Standing on Top of Utopia

Kasper Bjørke

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Standing on Top of Utopia Review

by Ned Raggett

Kasper Bjørke's lengthy career through 2010 had only produced one full-length album by that point, but his second proved to be something spectacular. Perhaps the strongest full-length electronic release from Denmark since Trentemøller's The Last Resort, Standing on Top of Utopia found the DJ/producer creating not merely a solid album but a strong and surprising one. If anything, it had the sense of being the equivalent to the Lindstrøm/Prins Thomas and fellow travelers empire -- only instead of "beardo disco" imagining a never-never world of space rock/disco Ibiza, Bjørke looked instead to a wired, early electro-disco that was far more Gina X than Italo disco. Steady, cold beats that often felt like carefully restrained energy from a greater source -- best heard on "Melmac," taking now well-established glitch elements and matching them to a thrilling, strong rhythm -- were still shot through with a gentle calm that didn't suggest the depths so much as easily gliding through them with a calm, upbeat grace. The light synth melody on the opening "Animals," the chilled tropicalia of "Heaven," and the closing mood-out of "Fasano" all bear testimony to how well Bjørke works this balance, though the absolute winner may be "Dasko Vanitas," a tense punch of a song that never fully lets go of somehow being a classic instrumental dance effort for a moody time. The inclusion of vocals at various points from fellow Danes like Louise Foo and Tomas Höffding -- as well as Jacob Bellens, whose tour de force portrayal of a slick character served as the leadoff single -- adds to the rich variety throughout a remarkable album.

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