Like Marmite, jazz and Trump, opinion on Scandinavian house pioneer Todd Terje divides. While undeniably great fun, its unconventional, and slightly uncool, nature have put a potential powerhouse on the back burner. However, can a crowd who bought enough tickets to sell out Motion in one day be wrong? Is Terje’s music a video game soundtrack or a muscle of an emerging dance music scene? Epigram‘s Online Music Editor Georgia Marsh will be the judge of that.
It’s Motion and it’s Friday night, but something is indisputably peculiar. You’re suitably waved and the crowd surrounding you is in an ecstasy-like state over the talents of a techno-attuned DJ, yet soon it’s quarter past 11 and you find yourself filing out of the building. No, you haven’t had too much too soon and are being carted out of the venue by Motion security. In fact, you’ve spent 20 quid on a ticket to a house night that only lasted an hour and 15 minutes and concluded before the next day began. What the hell, Todd Terje?
Sparsity of the set aside, the DJ in question was certainly not no fun; his set was delightfully exuberant and sent the sold-out crowd into a funky fever. Emerging rather modestly (you wouldn’t have known it if not for the roar of the crowd) he dipped into his decks almost instantly, unleashing a stream of infectiously danceable grooves that interpolated bouncy nu-disco with jazzy house beats.
It’s surprising how warm and fuzzy – almost tropical – the sounds his spellbound hands mix, considering Terje is a part of “the Holy Trinity of Norwegian disco”.
It’s surprising how warm and fuzzy – almost tropical – the sounds his spellbound hands mix, considering Terje is a part of “the Holy Trinity of Norwegian disco” (yes, it’s a thing, and it’s something really very special). Where one could suppose that his mixes would reflect the chilly landscapes of his homeland, his sweltering version of Scandinavian dance music parallels more closely perhaps to the likes of groove-inflected KAYTRANADA, enabling the Norwegian clubs to feel like they’re a part of a Caribbean paradise instead of a blistering winter wonderland.
Along with his producing buddies Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas, Terje has successfully established a distinct style of house that is completely unique to the Nordic nations and has tech-heads from all over the South West of England grappling for a ticket to see it in the flesh. While his comrades tend to paint pensive and glistening soundscapes, Terje is their cheeky and clownishly less-serious brother-in-arms.
Stealing the bops, bangs and boings of Chessington World of Adventures’ Beano Land, it’s easy to see how some (including myself) have described his catalogue to outsiders as ‘Mario Kart music’.
Stealing the bops, bangs and boings of Chessington World of Adventures’ Beano Land, it’s easy to see how some (including myself) have described his catalogue to outsiders as ‘Mario Kart music’. Although his live set contains the same whimsy that allows this statement to be partially true, it, admittedly, sounds much fuller live due to the buoyancy of the bass at it reverberates through the venue’s sound system.
Terje’s signature tracks from the idiosyncratically named debut It’s Album Time – the almost anthemic ‘Inspector Norse’ in particular – invoke football hooligan-style chants alongside the melody: doo-doo-doo-DOO-doo-doo-doo-DOO-doo-doo-doo. While some hollered “why do people like this music?!”, others are overly-enchanted by his dizzy beats, as the audience of mostly 30-year-old lumberjack types go wild.
The show’s conclusion comes with a completely left-field remix of, what I have always seen as, one of the greatest songs of all time. After a continuous mix of the glimmering house beats that we’ve heard throughout the evening the words “clock strikes upon the hour…” boom across the warehouse. In a euphoric grande finale, Terje guides the crowd in a scream-a-long to Whitney Houston’s timeless classic ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. Maybe its the Whitney superfan in me talking, but it was unquestionably the highlight of the evening, and I went just as wild as the 30-year-old lumberjacks did during ‘Inspector Norse’.
But then it ends. Feeling underwhelmed not by the content of the set, which proved to be an eye-popping odyssey through Nordic dance music, but by what it lacked in length, the crowd chanted in hope of an encore that never came. We questioned if it was really over, but concluded that you couldn’t get a finale more epic than Whitney. And so we wandered out of Motion at 11pm on a Friday night, comfortably intoxicated, wondering why Terje wasn’t billed for a proper Motion night, and seeking our next thrill.
What’s your verdict: Mario Kart music or the best thing to happen to house since sliced bread? Let us know in the comments below or via social media.