By and large, the average American understands techno according to one or more of the specific music trends that have caused it to enjoy a fleeting popularity here. For example, the genre tag "electronica", popular in the late 90s and deplorable in its conceptual vacuity, would have never been coined in Europe, swamped as that land has been in electronic beats since the late 70s. Now were one inclined to find a great example of current European electronic music that could be used to broaden the horizon of the average American in question, in order to ward off any number of unpleasant glowstick and raver pants associations, I highly recommend that one not use Staying In, the debut album by Diskjokke.
Diskjokke is the work of Norwegian Joachim Dyrdahl, who with his signing to the label Smalltown Supersound joins the ranks of the more-established Lindstrom and Prins Thomas in the growing Norwegian space-disco scene. Or rather, what would have been a scene had the third and newest representative been able to match the work of the older two. Its creative limitations mean that it neither adds to nor deepens the current spectrum of possibilities in contemporary disco, which is arguably enjoying a strong international resurgence thanks to the efforts of those such as Diskjokke’s elders.
The electronic music newsletter Earplug, edited by critic Philip Sherburne, recently referred to the album as "fireplace disco", and while the mostly major-key mid-tempo chuggers on display here definitely do invoke a fresh cup of tea and a warm carpet, perhaps sheltered from a dark Norwegian winter, the songs themselves, ironically enough, don’t really seem to be at home. They meander and are uncertain. The album bears one mark of competent but not stellar art: while the creator’s craft might be apparent, justification for a certain composition of elements is lacking. This certainly the case with a number of the songs on Staying In, particularly the title track, where a friendly, burbly synth melody is interrupted by the stabbing fart of a truly irritating casio horn section and then derailed by an extended drum break.
Production in electronic music is disproportionately important when compared to other genres, because of the reduced aesthetic palette. If there’s only going to be two notes, and maybe there’s vocals and it’s the same word and over and over again, and not much happens for ten minutes, then the whole thing better sound damn cool. Luminaries like Vladislav Delay and Thomas Brinkmann have eked out whole sonic kingdoms for themselves largely by redefining the possibilities of sound design and manipulation. The limit to Staying In is that it itself is largely content to stay in, that is, to stay in a comfortable and familiar shelter of very recognizable and rather staid aesthetic phenomena. The songs are for the most part anchored neither in a strong melodic sensibility nor compelling, unique production. That’s the long way of saying that if you play this for someone who’s not a big techno fan, it’s just going to sound like some generic techno, and if you play this for someone who is, well then, you will probably elicit the same result.