Fourteen years ago, Hans-Peter Lindstøm looked back on the past and ahead at the future at the same time. Lindstrøm had already been making music for years when he put together his 2005 opus “I Feel Space,” but that single — seven minutes of elegant swoons and percolating blips — was what gave him a name. Lindstrøm became the man most responsible for space disco, a new dance-music subgenre that sounded like about five different old dance-music subgenres all at once. Lindstrøm’s music, as collected on the great 2006 singles comp It’s A Feedelity Affair, pulled from ancestral Detroit techno and ’80s sci-fi soundtracks and the brain-warping ’70s work of Giorgio Moroder. It used the music of the past to forecast a slick, gleaming, melancholy future, and it transformed dance music into something that was, weirdly, both emotional and architectural.
These days, Lindstrøm is still making music that’s emotional and architectural, but he’s taken the dance out of it entirely. As durable as that initial sound was, Lindstrøm has spent years twisting and warping it, figuring out where else it could go. He made a full album of strutting, intimate pop music with regular collaborator Christabelle. He made a prog record with Todd Rundgren. He did a whole lot of remixes. His latest is an album of sweeping, transporting ambient music. On A Clear Day I Can See You Forever, Lindstrøm’s latest, is all space, no disco.
Last year, an art museum in Oslo commissioned some tracks from Linsdstrøm, and those tracks became the backbone of On A Clear Day I Can See You Forever. Lindstrøm made the whole LP with synths and drum machines — his first time working without computers — and he names prog auteur Robert Wyatt as the album’s chief inspiration. The album has no vocals, and it’s only got four tracks, all of which hover close to the 10-minute mark. On A Clear Day sounds like music for a museum. It’s clean and glassy and evocative, and it fades right into the background. This sounds like a complaint. It’s not.
Music made for a museum is supposed to conjure an atmosphere, to take you away from whatever’s happening in the outside world. As you enter Baltimore’s National Aquarium, for instance, you walk into a room full of blue light, and of bubbles rising up in tubes from the floor. This low, ominous hum that plays over the loudspeakers. As far as I can tell, that sound hasn’t changed at all since I was a kid. I always loved it then: this burbling otherworldly drone that signals you’re about to enter a whole different world.
I’ve never been to Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, the sort of hilariously named Oslo museum that paid Lindstrøm to make these tracks, but I’d like to imagine that the tracks on On A Clear Day function similarly. I can tell you that the tracks function similarly even in my grubby-ass office, or on headphones when I’m walking my dogs, or in my kitchen when I’m washing dishes. They become an indistinct haze that nevertheless lends a certain grandeur to whatever’s happening.
The tracks on the album are these warm, glowing things, full of tiny melodies and expensive-sounding vintage-keyboard sustain. They’re majestic and regal, and they’re physical, too; you can feel the bass tones in your chest. But after a few minutes, you forget that the music’s even on. It never fills your attention. Instead, it colors your environment, which is maybe what ambient music is supposed to do. There’s no dance music on On A Clear Day. There are barely even any drum sounds. (When there are drum sounds, they aren’t all that welcome. The album’s weakest track is easily the final one, “As If No One Is Here,” with its relentless ticking.) There is, however, plenty of space. There is so much space.
On A Clear Day I Can See You Forever is out 10/11 on Smalltown Supersound.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Big Thief’s tingly, gorgeous Two Hands, which we’ll have more to say about soon.
• Kim Gordon’s swaggering solo debut No Home Record.
• Julien Chang’s gorgeous, impressionistic Jules.
• Chris Farren’s self-conscious pop-punk statement Born Hot.
• Former Majical Cloudz singer Devon Welsh’s heavy-hearted solo LP True Love.
• Lightning Bolt’s adrenal noise-rock bugout Sonic Citadel.
• Never Ending Game’s unrelenting hardcore debut Just Another Day.
• Blut Aus Nord’s black metal opus Hallucinogen.
• Mark Kozelek and Petra Haden’s collaborative album Joey Always Smiled.
• Comet Gain’s stylishly twee Fireraisers Forever!
• Blood Orange’s classical music experiment Fields.
• Blue Hawaii’s squelchy, contemplative Open Reduction Internal Fixation.
• Elbow’s reliably bummed-out Brit-rocker Giants Of All Sizes.
• Cursive’s Vitriola companion piece Get Fixed.
• BabyMetal’s latest J-pop/metal fusion Metal Galaxy.
• Ruston Kelly’s covers EP Dirt Emo Vol. 1.