Prins Thomas
© Jonathan Vivaas Kise/Red Bull Content Pool
Music

A short guide to Norway's cosmic disco scene

Northern Disco Lights is a film about Norway's cosmic disco makers. From Bjørn Torske to André Bratten, these are some of the major players responsible for that uniquely Norwegian sound.
Written by Sammy Lee
5 min readPublished on
From the grime-coated and drizzle-sodden post-punk gloom of late ’70s Manchester to the post-industrial chug of Detroit techno, the sounds that emerge from a place are often a symptom of the lives lived in that location. It’s an idea that's at the heart of the documentary Northern Disco Lights – a film that looks back at the 20-plus year history of a glacial and cosmically-minded electronic sound that emerged from Norway at the turn of the millennium.
Northern Disco Lights is the story of isolated teenagers in the arctic city of Tromsø and how, inspired by pioneers like Norwegian ambient pioneer Biosphere, and exposure to new forms of house and techno, these kids twisted their boredom into a deep, wonky and peculiar update of the disco sound often referred to as space disco.
From Tore "Erot" Kroknes, who died aged 23 but whose 1999 track Song For Annie was a pivotal moment, and Per Martinsen (aka Mental Overdrive), to Pål Nyhus's psychedelically-minded Mungolian Jet Set and Norwegian labels like Smalltown Supersound and Full Pupp, the trademark chug and jumping bass lines of space disco have left an indelible mark on European dance music.
Below are some of the leading lights of this disparate “scene”, and the music you should check out.
Music · 1 h 14 min
Northern Disco Lights

Bjørn Torske

Along with Tore “Erot” Kroknes, who he made music with, including the hilariously intense and rough-hewn stomper Jeg Vil Være Søppelmann, Bjørn Torske is, as Northern Disco Lights shows, one of Norway's cosmic house forefathers. His early forays into house in the early '90s hipped his peers to electronic music long before he'd developed the minimal, disco-dub style that he’s best known for.
Along with Erot's Song For Annie from the same year, Torske's 1999 track Sexy Disco was an early example to younger producers in Norway that disco could be reclaimed and transformed, just like producers in Paris had done a few years earlier. Torske's effortlessly groovy, yet moody and peculiar albums – Feil Knapp and Kokning, in particular – are a joy to behold.
In a feat of wilful deconstruction, Torske teamed up with Prins Thomas in 2017 to develop a curious antidote to the sound they're synonymous with on the ghostly, nerve-fraying Square One.

Lindstrøm

Hans-Peter Lindstrøm’s latest album On A Clear Day I Can See You Forever might not set dancefloors into rug-cutting frenzy, but it does, via its subdued meditative synth explorations, abound with the sort of melancholy atmosphere that, when he was starting out, made him the king of downbeat disco.
The Stavanger-raised musician has always been just as interested in melody, mood and the far-out possibilities of electronic composition as he has in filling a dancefloor – and it shows in everything he does. And that is an awful lot so far.
Whether he’s dropping space-disco bombs like mid-'00s scene classics I Feel Space and Another Station, “genre”-defining album collaborations with Prins Thomas, a glossy club-pop album with Christabelle (Real Life Is No Cool, 2010), an LP of trippy psychedelia with Todd Rundgren, or avant-garde solo albums, it's all loaded with cosmic delight.
A photo of Lindstrøm DJing Oslo, Norway, in 2018.
Lindstrøm

Prins Thomas

A producer, DJ and remixer with a history of playing in a mind-boggling array of Norwegian bands, Prins Thomas’s three albums with Lindstrøm, who he took up with in the early '00s, provided some of the defining moments of Norwegian nu disco. Thomas brought the motorik chug and balaeric light, while Lindstrøm weaved his hooky, emotional melodies.
Like his musical partner, Thomas has remained prolific. He runs his own labels, Full Pupp and Internasjonal, both of which promote artists pursuing a musical aesthetic similar to Thomas'; his acclaimed mix albums Paradise Goulash (released on a USB stick in a food tin) and The Movement Of The Free Spirit (a celebration of Smalltown Supersound’s 25 years) are epic, balearic-meets-disco-meets-new-Norway odysseys; and across his seven solo albums he's taken his metronomic space-disco frug into increasingly deep, introspective territory inhabited by prog, house, funk and ambient.

Todd Terje

Todd Terje is the fun-loving poster boy of this particular strain of Norwegian electronic music and the “king of the summer jams”. A frequent collaborator with (and remixer of) his Norwegian peers, Terje (real name Olsen) has unpicked the icy, motorik sound of Linstrøm and Thomas and redressed it in fancy, flashing pants and a retro-futurist flourishes of wooshing lasers and old-school disco and funk, as on Inspector Norse – probably the best-known song made by any of these musicians.
Such is Terje's reverence for the real '70s disco sound – albeit one pitched up to rave-friendly speed – Terje even formed a band of musicians and dance performers called Todd Terje and The Olsens.
A photo of Todd Terje performing live in Tokyo in 2014.
Todd Terje

diskJokke

He’s been quiet for a long time now, but at the end of the last decade Joachim Dyrdahl stood tall among Norway's growing legion of electronic stars. After crossing paths with Prins Thomas, the classically-trained musician brought his interest in composition (and tones and drones) to bear on his other primary loves – extended disco and house workouts.
In 2010, after releasing music on Thomas’s Full Pupp (obviously), Dyrdahl released his wonderful (second) album En Fin Tid on, where else, Smalltown Supersound – a techy, twitchy cosmic-disco meander delivered with finesse, guile and playfulness, and a song wonderfully titled Bastard Alliance. He went further out still on his gamelan-inspired 2011 album Sagara.

André Bratten

Given his more recent output, André Bratten, like Lindstrøm, might bristle at being included in a list of “space disco” pioneers, but the music made by the techno-favouring Nord has always been imbued with the same crisp yet far-out quality inherent in so much of Norway's finer electronic exports.
Indeed, Bratten's steely, robo-disco debut from 2013, Be A Man You Ant, came out on Prins Thomas's Full Pupp label, and his recent, slightly foreboding Pax Americana EP – less swoosh, more menace – was released by Smalltown Supersound. In a nod to the glossier sound of disco, though, he did use a vintage mixer once owned by ABBA.
A photo of André Bratten performing live in Tonsberg, Norway, in 2016.
André Bratten