedmark’s ‘We Put The World On It’, which features Twan and former Brand Nubian New-Yorker Sadat X spouting stuff about ‘the Oslo flow’ and ‘krone’ – it’s short and sweet and the kind of aggressive but slow-paced synth wash that 50 Cent should be lending his lazy drawl to if he wasn’t so busy being shit. Then comes what is probably as close as dødpop vol.1 comes to a potential club hit – Sprutbass’s memorable ‘AKV’, and evidence of the genre’s debt to dubstep in the bass bursts and grimy wobbles of Melkeveien & Nino’s murky ‘Yo!’. From there Markus Price’s ‘Kandidat’ offers flighty exoticism and subtlety, Beatbully’s ‘Buck Fergen’ goes to town with Gameboy laser bursts, and V.C’s ‘Hugging Funk’ offers up a swelling chorus of synth birdsong.

There are some slower moments, some less essential moments, but dødpop’s first full-length release is consistently interesting and always, as the skweeejays would want it, funky. The father of skweee Pavan tipped 2009 as the year for skweee to go mainstream, and whilst Kanye may not be self-lovin’ it up over any of these beats for a while yet, he certainly should be. Fittingly Norway’s first skweee release is ended by the man who gave the genre its name – Daniel Savio. ‘Smokeless Fire’ his downtempo track that winds down the album is called. Should you believe the skweee hype? No smoke without fire. And if you haven’t heard any hype? Well, a smokeless fire’s gotta be even better.

7.7/10

First published on nomusicmedia.com, 2009

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