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  • Filed under: Review
  • 02/26/2013

Ost & Kjex Lulu EP

There was a time when Norway's quirkiest outsider duo Ost & Kjex was most notable for its fascination with food. Back in 2004, the pair, often clad in clothes of varying shades of mustard and donning Wisconsin cheesehead-like bowlers and top hats, did Herbert one cheekier by crafting the hilariously titled Some, But Not All Cheese, Comes from the Moon entirely out of cheese and cracker samples. This obsession with fromage and other foodie fare carried right on through to 2010's Cajun Lunch for Hamburg's Diynamic imprint. But a quiet two years focused on family and a collective move to the Oslo suburbs has seen Tore "Ost" Gjedrem and Petter "Kjex" Haavik return to Diynamic as a more mature and in-the-pocket duo with the Lulu EP.

Ost & Kjex's knack for nimble dance grooves hasn't gone away on the pair's latest release, but the cheese puns have. Having risen to greater prominence thanks to their part in Jamie Jones' 2009 hit "Summertime"—a track that arguably helped usher in the current wave of hypnotic, deep, and techy sounds championed by Crosstown Rebels and the like—Ost & Kjex are crafting tunes with more serious undertones. "Lulu," which leads with a falsetto appeal asking listeners to "hold on," finds Ost & Kjex questioning life rather than simply playing around despite it. "Suddenly you feel it slipping/Did you just imagine it?" Ost sings over a spare techno funk. The occasional flourish of Rhodes piano is the only element that upsets the otherwise stark dynamics on "Lulu"; if the duo's airy, blue-eyed house weren't so distinct and well-preserved here, few would ever know that this came from the same minds that once crafted songs with titles like "Blue Cheese Blues Pt 2."

For all the moodiness trickling from between the cracks of the minimal bounce that preceded it, "Indie" goes a long way toward lightening the mood without sounding out of place—at least until the vocals return. Supposedly the result of a soundclash coming from a band in the studio next door, the track channels that boisterous mixing of styles into a surprisingly smooth result. Rubbery bass and atmospheric vocal skats set the pace for a stiff house beat and clean guitar riffing from track collaborator Anne Lise Frøkedal of Norwegian pop act Harrys Gym. In a call and response that goes from verse to verse, Ost & Kjex trade imagery of forgotten friends, abandoned homes, tasteless food, faded photos, and fading memories. This is dance music for grown-ups, a listenership that's open to dancefloor abandon, sure, but also one that's concerned with wrapping its ears around something of substance.

"Harpiks," the EP's final movement, is beautiful in its Scandinavian winteriness. A deep send-off, the track ripples with minor chords, distant dub drum rolls, razor-thin chirps, and the occasional muted horn blast. With a solitary message, "Don't you know that's how it grows/and it shows," "Harpiks" could serve as a mantra for where Ost & Kjex are headed. No longer producers being quirky of the sake of it, they have matured in their music making, a fact that's apparent across all three tracks on this EP.

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