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Prins Oblonsky (NO) – “Østerdalen”

Prins Oblonsky isn’t the first musician to convey movement with few tools, but he’s certainly one of the more interesting voices in minimal techno right now. “Østerdalen,” the third of four tracks on Oblonsky’s debut EP, Dreams on Hold (out now via Beatservice), rarely seems to have more than four or five sonic layers, but it’s hard not to immediately imagine fog-soaked, barely lit dancefloors upon hearing it. Across its six-minute run, Oblonsky’s firm grip on techno grooves never loosens, even when there are fewer sonic layers applying pressure.

Although “Østerdalen” opens with a whisper, its eventual expansion into a chasm of flanged shakers, blaring couplets of synths, and hearty kicks—all synthetic—is implied from the song’s very first moment. As the song’s introductory synth notes calmly rattle their way into focus, a minuscule click-clack can be heard. This diminished clatter is easy to miss, but tune into it, and the full path of “Østerdalen” becomes apparent.

The song’s charm, then, is that it’s no less exciting for how well it implies that a gradual ascent towards a more glaringly propulsive centerpiece is approaching. By two minutes into the song’s runtime, a classic quarter-note tom-tom—again, wholly synthetic—enters the foray to introduce a familiarly ecstatic house feel to the track. So too does a thoroughly thwacking bass drum, one whose heft comes without overbearance—it hits so firmly yet so nimbly that its presence is easy to miss under the convulsions of the tom.

“Østerdalen” is a whirlwind of convulsions that disguise other spasms. By four minutes into the song, when the track is arguably at its most dance-inducing, the consistent work of that introductory pitter-patter almost fully disappears into the galactic but restrained synths lying at the song’s center. Oblonsky keeps few tools in his box, but he’s so skillful an artist that it’s still difficult to count them.

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