I had the pleasure of interviewing Bardi Johannsson of Gang Bang last year, and listening to him describe his musical process and the varied types of work he was involved with, from straight albums to theatrical music to film scores, was a reminder of all the possibilities in creative collaboration. His beautiful compositions could set innumerable cameras rolling, even if only those visuals hidden within your thoughts. In 2014, he joined together with French icon Jean-Benoit Dunckel of Air as Starwalker. It is a collaboration of like minds. Their website sweeps you into their galactic vision with beautiful visuals matched with sound, an elegant rendering of their delicate awareness of balance and emotion. Their first full length album is released April 1, and it’s a beauty. A slow, thoughtful, enveloping album, it gathers you into its intriguing mix of warmth and icy cold with delicate precision.
Holidays, the first song, begins with a childlike vocal that almost induces worry – the feeling hints at bright, happy days…could it be true? The piano is so lovely, the chorus is poppy and sweet – why then does it induce dread? Lost innocence, fear, or simple beauty – any possibility is magnified within the sound.
Blue Hawaii is a gorgeous ballad, accompanied by a mysterious video on their website. While it alludes to a kind of classic electro pop, the way they skillfully change the mood instantly with a chord change or a textured sound leaves you watching your emotions shift. “You want to crush the world but the world will crush you.” As with all their songs, the depths within await your possibility to comprehend them.
Losers Can Win shows a simple pop structure that harks back to the French pop songs of the sixties, But draped on that scaffolding is layers of developed sound above which float the perfectly modern lyrics. “You say you’ve given your best shot…it ain’t close to all that you’ve got…you’ve got to make a new start when you’re going insane…”
Radio has a jazzy late night feel, with that tempting bass line, a deliciously retro sound in the chorus, and a smooth glide, without losing sight of the album’s starry sky dream. Oh yes.
But every song carries its own intimate atmosphere, array of textures, and superb, ear caressing production. By the time album ends with Demeter, one is caught up in whatever elan brought these two electronic geniuses, or genii, together. The song is a dreamy high note, a cascading flow of warm and cold punctuated by precise drumming and interlacing rhythms. In total, the album reveals a wide open landscape of dreams and natural beauty, reminiscent of the island that might have inspired some of the elegant, disruptive music within.
Review by Alice Severin