The dust has started to settle from the extensive building work around Skippergata, revealing a new pristine walkway in the shade of the new Clarion hub extension with its shiny midas cladding glistening against the arrival of the Norwegian spring sun. It casts a long shadow over one of Oslo’s musical institutions, Filter Musikk where Roland Lifjell has presided over Oslo’s DJ- and electronic music community since time immemorial (2002) and while everything around it might be changing it’s still the most consistent barometer for good, electronic music in the city of Oslo.
The face of the city’s landscape might have changed drastically since Roland Lifjell took over Filter Musikk, but the shop and the DJ behind the shop has been an unwavering presence in the culture. When an interest in vinyl waned, he and Filter Musikk persevered and when hype permeated through the scene and record stores, selling endless represses of Rolling Stones LPs became the norm, he was still there pursuing the original ideologies of record- and DJ culture.
Personally selecting the labels, artists and records that pass through the store, Roland Lifjell is one of the last archetypal record store owner/clerks. Always available for a chat; ready with a cup of Norway’s finest instant coffee; and always at hand with a new record for you, he and Filter Musikk are a piece of history, a piece of the past, hermetically sealed in time in our contemporary age. As the face of the scene and the city keeps changing around it, Filter Musikk upholds the legacy and the origins of this culture.
Every week he unpacks a new box of records from kindred spirits that pursue the same values he does across club music genres from around the world. He remains a ballast for the DJ community in the city, putting new Nowregian artists and labels first in the store, putting these on equal footing alongside their international counterparts. He instinctively knows his audience and regardless of your musical preferences, there’s always something new at hand for the discerning music fan. Together, with Roland, we pick through the latest arrivals and where our tastes converge, we arrive at the cut with Filter Musikk.
*Filter Musikk and Roland Lifjell are back this Friday at Jæger with Donato Dozzy.
Trevor Deep Jr., Wasserfall & Vaage, S. Brand, Sagittarii Acid – HMD 001 (HMD) 12″
A new Norwegian vinyl label emerges from the Hjemme Med Dama cassette label and mix series. What started off as a house (as in “home” not the genre) party in Jan Fredrik Bjerk’s (aka Jan Mayan) apartment turned into a recorded mix series, a cassette label, a fanzine, an event, and a festival, has arrived at the vinyl format for the first time. Where Hjemme Med Dama was already an all-encompassing fixture in Oslo, it is now disseminating its musical ideologies to the wider world through a new compilation EP, carrying the spirit of the label forward.
For the first release Jan Fredrik Bjerk assembles a group of producers that operate in the trenches of House and Acid in Norway and beyond, as he continues to pursue his love for all things deep under the Hjemme Med Dama banner.
Besides Trevor Deep Jr., a duo hailing from Finland, all the other artists are Norwegian, most of them from Oslo and all very close proximities to the Hjemme Med Dama mainstay. Together, and completely independently of each other, they’ve cemented Bjerk’s vision for this first compilation which immediately finds some congruity with the mix series and cassette label in the deep spirit of Hjemme Med Dama. Each artist interpreting it in their own particular idiom, they contribute four exquisite dance floor cuts for the House music enthusiast.
From S. Brand’s vertigo inducing themes, Sagittari Acid’s lysergic 303 movements, Trevor Deep Jr.’s, balearic downtempo beats, to Wasserfall & Vaage’s luxuriously deep key work, each artist stakes a claim in some corner of the House music’s rhombicosidodecahedron. It’s good to hear that a new Norwegian vinyl label is joining the fray and the fact that it is based in Oslo is also very promising for the scene here.
Fort Romeau – Heaven & Earth (Permanent Vacation) 12″
Harnessing that immense power he imbues in his work, Fort Romeau points his striking synthetic designs towards the astral plane for four deep, transient House tracks with transcendental qualities.
The UK artist taps into elements of Trance as synth arpeggios climb unscalable heights towards some ethereal plato, weighed down by the gravitational pull of the kick-bass arrangements. While the Trance references are quite subtle on most of the album, “Visions” transports us back to 1999 as galloping triplet bass sequences play alongside droning four-four kicks, while synthesisers play in the cosmos of the track. If it were faster, it could border on the psychedelic, but Fort Romeau restrains his indulgences and, incorporating elements like eighties synth textures or hand percussion, he subverts the tawdry and the clichéd, offering his own modern interpretation on the genre.
Each track is quite different on this EP, however and each seems to make its own impression on the listener. “Eye of Re” reaches out into the cosmos in search of a space beyond Disco through squirmy acid bass lines and tweeting toms, while the title track grounds itself in something more earthy, and the closest we’ll get to Fort Romeau’s earlier works. Opener “Just” is also full of surprises as the UK artist seems to channel the likes of Jarre and Moroder for a trippy House track with traces of nu disco, and eighties body music proving too infectious to ignore.
Beyond the immediacy of all the songs on this record, it tends to stay with the listener, and it’s definitely something worth returning to time and time again, revealing new intrinsic layers beyond the immediate.
Skee Mask – 808BB (Ilian Tape) 12″
Ilian Tape’s exclusive vehicle for the music of Skee Mask returns with “808BB”. As the autonomous outlet for the Ilian Tape mastermind wildest fantasies it sets itself somewhat apart from the rest of the Ilian tape catalogue. Uncompromising, sometimes provocative, and always unique, Skee Mask’s music occupies outlier genres operating at the fringes of club music. The German artist operates between Techno, Breakbeats and Ambient noise in tracks that don’t pander to the dance floor, but rather dominate it.
Big beat constructions that feign rudimentary 4-4, skip and hop along like a North Korean military parade on the opener, “Trackheadz” for this latest release. Snare drums scatter in the wake of the kick as the track stutters through its progression. But there’s more to the track than the all-consuming power of its presence, and all kinds of pads, vocal samples and glitches assemble to create something more than just a functional dance floor stomper.
It’s something Skee Mask takes to the other extreme on the B-side with two torpid ambient, breakbeat tracks that languish in serene pads and subtle rattling beats that very rarely pierce the delicate textures of these tracks.
Charlton – Till Love Do Us Part (Mord) 12″
While we’re on the subject of uncompromising Techno… Mord exists and German producer Charlton has found his way back on the label with “Till Love do us part”. Following a few releases for the label in the past, Charlton perpetuates the all-consuming sound of the label, with big thunderous beats and sinister atmospheres dominating the record.
A deep, dark void appearing like a blackhole at the edge of the beats suck everything into the gravitational pull of the kick drum. Remnants of sparkling textures, broken down to mere molecules, re-ordered and re-assembled in a two dimensional plane, struggle to form a consistent atmosphere through the litany of percussive beats.
Even at his most reserved through “SHR_MS” and “Till Love do Us Part”, Charlton plays on a kind of ambiguous, yet unbridled energy that propels the tracks along the timeline. Obscure, psychedelic and abstract melodic- and harmonic phrasing garner a sense of unease, especially potent on the closing track, “Somewhere Between.”
Versalife – Vortices EP (Shipwrec) 12″
We’ve sung the praises of Versalife and Shipwrec records on this feature a few times before, so whenever either falls into our purview, it at the very least demands a listen. Versalife’s expressive and extensive take on the Electro genre is captivating for the sonic palette he creates through his music. Sharp concise percussive parts, perforating effervescent textures and exploratory electronic arrangements, find the artist thriving on the borders of IDM and Braindance without falling head first into the self-indulgent sonic braggadaccio that can often define those genres.
Versalife favours a more temperate zone between those two amorphous electronic bodies, and while he’s eager to indulge the experimental, he never subverts the experiential in the process. His latest EP on Shipwrec particularly aligns with the latter, as he moves away from the controlled, progressive arrangements from his recent Soul of the Automaton series in search of something a little more free from the constraints of a predefined structure.
Over four tracks, Versalife creates pieces that are tethered to their central theme, a simple loop that varies only in timbre as alien pieces float through their timeline like strangers on a train. There’s a very improvised feel to this record as a performance ensues with no real clear, ultimate destination ever revealing itself through the tracks. There are distinct elements however like that deep gurgling 303 bassline of the title track and “Chimaera” or the immensely orchestrated atmospheres of “Amber Molecular Profile” that really stick out on this release, and with no real arc to these tracks, Versalife gives you enough time to wholly appreciate these magnificent sonic elements.
It’s this focus on the sonic design – and it’s something that he does across his other aliases like Conforce and Hexagon too – that is Versalife’s major appeal. Every sonic moment on this record, like all his other records is so intricate and precisely orchestrated within the dynamic of the rest of the track. “Vortices” is yet again another masterclass from the producer and artist and so we’ll continue to sing his praises here.