Prins Thomas / Bjørn Torske

Square One

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Norwegian electronic musicians Prins Thomas and Bjørn Torske have known each other since the mid-'90s, but other than an obscure session recorded onto a low-quality cassette tape near the beginning of their friendship, 2017's Square One is their first proper collaboration. The album seems a bit low-key and casual, especially arriving a year after Thomas' cosmic ambient house epic Principe del Norte. The seven tracks are generally slow and sparse, and often consist of simmering Krautrock-inspired rhythms, slapped hand drums, and dubby echo. The first track is titled "On U," but it isn't quite the Adrian Sherwood homage one might expect. Over a steady pulse, the duo builds up simple layers of organs, guitars, and percussion, along with some screwy delay effects. "Arthur" starts out slower and softer, but gradually the disco bassline and heavily reverbed bongos creep in, along with shimmering synths and slightly eerie noises. "12 Volt" has a bit more of a levitating phaser effect along with its space rock guitars. The drums start out steady and minimal, but they get more involved and busy as the piece swells up. Following the Brazilian-flavored "K16 del 1," the duo detours into trip-hop with "Steintongt," which has a sludgy, molasses-slow beat along with a sneaky bassline that makes the song seem to move faster than its drums suggest. "Kappe Tre" is easily the album's most propulsive track, with a slightly faster tempo and whistling, theremin-like synths fluttering about. The release is certainly pleasant, but it often seems too laid-back and sluggish to really get excited about.

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