It’s not hard to guess who is drawing the most amount of attention between Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and Thomas Hermansen for their latest collaboration on the Eskimo imprint, appropriately titled II. Lindstrøm had a huge 2008 with his solo debut, the much discussed Where You Go I Go Too. Prins Thomas was much less brash with his offerings, but introducing the Internasjonal imprint and propagating the balearic movement with a few remixes and 12” singles meant that he was indirectly playing Lindstrøm’s foil in the press – mostly by staying out of it. The two had been working on the follow-up to their first collaboration for a few years, but got serious about completing it just as Lindstrøm was wrapping up work on Where You Go…. The dynamic was bound to have changed in the interim.
Thing is, it’s best to understand what’s happening on II mostly by understanding that Lindstrøm functions as a double helix of a musician: One helix is the solo outlaw responsible in part for the rise of cosmic disco that has grown bored of balearic and yearns for a return to distant country and pop roots. The other helix is half of a collaboration that’s also moving away from the inorganic essence of disco for the same reasons (boredom), but to a different place that explores underground rock movements of the past 40 years and maybe even a little jazz, though that’s more in the flow of the album than any kind of theoretical structure. They are outwardly similar on cursory listens but different in ethos.
In short, II is a far less celestial experience than much of the previous work from either Lindstrøm or Prins Thomas. Though there are still heavy doses of past productions you know and love (Both “For Ett Slikk Og Ingenting” and “Rett Pa” trot out the cresting synths that have made balearic such a talking point over the last year), the entire mood of II is set just a few seconds in to the opening “Cisco.” Plucked guitars and brief feedback give way to a live drumbeat and backing percussion, signaling a deliberate trajectory away from overly processed electronics and into more psychedelic territory. If Lindstrøm has always had a penchant for live instrumentation, he’s only now gotten Prins Thomas to buy into its potential – and, it should be said, their belief in that potential.
The big tags being dropped for this one are krautrock and prog-disco. Both apply in the sense that this is still very much an album – it expands, it breathes, it plays best as a whole. But it’s also driven by an insistent rhythm even during its most cosmic reaches. To take an earlier example, those cresting synths dominate proceedings in “For Ett Slikk Og Ingenting,” but they never fully escape the thumping kickdrum that runs through both the song and so much of this album. On past releases, Lindstrøm and Thomas would’ve been content to let electronics do the work. What makes II so vital on a grander scale is that they have reached a masterful equilibrium with the elements that have made them the preeminent producers they are today. This is the best evidence yet that they’ve balanced the organic and inorganic, the solid and cerebral, themselves and each other.