Album of the week: Prins Thomas – The movement of the free spirit

In 1993 Joakim Haugland established a label with a very specific DIY philosophy based on a  very specific community of Norwegian artists in his hometown, Flekkfjørd. The name Smalltown Supersound, had little bearing on the actual premise of the records and tapes coming out of the small collective – “There was obviously no supersound in our small town” – but some 25 years into the future, Smalltown Supersound has certainly cultivated a Supersound out of its ranks; a sound that has gone on to define Norwegian music beyond its borders.

With an intimate, but expanding artist roster, which today still counts no more than 15 artists, Smalltown Supersound lives by its eponymous ethos. It’s all about a supersound out of small town. That small town was eventually engorged by Oslo and the artists like Kelly Lee Owens and Neneh Cherry have given the label a multinational presence, but the approach has changed little.

Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas, Bjørn Torske, Jaga Jazzist, Mongolian Jetset; Biosphere and Mental Overdrive have made IMPRESSIVE contributions to the label in its 25 years. Consider Lindstrøm where I go you go too; Bjørn Torske’s Trøbbel, Todd Terje’s The Arps or Annie’s Don’t Stop and it frames a label that has not only perpetuated the “Norwegian Sound” but has placed it on the forefront of popular music in many respects.

Dotting the discography throughout the label’s extensive existence, the mix CD and compilation have played an integral role in compartmentalising this sound, through the vast cosmic reach of the label’s “sound.” From Noise, Jazz, Electronica or Pop, Smalltown Supersound has very few defining characteristics to the music that makes it out on the label, but somehow there’s that red thread coursing through it all, which the mix CDs and compilations always framed in the context of each other in many of those “ahhhh’ moments on the label.

The trippy dub eccentricities of Mungolian Jet Set; the brooding electronica of André Bratten; the noisy exhortations of Deathprod; and more recently the sweet tranquility of Neneh Cherry, all live side by side and together across the Smalltown Supersound. So what better way to celebrate twenty five years of the label with just such a compilation, an all-encompassing document of the last twenty five years as exemplification of that red thread.

There is only one DJ on the roster that could ever frame this correctly, and label head Joakim Haugland knew it. “For me it was obvious that (Prins) Thomas should make the Smalltown Supersound mix” says Hauguland in the liner notes for the record. Prins Thomas in return provided a super mix that in no uncertain terms simply captures “The movement of the free spirit” and in it, that elusive red thread of Smalltown Supersound. “Most of the time I am probably the only one that sees it,” ponders Haugland, but “now Thomas has found the spiritual unity.”

Thomas captured that spiritual unity across an incredible 80 tracks that goes from the extemporised noise of the label’s furthest leftfield reaches to those familiar favourites – although those are often featured in some or other remix form of the original. Needless to say there are a few exclusive remixes too, but the individual tracks pale in comparison in the grander context of the mix as they come together through the expert hands of Prins Thomas.

This vast and expansive mix sums up the dexterity of the label in quantity, but it’s Prins Thomas that brings the mood and that spirit across through his selection and his assemblage of that selection. There are no obvious highlights and to review the individual tracks will be a futile endeavour, because the execution of the mix brings them together as one singular artistic statement.

If ever there was a case for DJing as an artistic expression this would be it and the only regret is that we picked up the vinyl version, which only has the first part of this mix available through a clumsy double LP format, which interrupts the flow of the mix – A few exclusives on a double LP with the mix in is entirety as download, would have been a much more rewarding format for the listener.

The movement of the free spirit is a great testament to the ethos of Smalltown Supersound and Prins Thomas’ interpretation of that spirit and sound will undoubtedly make its own incredible impression on the discography. “The Movement of the free sprit” will undoubtedly make its own impression on the Smalltown Supersound catalogue, a classic in its own right.