While 'lounge' music traditionally referred to music with a 1960s orchestra sound, such as Arthur Lyman, John Barry or Esquivel, lately it has come to refer to the acid jazz/downtempo/trip-hop sound that permeates automobile commercials, clothing boutiques and chic restaurants and nightclubs. Accordingly, so many lounge compilations these days are cheesy, overproduced attempts to cash in on this contemporary musical trend. Thankfully, ‘An Introduction to Nordic Lounge’ breaks that mold.
To my ear, the album does just what a lounge compilation should, serve as a composition of tracks by individual artists carefully crafted together to form a piece of art in itself. Many producers are able to select quality tracks, but do not assemble them in an aesthetic manner. The ability to overcome this challenge is one of ‘Nordic Lounge’s’ greatest triumphs. The album never disregards the influence of jazz on lounge music, but it is not afraid to include tracks relying on electronica and disco that have samba, bossa or another tradition sound to accompany the electronic beats and hooks
The first track, Keep You Hird, by Hird serves as an archetype for the entire album. The track begins with a simple beat and minimal effects, but gradually layers are added to the orchestration. A bassline and drumbeat are added to the foundation and a well-composed acid jazz track is the result. Just at the point where the song could be pushing the boundaries of going on too long without any significant changes, the carefully crafted layers begin to drop and one assumes the song is fading out. Suddenly a backbeat is introduced, the layers return and the song is stronger and more energetic than before. Most lounge artist don’t seem to have much regard for these seemingly small touches that make a tremendous difference in the overall song. The denouement finds the layers dropping again, leaving the listener back where he started with the simple beat and minimal effects
The album itself follows the formula of Keep You Hird. More simple and jazzy during the first few tracks, then it is more upbeat, aspiring to the corners of the dancefloor or the crowded aisles of a bustling lounge, but it returns to its point of departure by ending on a more downtempo sound. This quality makes the album worth listening to as a whole because its subtle complexities exhibit a sensibility that the careful listener will appreciate and the casual listener will take for granted, but will enjoying without knowing. The music has a genuine feel to it; one can picture the artists actually recording and mixing the tracks rather than a few engineers sitting in a studio playing on a board, throwing some slick art on a CD jacket and sending it to press.
It truly serves as ‘An Introduction to Nordic Lounge’, exposing the listener to new artists and including a few tracks by those artists he may already know such as Luomo, one of the projects of Vladislav Delay, whose track Tessio is on the first and so far only Luomo full length, and Butti 49, whose track Kalas is included both on ‘Nordic Lounge’ and on the ‘Coming Home 2’ compilation on the Stereo Deluxe label.
In short, if you want an excellent modern lounge compilation, ‘An Introduction to Nordic Lounge’ is for you, especially if you are a fan of: St. Germain, Royksopp, Verve Remixed, or the ESL Music label compilations
Favorite tracks: 1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12.