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Review: Skatebård, 'CDIII'

Note: NPR's audio for First Listens comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Cover art for <em>CDIII</em>.
/ Courtesy of the artist.
Cover art for <em>CDIII</em>.

To best understand electronic producer Bård Aasen Lødemel's mischievous, irreverent musical nature, cue up his 2008 remix of fellow Norwegian Annie's "Two Of Hearts." A cover of Stacey Q's 1986 freestyle hit, Annie's version is exacting, but in his eight-minute "Skatebård's High Energy In The Night" remix, Lødemel goes overboard. He playfully stuffs the song full of '80s dance-music motifs: relentless thumps, dramatic synth chords, manic arpeggios. Performed under the name Skatebård, Lødemel's productions stretch back to 2002; his singles and remixes have appeared on his own Digitalo Enterprises label, as well as on the impish Sex Tags Mania label.

While traces of techno, nu-disco and the like turn up in his tracks, the name "Digitalo" makes evident his preference for the musical Mediterranean subgenre known as "Italo." Referencing an early-'80s synth-pop form that took its cues from the likes of Giorgio Moroder's Eurodisco and Patrick Cowley's Hi-NRG in the late '70s, those telltale arpeggios introduce Skatebård's fifth album, CDIII. "The Bells Of Mist" builds on that bubbling keyboard sound, adding a muscular kick, a clocked cowbell and dulcet bell melody over the course of nine minutes. But no matter the meter, just beneath the surface of "Mist" is a gentle melodic wash that gives everything a sense of calm.

Clocking in at 80 minutes, CDIII finds Skatebård having fun with dance-music tropes across its 11 tracks, mixing heavy beat programming with lighter touches. The stuttering keyboard line of "Starwatcher II" brings to mind early house music, while "Naar Det Rykker I Ringen" relies on knocking '90s breakbeats. The keyboards lurch in "Love In The Night," but are buoyed by the wispiest of pan-flute lines. A similar effect is achieved in "Confirmation Bias." A deep, dark thump emanates from the center of the 10-minute track, but a buzzing keyboard figure and skittering hi-hat midway through give off a glint of light just before Skatebård heads down another dark corridor.

Lødemel stretches out in the home stretch of CDIII. The breezy and psychedelic "Farver/Flimrer" derives a bit of a tropical lilt from a snippet of percussion and a woodwind preset, all of it swaddled in copious echo and delay. "Loved All Day" closes the set with an epic house track, as defined by the likes of Marshall Jefferson's productions as Ten City: It's warm, streamlined and soaring for 12 lovely minutes, before Skatebård pares it all back to one small chime.

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