The Indians | Somewhere Else (4AD)

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cd indiansSomewhere Else is simply a serviceable patch of electronic wallpaper, lacking anything original or interesting in its production, compositions, or subject matter.

Life in the frostbitten burgs of Scandinavia clearly has a profound effect on its inhabitants’ tastes in electronic listening. Though the sunnier reaches of Western Europe play home to Spain’s adrenalized acid house and France’s thumping nu-disco, their kinsmen to the east favor a much more introverted approach.

Indians, the alias of Denmark native Søren Løkke Juul, fits firmly within the icy post-techno pioneered by artists like Sigur Rós and Mum. Much like these groups’ best works, Indians’ debut, Somewhere Else, is a subdued electronic soundscape intended for quiet introspection rather than libidinous dance-floor antics. Unfortunately, though Juul is largely successful in his efforts to ape the hazy allure of his influences, his debut’s navel-gazing approach shows how frustratingly little Indians has to contribute to the genre.

Minimal to a fault, Somewhere Else slavishly adheres to the tenants of the postmillennial D.I.Y. electronic aesthetic, a scene in which anyone with rudimentary production skills and access to a 909 can record a “selected ambient works” of their very own. It’s all here: the sparse beats, the whiny, milquetoast falsetto, the use of annoyingly precious song titles like “Magic Kids” and “I Am Haunted.” Even his mundane nom de guerre seems like a calculated bid for indie credibility, the apparent cleverness of it being that Juul’s album is neither the work of a collective nor in any way related to Native American or Indian culture.

As the album is aggressively average in every conceivable way, it should hardly come as a surprise that Somewhere Else is being released through 4AD, given that Juul seems to consciously crib his stylistic cues from his more celebrated labelmates. This applies especially to Efterklang, whose similarly frigid and discreet 2012 release Piramida seems to be a direct inspiration for Somewhere Else. But whereas that album centered on a unique and engaging theme of Arctic exploration, Somewhere Else is simply a serviceable patch of electronic wallpaper, lacking anything original or interesting in its production, compositions, or subject matter (unless lines like “when you gotta go, and anyway we let you go, this is how to go” strike the listener as a particularly fascinating insight on the human condition).

To call Somewhere Else formulaic is not doing justice to the tediousness of the album. Nearly every tack ends just as it began, with Juul warbling his vaguely uplifting nonsense over a nearly muted synthesizer and determinedly simplistic percussion patterns. Still, given that nearly all of Indians’ productions are content to float by without registering a pulse, the few tracks that attempt to deviate from this formula provide the most interesting moments on the album. “Bird” begins promisingly with a delicate piano line, but the promise is almost immediately thwarted when Juul’s ingratiating vocals enter the mix. “Cakelayers” is a passable stab at indie folk, but yet again, Juul’s thin, nasal whine is poor substitute for the rich, earthy croon the genre thrives on (simply look to fellow Scandinavian Kristian Matsson of The Tallest Man on Earth fame for proof).

With so many other artists charting the same chill-out territory with far more ambitious and interesting results, Somewhere Else ultimately proves impossible to recommend. A dull, lazy release, the fact that this bland batch of easy listening music could debut on a forward-thinking label like 4AD is only possible in an age where twee-voiced pretentiousness is in high demand and anyone with access to GarageBand software is a DJ by proxy. | David Von Nordheim

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