On Lust For Youth’s breakthrough LPs, 2012’s Growing Seeds and 2013’s Perfect View, the band made music that sounded like a normal dance record left to warp and decay for a few years inside a nuclear reactor for a few years. There were beats and melodies, but they were pushed deep beneath fog and murk and cloaked in nausea and sick tension, with only a few ghostly hints at the music as we normally hear it appearing from time to time. It was concrete cold and frontman/ mastermind Hannes Norrvide’s ability to make something that sounded so alien to the musical climate won him a lot of attention. Since then the band’s membership has expanded to three people, with the addition of Vår and Croatian Amor’s Loke Rahbek and Oh No Ono’s Malte Fischer, and their last album International saw them move cautiously into a cleaner, more pop-orientated sound. And on the surface level, this pattern holds true for the issue that brings us here today, their new album Compassion.
Tracks like ‘Stardom’ showcase the band’s talent for shiny glowing pop, synth-lines sparking across the track as Norrvide sings of a whirl of emotions and events combining and crystallising into a moment that detaches you from the world surrounding you: “I’m floating in the air”. The song that immediately follows it on the LP, ‘Limerence’, is darker but still equally danceable, powered by again by bright, airy synths and a pounding beat. These are songs that you could play down your local replica club without the Calvin Harris kids fleeing the dancefloor in terror/stropping to the bar for another jägerbomb, which isn’t something you could say about LFY’s earlier work.
However, any impression that this is the band’s big leap into pop starts to flake after even the most cursory of listens. ‘Display’, with guest vocals from Soho Rezanejad , is a slow-moving, dark, cold song that finishes in crackling, fractured noise. The lyrical mood matches the musical tension: “I promise you a fair display, there’s no such thing as truth anyway”. There are Ballard characters with healthier and more organic relationships than the one depicted here. On ‘Tokyo’, LFY pair upbeat pop melodies with sheer anomie (“morning shows, in hotel tv”), leaving competing meanings and impulses to battle it out; the dull inertia of the verses juxtaposed against the soaring optimism of the chorus. Over the course of its seven minute span ‘Better Looking Brother’ moves from shimmering dance into warped sound holes and back again.
Normally dance or pop music is made with the idea that it’s pure release, that for a three minute period it can drag someone out of the issues and strains of their normal lives and provide respite and escape, into something optimistic, something uncomplicated and happy. Compassion isn’t a record that pretends to do that. At times, it’s an audio depiction of cracked euphoria, of trying to get lost in the moment only for your subconscious anxiety to scratch your peace of mind to shreds. It’s this depth that is the album’s strength, its ability to chronicle the good, bad, ugly and downright fucking sordid of the “twentysomething” experience. The press blurb around this album talks a lot about beauty and what form it takes in today’s world. Compassion recognises that there’s some form of beauty in everything if you capture and present it well enough, from the dancefloor to the person pawing their face in the nightclub bathroom mirror. It’s an album that deals in fragments, snapshots and impressions rather than simple clear messages, but those that take the time to digest it will find a record that deals with modern themes in a considered, provoking manner, and one that you can dance to too. Austin Maloney