Published Jul 25, 2018As far as modern Norwegian music goes, Bugge Wesseltoft and Prins Thomas are hardly newcomers. Both have innovated and developed, not quite in tandem, but parallel to one another over the past couple of decades. On one side, Wesseltoft's eclectic fusion of jazz, classical, hip-hop and electronics marked him as a driving force of fusing seemingly disparate types of music with one another. On the other side, Prins Thomas is one of other similar-minded artists like Todd Terje and Bjørn Torske who championed the eminence of "space disco" from Norway. Their paths have crossed briefly before, but now, owing to their mutual love of ECM Records, the pair have delivered their first album as a duo.
Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas runs for just over an hour, yet contains but five tracks. Nonetheless, it becomes immediately clear why: tracks build and sprawl patiently into unexpected territory, and no composition feels drawn out, or conversely, improperly explored. The first, "Furuberget," is an exemplar of the Wesseltoft-Thomas formula. Piano improvisations skip and dart around the rustling percussive instrumental; at the midway point, all semblance of organization and structure falls away, only to lead to a denouement of 4/4 rhythms.
"Bar Asfalt" is similarly intricate. Should the piano, the percussion, or the electronics be listened to in isolation, it might not be immediately apparent as to the effectiveness; combined, they are a sonic treat. The weaker moments of the album occur with heavier reliance of one of these ingredients. "Norte do Brasil," while reasonably cathartic, sounds like it could have been pulled off of the cutting room floor of the recent Âme album.
Small blips aside, when Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas shines, it really does. "Sin Tempo" is the album standout, where the clutter gives way to space. Largely devoid of fixed structure, Wesseltoft's chords hang eerily over what sounds like a percussionist rummaging for the right rhythm. "Epilog" is downtempo electronica, by and large, and rounds out the album satisfyingly.
Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas is a befitting continuation of Nordic electronic music fusions. While it may be true that each of the two artists appear to have saved their most forward-thinking ideas for their own projects, this album is still a treat. Above all, there is no doubt that Wesseltoft and Thomas make a good team, and more music from the pair — in any capacity — could never be a bad thing. (Smalltown Supersound)