Oslo’s Prins Thomas is perhaps best known for his collaborations with the decade’s king of disco Lindstrøm; the two friends giving out a pair of joint swirling prog-throwback electro albums (I and II) and arguably forming the bedrock of the capitol’s thriving disco scene. Given that Lindstrom’s success thus casts a formidable shadow, Prins Thomas’ full-length debut follows a markedly familiar formula to Lindstrøm’s triumphal solo tour de force Where You Go I Go Too. Like Lindstrøm he has opted for a banal casual photo portrait to adorn the record cover, like Lindstrøm his chosen tools are a swelling blend of dated prog guitar licks and driving disco soundscapes, and, as with Lindstrøm, the fact that this is really Prins Thomas’ first full album of original material (his previous sizeable full-length, Cosmo Galactic Prism (2007), was a collection of remixes) is immediately surprising given the vast number of EP’s, collaborations and, in particular, remixes, that the self-crowned Prins has churned out over the last eight or so years. Giving that those many hours of craft-honing and genre splicing were arguably building up to this release Prins Thomas is ultimately a disappointment, albeit a perfectly pleasant one.
Opener ‘Ørkenvandring’ opens stridently enough with sanguine percussion and a resolute bassline, but the jangles of prog guitar that take the reins largely fail to build into any kind of impressive conclusion – over eight minutes seems rather long for a song that, by and large, doesn’t really go anywhere. This is increasingly the case across the rest of the album too. Rather than opting either for a stirring build-up or heightening of tension, or an instrumental verse/chorus structure, Prins Thomas instead drags out simplistic melodic arrangements, allowing them progress only in the most subtle and gradual ways. Shaky Eastern guitar echoes give way in leisurely fashion to driving strumming on ‘Uggebugg’ before one of the album’s few memorable instrumental hooks kicks in – a tight ascending guitar refrain – but with the average song length creeping towards the nine minute mark such minimal progression isn’t enough to entice repeated listens. Similarly disappointingly given the length of the tracks and his choice of genre touchpoints, Prins Thomas makes little discernable effort to lend the album any kind of conceptual unity. Perhaps the song-length and studious shifts in tone could gain relevancy if elements recurred later in the record, or if songs blended into one another effectively, but instead we are left with seven isolated offerings.
The most striking thing about Prins Thomas’s solo productions is the extent to which his largely electronic music doesn’t sound electronic, or, where it does, sounds like decades-old electronic forays. Creaky synths, dated guitar licks, tinny tangible drums and psychedelic organ are the order of the day here, and whilst the extent to which it is possible to forget that this is electronic at all may be remarkable, you also sense that this devotion to the outmoded may be hampering Prins Thomas. There is the odd transcendental moment, as when the dirge-like ‘Slangemusikk’ takes a brief dark turn in its second half, or when the hesitant disco of ‘Wendy Not Walter’ achieves a bubbling serenity after five minutes of dithering, but whilst Lindstrom happily absorbs all the hallmarks of bloated outdated genres and explodes them in a glorious starburst of epic, airy beauty, Prins Thomas here feels far too pedestrian. As if to confirm this embracing by an electronic producer of the physical, Lindstrom himself and Todd Terje, arguably the two other leaders of Oslo’s italo-disco scene, make appearances here contributing – of all things – keyboard and clavinet and trumpet respectively. Perhaps I’m too harsh – this album is a grower, improving over its second half, its hypnotic sequences growing increasingly multidimensional with familiarity – but whilst Where You Go I Go Too’s twinkly electronics seemed to transport us to a distant sheen of stars, Prins Thomas’s ship never quite has lift off.
First published on nomusicmedia.com, 2010