For some time now, there’s been plenty rotten coming from the state of Denmark. The past few years have brought the flourishing Copenhagen punk scene to forefront, garnering attention from press around the world: Iceage, Lower, Sexdrome, and Hand of Dust are just some of the names recently risen from the chilly Scandinavian underground. Even more, these bands are separated from their international brethren by a kindred approach. Like the Nordic landscape itself, they’re known to foster industrial sounds filled with noise, tension, and brain-freezing cold. Maybe not rotten, exactly, but certainly harmonious in a style that’s all at once haunting, thrilling, and cool.
Lust for Youth counts among this elusive group of noise-makers. However, the Copenhagen-based project may soon be overstaying its welcome. Over the course of two previous LPs, Swedish producer Hannes Norvvide has crafted the sort of dark, melancholy persona that doesn’t quite translate to his latest release, the aptly-titled and wide-reaching International. First, there was 2012’s Growing Seeds, a bleak lo-fi experiment of trance-inducing minimalism. Next came last year’s shimmering Perfect View, a far brighter and voluminous work by comparison. By now, Norvvide has developed a clear method of progression, building layers, adding collaborators, and injecting new light into his inherently dark music as it grows. On International Norvvide pushes even further, setting ambitious goals that achieve new heights, without ever losing sight of the ground where they started.
Armed with a brand new lineup and a surprisingly sleek outlook, Norvvide blends buoyant new wave with carefully-crafted moments of stillness on his latest Lust for Youth release. The addition of Loke Rahbek (most recently of D.I.Y. supergroup Vår) works further to push this dichotomy to its limits; Rahbek’s deep baritone is typically dense and threatening, but his vocals are made light against backgrounds of lush, bright melody. It’s a theme that runs deep across the entire record; weighty material paired with fluorescent luminance. Here in the U.S., many of these bands have found a home in Brooklyn label Sacred Bones, but this approach helps International stand apart from the pack. While it features many of the label’s usual suspects, International is a synth pop record at its core, an experiment so wild that it goes off without a hitch.
You’d be hard pressed to find sounds lovelier than the soaring, prickly synths of opener “Epoetin Alfa,” or the flamboyant, New Order-inspired vibe of “New Boys.” It’s easy to recall the influence of these tracks, but with Lust for Youth, the light breeze of change feels utterly refreshing. Of course, there’s plenty of loneliness too, such as on the cinematic “Lungomare;” the title translates, for those of us that still remember 7th grade Italian class, to “Boardwalk.” Across a bare, dreamy background, an unknown female voice asks many questions that remain unanswered, even by the record’s end. “Cosa vuoi da me?” “What do you want from me?” she begins. As her story progresses, the audience is captivated, ordered to close their mouths, open their eyes, and listen. We’re willing to oblige whether we understand fully or not.
On the opposite spectrum are tracks like “Illume,” a danceable, sunny highlight representing all that gives the new-and-improved Lust for Youth such appeal: its collaborative nature. In addition to Norvvide and Rahbek, there’s a third added band member, Malthe Fisher, plus contributions from Elias Bender Rønnenfelt of Iceage and Adrian Toubro of Lower. Together, their musicality broadens, but best of all, their words speak to heavy topics—emptiness, isolation, and doubt, to name a few—in a manner that’s sometimes quiet, but often rejuvenating.
By banding together and expanding its horizons, International breathes brand new life into the Lust for Youth project. The record is classic in its pop sensibilities, but also familiar in its austere attitude; the best of both worlds.