In a departure from the robust, funk-infused space disco and fearless experimentation of his early work, Hans-Peter Lindstrøm’s It’s Alright Between Us As It Is pares back the Norwegian producer’s sound to the point of quasi-minimalism. For an unpredictable artist who’s recorded a 42-minute version of “Little Drummer Boy” and collaborated with Todd Rundgren on a high-concept prog album, Lindstrøm plays it too safe on his first solo effort in five years. Relying on vibrant, comfortable textures and subdued, repetitive beats, the album seems content to loop around in a holding pattern.
At first blush, “Tensions” appears to be the lone exception. It builds layer by layer, with a nimble drum loop, clattering electronic effects, and a simple but buoyant synth line, but rather than swell to the kind of dense, angular beats and exuberant release found on 2012’s Smalhans or 2016’s superlative Windings EP, the track plateaus and begins to meander. There can be a pleasure in hearing an artist prone to star-gazing excesses show restraint, but Lindstrøm goes a step further and abandons ideas before they can be fully actualized, as on “Spire,” where he steadily brightens an initially dark synthwave pulse before the track spills over into aimless keyboard noodling.
Despite Lindstrøm’s intention that It’s Alright Between Us As It Is be treated as a single piece of music, the album’s nine continuously sequenced tracks too often feel fragmented. The meditative ambience of “Versatile Dreams (Interlude),” which otherwise has potential for trance-y exploration, is awkwardly wedged between two of the most mainstream pop-oriented tracks that Lindstrøm has ever produced, “Sorry” and “Shinin’.” On the former, Swedish singer Frida Sundemo delivers her lines in a grating, near-baby-talk affectation as she asks to be gently rocked to sleep so she’s kept “safe from thunder,” while on the latter, American vocalist Grace Hall belts out melodramatic platitudes: “I think we’re really special, babe/You know the deal/We keep it real.” Rather than complement Lindstrøm’s production and serve as another color in his considerable palette, as Christabelle’s vocal contributions did on 2010’s Real Life Is No Cool, the vocals commandeer the few tracks on which they appear, disrupting the album’s flow.
The tone shifts drastically from these fatuous proclamations of romantic love to disorienting gothic poetry on “Bungl (Like a Ghost),” the third and final track with vocals, as Norwegian avant-garde singer-songwriter Jenny Hval sings of carrying her gravestone on her back. This stark, offbeat track is a welcome foray into darker, more ominous sonic terrain that’s rife with swirling echoes and sinisterly modulated vocals, but the song clashes with the album’s otherwise sunny tone, introducing tension that’s never fully examined or resolved (closing track “Under Trees” spends eight minutes toying with a grim atmosphere that it’s reluctant to embrace). This is a problem that plagues the whole of It’s Alright Between Us As It Is, a complacent album of stylishly produced half-measures that never quite coalesces into anything meaningful.