‘Compassion’, the latest long player offering from Swede/Dane outfit, Lust for Youth, is an impressive production that fuses sounds of shimmering light and morose dark to create a glossy ball of monochrome synthpop. Think black glitterball – spangles from the dark side.
Originally the solo project of Swede Hannes Norrvide, Lust for Youth developed into a triumvirate after a move to Copenhagen saw Norrvide hook up with Danes, Loke Rahbek and Malthe Fischer. Now following on from their 2014 post-punk, cold wave grit-comp, ‘International’, they have released this much anticipated album, in many ways the culmination of a continuous evolution of sound.
The antithesis of its predecessor, ‘Compassion’ is a more mature, sophisticated creation, although some might say that with that same refinement comes a loss of the very rawness that gave ‘International’ a grimy and therefore, more interesting edge. Ultimately, what way you swing will come down to personal taste: if you are a dirty sounding, industrial leaning synth pop fan, then ‘Compassion’ may not be for you. If you are a lover of slick synth-pop noir, then this is a gem you need to add to your musical treasure trove.
This eight track Lp opens with ‘Stardom’ a fusion of sketches from SGR and Black Celebration, with overtures of Wilder’s more finessed electronic flourishes a la SOFAD. Compounding the Mode comparison is the wistful vocal redolent of a Nordic Dave Gahan, although the parsimonious modulation gives it a slight Kraftwerkian mono-automaton quality. ‘Stardom’ is a two tiered dichotomy: overhead lines of warm melodica flow in parallel with underground undulating bass electronica & dancing percussion. Interestingly, despite being a love song, it is tinged with an air of despondency.
“I’m complete, I’m content
In your bed but I’m floating
In the air in the clear”
Second track in, ‘Limerance’, which means infatuated love, has a dreamy wistful melody that perfectly complements the songs lyrical theme of obsessive, unrequited love. Pure 80s dance-pop, it is made up of a series of interlinking loops underpinned by an insistent drum beat and repetitive sequences of warm synth that give a honeyed glaze to a washed-out, detached vocal.
Smatterings of “found sounds” and spoken word, are dotted through the compelling meld of poignant cold electronics and warm acoustic chords that make up ‘Easy Window’, a curious yet enchanting instrumental choc full of quirks and delightfully arranged synth sequences that brings to mind a sonic Star Wars between outer space and planet earth. From interstellar handbags at dawn, to nocturnal handbags on the dancefloor, pure 80s pop-monster, ‘Sudden Ambitions’, is an infectious muddle of NO, ‘Regret’ and TfF ‘The Working Hour’, while its mille feuille of up tempo synth layered over a foundation of gyrating percussive beats, is joyful dance pop in the mould of Pet Shop Boys. Here Norrvide’s vocal, at its most Gahan-esque, is also at its warmest and most inviting.
Rolling with the PSB and NO sound is surging disco track, ‘Better Looking Brother’, which will sweep you away on the tide of its driving momentum, while duet ‘Display’, does a sonic volte-face changing down gears to first and brings a welcome albeit temporary reprieve from the continuous thrum of up-tempo pop. Despite comprising a bolognaise of several strands of warm electronica and melodic guitar lines, ‘Display’ is full of wide open spaces, making this ballad one of the most interesting, and for my money definitely one of the best, tracks on the album.
The album closes with the rather bizarre ‘In Return’. Ambiguous Swedish spoken word is married with an almost ambient instrumental accompaniment, its pervasive sense of stasis given only brief moments of animation via electronic flourishes. It’s an easy listening close but probably the most dated sound on the album.
All in all, ‘Compassion’ is more retro than its more futuristic predecessor. It references some of the best 80s brand names, which in turn adds to the sense of wistful nostalgia so integral to the album’s thematic core.
‘Compassion’ is a dark reflective stroll through 80s pop highlighted with some wonderful flashes of melodic silver lining. While it may be less edgy than ‘International’, it is significantly more mature, and as far as pieces of polished synth-pop noir go, this is one classy affair.
Lust for Youth’s album, ‘Compassion’ is out now on Sacred Bones records.
The band are currently on tour, you can check out the tour dates below (they play London’s Moth Club 22/4)
Lust for Youth Tour Dates:
22.03.16 – Los Angeles, US – Teregram Ballroom
24.03.16 – Brooklyn, NY – Market Hotel
02.04.16 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Sigurdsgade
06.04.16 – Berlin, Germany – Lido
07.04.16 – Leipzig, Germany – Ilses Erika
08.04.16 – Zürich, Switzerland – Südpol
09.04.16 – Milan, Italy – Serraglio
11.04.16 – Paris, France – Le Petit Bain
12.04.16 – Lyon, France – Le Sonic
13.04.16 – Madrid, Spain – El Sol
14.04.16 – Barcelona, Spain – Sidecar
16.04.16 – Lisbon, Portugal – Musicbox
21.04.16 – Warsaw, Poland – Klub Hydrozagadka
22.04.16 – London, UK – Moth Club
20/05/16 – Rome, Italy – Spring Attitude Festival
11.06.16 – Montreal, QC – La Sala Rossa