Kleerup: Kleerup (Album Review)

Much as with Robyn–one of many featured collaborators on his debut–Kleerup has spent the past year or two toting his record around international waters.

In May of 2008, Kleerup was released in Sweden. One month ago, it made its way to the UK. Now, on July 28, Kleerup’s arrived in America. Since I never got around to (read: was too lazy to) review the album when it launched in the UK earlier this year, the US release has provided a key opportunity (read: kick in the ass to get going.)

Kleerup is one massive collaborative effort; tied together with warm bass pulsations, hollow Kleerup-ian synth lines, a handful of guest spots, and loads and loads of my favorite style of sound–a sub-genre some fans have lovingly dubbed as “sad disco.”

After the pace-setting drive of opening instrumental “Hero,” Lykke Li‘s “Until We Bleed” floods the speakers with a kind of tender, drippy ghostliness that begs to be repeatedly blasted on high.

Of course there’s also “With Every Heartbeat,” the massively successful collaboration with Robyn that hit #1 in the UK in 2007 and proved that dance music didn’t have to be simple to be appreciated by the masses. In fact, “Heartbeat” is complex; building up steadily across waves of synthesizers until finally reaching that long-awaited, breathless utterance three minutes in: “And it hurts with every heartbeat,” repeated eight more times until the slow fade away. If that isn’t the definition of an aural orgasm, I don’t know what is.

Another highlight (and subject of a recent post) is the Titiyo-led “Longing For Lullabies,” perhaps the album’s greatest embodiment of the term ‘sad disco.’ Lush, haunting, and mostly all other adjectives in between, “Lullabies” is a smashing musical and vocal accomplishment for both artists.

Nestled between each vocal track on the album is an instrumental. Yet far from the “action-interlude-action” structure one might expect an album of that nature to provide, the non-vocal work proves just as captivating as the meatier portions of the album–which is no minor feat.

Choice instrumentals include the eternally haunting closer “I Just Want To Make That Sad Boy Smile” and the dub-like “Thank You For Nothing,” though the latter’s excellence is due in large part to its nearly palpable bitterness: The song, which was initially used as the backing track for a stunning number called “Lay Me Down” Cyndi Lauper‘s 2008 album Bring Ya To The Brink, is rumored to be titled “Thank You For Nothing” after Lauper (or perhaps her management) refused to release her own version for inclusion on his album. Ouch!

Further on, the album trudges on both merrily and mournfully. I don’t know if anyone else adored Linda Sundblad‘s strange, quirk-tastic solo album back in 2006, but hearing her on the hypnotic “History” made me truly yearn for more. Linda, return to us!

Kleerup’s production style is distinct and unmistakable, which could be interpreted as a critique, but shouldn’t: It’s fresh, innovative, and lacks any obvious ‘modern’ production techniques that plague most major dance acts today. A year later, Kleerup remains as ethereal and exciting as it did in 2008; proof that excellence and sophistication can still be concocted for the dance floor.

Click below to preview and purchase Kleerup.

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