The space disco master delivers his smoothest album yet, though a few more wrinkles would have been welcome.
Torske, who's in his late 40s, seems to have mellowed with age. Frantic drums and zapping synths, which could be found throughout Nedi Myra and subsequent EPs, are no longer fighting to be heard, replaced by easygoing rhythms and a contemplative mood. Byen at its busiest is also its most functional. The live bassline and shakers of "Night Call," which at 11 minutes is the album's longest tune, are peak-time club fodder, the kind of thing you might hear deep into a Gerd Janson set. Other tracks, while more restrained, are also DJ friendly, from the thumbed bassline of "Fanfatas" to "Gata" and its half-sung, half-chanted vocal. "Clean Air" is the album's most straightforward track—just eight minutes of synth riffs and chugging groove. Only "First Movement," the album's jazzy opener, breaks away from a familiar template, twisting with the scattered feel of a Theo Parrish classic before disintegrating into the sounds of birds and the beach.
Byen is Torske's most restrained full-length yet, and less diverse than past LPs like Feil Knapp and Kokning, both of which dipped into ambient and more abstract sounds. That makes for a smooth listen, free of the "skrangle-house" elements of older tracks like 2007's "God Kveld" and 2010's "Furu." But Byen could use more of Torske's signature sense of chaos. Listen to this one when it's time to unwind. Save the others for when you really want to visit space.