Annabel Ross revisits the timeless track that launched Norwegian space disco.
Anyone who's spoken to Hans-Peter Lindstrøm (or read one of his interviews) will quickly realise that the amiable Norwegian producer is supremely modest. In the 2016 documentary Northern Disco Lights, which documents the emergence of a distinctly Norwegian brand of dance music dating back to the 1980s, Lindstrøm is asked to reflect on his 2005 single, "I Feel Space."
"Looking back, I realise that maybe it had a bigger impact than I understand," he said, almost apologetically. Bill Brewster, appearing in the same documentary, is more forthright. "If anyone started it, it's Lindstrøm," he said, referring to the mid-'00s proggy disco boom that was launched with "I Feel Space" and helped introduce Lindstrøm's buddies Prins Thomas and Todd Terje to the masses. "That record was huge, it was absolutely everywhere. It kickstarted a new vibe."
Perhaps characteristically, when Lindstrøm first made "I Feel Space" (in around 2001-2002, he thinks), he didn't rate it at all. He'd just parted ways with the Oslo label Jazid Collective, through which he released music as Slow Supreme ("Granada" was a big Hotel Costes hit), and wanted to start fresh with a new artist name and his own label, Feedelity Recordings. He decided "I Feel Space" was too weak for Feedelity's first vinyl release, so he put a few copies of the track onto CD-R and passed them to his DJ friends.
Feedback was good from the likes of Chris Duckenfield and Rune Lindbæk, who talked about releasing the single on his Drum Island Records. But in the intervening months, as the compliments kept rolling in, Lindstrøm figured that perhaps he should release the track himself.
The work of pioneering Norwegian disco dons such as Bjørn Torske, one of the first DJs to bring exotic records back from overseas, and the late Tore 'Erot' Kroknes, Annie's former partner and producer, might have been floating around in Lindstrøm's consciousness, but since a young age he'd had an omnivorous approach to music. He found a Boney M cassette in the street as a child and grew up listening to Italo disco on the local radio stations in Stavanger, southwestern Norway, where he grew up.
Going out, he preferred to dance to soul and funk music, and would attend parties where DJs such Chris Summers (former drummer of the "deathpunk" band Turbonegro ) would play fun, cheesy tunes. While DJ culture was still nascent in Norway, it was very free, and this was appealing to Lindstrøm, who played guitar in rock, heavy metal and folk bands. A latecomer to more traditional disco, Lindstrøm recalls discovering the Patrick Cowley remix of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" around the year 2000. It was this track, along with early space disco from the likes of Idjut Boys and Daniel Wang, that Lindstrøm was listening to when he made "I Feel Space."
It was finally released in 2005 on Feedelity, and then on Playhouse, where it was remixed by M.A.N.D.Y. (a slated Isolée remix never eventuated, to Lindstrøm's disappointment). Lindstrøm says he didn't feel the impact of the record then, pre-social media, as much as he might have now, but he might be downplaying it. "I realised after Playhouse released it and it sold like 20,000 12-inches that this was different from the other tracks," he recently told me.
Hearing that François K and Jellybean Benitez were fans was humbling, but everyone from trance titans to techno DJs have dropped "I Feel Space." Its vaporous chords and undulating rhythms make the track a natural choice at sunrise, perhaps most fittingly on the terrace at Ibiza's We Love Space parties. It paved the way for the expansive, progressive disco the Norwegians do so well to become popular in clubs around the world. "It nods to the past but is forward-looking," enthuse Idjut Boys in Northern Disco Lights.
"I Feel Space," made on a "really cheap" laptop with cracked plugins, taught Lindstrøm a valuable lesson: what comes easily isn't necessarily bad, and that trying to force the same magic to happen again is like catching lightning in a bottle. (Not that Lindstrøm hasn't blessed us with more stellar work in the years since.)
"Every time I'm trying to calculate something it's just really bad, but when I'm making music with a free spirit, then many times it's a better result," he said. "I don't know, maybe you can hear that."