Norwegian producer Bjørn Torske has always been wildly unpredictable. One never knows if they're in for chiptune dub, Mo Wax-style downtempo, or Krautrock-y grooves when dropping the needle on one of his records, and that doesn't even take into account his earlier collaborative work stretching back to the early '90s, which included Detroit-style techno (Ismistik) and breakbeat hardcore on Reinforced (Open Skies). Still, he's often associated with the Scandinavian nu-disco and left-field house scenes, as most of his solo material since 2006 has appeared on Smalltown Supersound, and he's collaborated with the likes of Rune Lindbæk, Prins Thomas, and DJ Sotofett. 2018's Byen is his first solo album in eight years (with numerous singles and a half-baked LP with Prins Thomas arriving in between), and it's easily one of his most focused efforts. Even though the album is generally populated with lush, expansive tracks which stretch to eight minutes and beyond, a lot of consideration was put into the structure and pacing of the tracks -- they're sprawling, but they're far from being aimless jam sessions. Cuts such as the shimmering, softly suspenseful "Fanfatas" and the dazzling polar-disco shuffle "Chord Control" are easily some of Torske's most creative yet danceable excursions. "Gata" is easily the album's most retro-sounding disco cut, with a simple but propulsive bassline and sinister vocals and synth washes reminiscent of Black Devil Disco Club. Torske seems to let himself go on the 11-minute "Night Call," a Brazilian-flavored shakedown with another perky bassline and trippy, echo-covered vocals which verge on haunting, but it seems more fun and playful than anything else. The album ends with the brief "Natta," a more cinematic piece with an organ riff somewhere in between Throbbing Gristle's "United" and Underworld's "Blueski." While not as spontaneous or weird as some of Torske's other efforts, Byen is unmistakably well-crafted, and works on the dancefloor as well as a soundtrack for zoning out.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson