In a climate where music is cheap and anyone with a laptop is a potential EDM artist, 21-year-old producer L/O/O/N looms imposingly as a production powerhouse. Originally from Tromsø, L/O/O/N (real name Mikael Kanstad) comes from a guitar-playing heavy metal background. After deciding to eschew the life of collectively organised band rehearsals in favour of running on his own clock, he formed the project L/O/O/N to vent music of a more electronic bent.
His self-titled LP, released March 11th on Balsa Wood, is a nine song romp through beat-heavy euphoric soundscapes. It plays with a dizzying array of dynamics, from hard hitting, hip-hop inspired dance music, to more laid back, blissed-out affairs, though ultimately never losing sight of his sweeping panoramic vision. Lead single ‘Dropping Face’ is a clarion call to the worldwide EDM community. Its lurching synths provide a constantly shifting quicksand base. The song’s rapid stuttering beats belie the delicacy of its synth melodies, before respite comes in the form of an ocean-calm bridge. L/O/O/N’s style here and throughout the LP owes much to his influences – bold, assertive, technicolour production is at once reminiscent of Hudson Mohawke, while the general life-affirming euphoria recalls Sweater Beats.
‘L/O/O/N’ is a wildly whimsical LP that often communicates multiple emotions at once. The urgent club-ready drums of ‘Heat’ co-exist with seraphic synth lines in a song which features two prominent beat drops. If L/O/O/N is aiming for transcendence he often gets there through the heady eccentricity of his execution. ‘Feel Good’ is a self-consciously feel-good song. The intro recalls Lido’s more R&B-leaning work but it’s quickly churned through some seriously warped production. The sliding synths endow it with a mammoth presence amidst all the jaunty sky gazing.
The fluidity of ‘Aye Aye’ manifests itself quite literally with cascading synths and buoyant bass. L/O/O/N’s nuanced synthesis on it would have Rustie eyeballing it with envy before the beat even drops. When it does finally drop, the fluidity evaporates and leaves us with a towering and brutalist urban soundscape that precisely tows the line between brashly imposing and compulsively danceable. Album closer ‘More Time’ ends on a sugar high. The sheer candied euphoria L/O/O/N channels on the track is both bombastic and gratifying, making for a joyous finale.
L/O/O/N is an artist fully capable of turning the page on EDM music and writing the next. There is no one quite like him, but he’s also the sum of his parts. Ultimately, origination and originality are both about selecting which parts to add to the equation. L/O/O/N’s music is club ready, but he never compromises on his fearless individuality and idiosyncracy. Mostly what listeners to the ‘L/O/O/N’ LP can be assured of is that L/O/O/N is never predictable and always protean. These are the things pioneers are made of.