Genius or madness? The Swedish artist's three-album epic has a lot of both.
Is Dusk To Dawn one of the most ambitious dance music projects ever conceived? Or is Nordström, well, a bit mad?
Before you close the browser tab thinking, "I don't have time for a three-and-a-half-hour album," it's worth saying up front that this record is worth getting stuck into, and there are a couple of possible ways to approach it. Musical themes, moods and instrumentation recur across the records—Nordström conceptualised the record on an extended break in Ibiza, and it certainly sounds like it—but each has its own subtle flavour. Parts 1 and 2 are both accessible dance albums at root, although the first part is shorter, brighter and more poppy. Part 3, meanwhile, is more freeform, with fewer beats and rhythms and a darker hue. Getting started with the album that sounds most appealing is one route in.
Another could be to start with the highlights. These appear more frequently in the second and third parts, but don't look past "Vivid Imaginations," an extended, Arthur Russell-style disco jam, and "Untitled," one of a few stripped-back and affecting synth pieces, from the first record. Lune appears several times across Dusk To Dawn, and never sounds better than on the original version of the title track, a punchy, poppy number that is improbably made better by Per-Erik Adamsson's flute. That one and "Time Lapse," which features the drifting calls of the vocalist Noomi and sounds a little like Madonna's "Ray Of Light," along with "Reflections Of Light," a wonderfully sunny techno cut, make up a strong trio of dance tracks on the second part. The likes of "Indecision," "Dark Observer" and "Solitude," all on the third part, find Nordström working fluidly and impressively with flute, guitar and jazz-like arrangements. Over a plucked guitar on "Solitude," a robot voice reads what sound like text messages from an explosive romantic breakup.
If suggestions of taster albums and sifting through highlights both sound like coping strategies, it's worth stressing that Dusk To Dawn is up to five times longer than the average album. The unfortunate reality is that the tracks mentioned above, plus a couple others from the third LP like "Memento Mori" and "Twilight," would have made a great album. As things stand, there's a sense that somewhere along the line Nordström lost the capacity to self-edit. This is maybe best symbolised on the second album when "Dusk To Dawn," which runs for a perfectly shaped three minutes and 24 seconds, is immediately followed by a very similar 13-minute extended version, which itself follows an acoustic version on the first disc. Of the eight tracks that pass the ten-minute mark, in almost all cases it feels as though the same basic ideas could have been conveyed in roughly half the time.
This aligns with the general air of an artist getting carried away. It's there in the gaudy electric guitar sections of "Tears Of Illuminations" and "Hedonism M. C. Robyn," the overblown acid lines on "Acid Samba," and the show-tune theatrics of "Alderamin." It's also there in the crowbar methods Nordström sometimes uses to combine musical worlds, with instruments, in particular the extensive flute parts, feeling like awkward add-ons to otherwise fine dance tracks. Conversely, it's this impulse to go bigger that helps Nordström to break genuinely new artistic ground for himself. The third part, in particular, suggests that the absorption of acoustic instruments into his sound and the influence of other major genres can continue to benefit him. Nordström is mad for attempting this project, but even in partial failure Dusk To Dawn is among the more ambitious dance albums ever dreamt up.
Mon / 1 Jul 2019
Dusk To Dawn Part I
02. Dusk To Dawn feat. Lune (Acoustic Version)
04. Vivid Imaginations
05. Hedonism M. C. Robyn
06. Tears Of Illuminations (Vox)
Dusk to Dawn Part II
01. Magic Trick Feat. Axel Boman
02. Dusk To Dawn feat. Lune
03. Dusk To Dawn (Original Extended) feat. Lune
04. Time Lapse feat. Noomi
05. Acid Samba feat. Noomi
07. Balearic Moonwalk feat. Kleerup
08. Reflections Of Light
Dusk to Dawn Part III
04. Alderamin feat. Anne Marie Almedal
05. Memento Mori
07. Dark Observer
09. Tugendhat (Outro)