Since first hitting the scene via 2010’s Kanal"/"Turkis EP on Full Pupp, Henning “Telephones” Severud’s releases have generally been filed next to that of his fellow Norwegians, as much of his work is tinged with the same cosmic inclinations as fellow countrymen like Prins Thomas, Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and diskJokke. But it’s the music coming from a more southerly locale, and from an earlier era, that might serve as an equally direct antecedent for Telephones’ output—namely, the Italo-house of the early '90s. His sound, more often than not, has been shot through with the same deep atmosphere, rich melodies and sumptuous instrumentation that defined that mini-genre: with its velvety production and sunny luster, 2013’s “Tutti Frutti del Mar,” produced with DJ Fett Burger, could be a lost classic off of the Irma or Heartbeat label, for instance, while the following year’s “Lotusland” references the Balearic bliss of Sueño Latino.
Telephones’ debut album, Vibe Telemetry, shares much of its beatific DNA with the Italo-house style, sometimes laced with a touch of the kind of tribal bump that NYC labels like Strictly Rhythm and Emotive were doling out around the same time. There’s the occasional hint of second-wave Detroit techno, too, and even a trace of the progressive house that acts like React 2 Rhythm and Boomshanka were trading in long before the term progressive became a dirty word.
But the LP, released on Gerd Janson’s Running Back, isn’t a “retro” collection by any means, nor is it overly reverential in its nods toward the music of days gone by. The similarities are more in intent: Vibe Telemetry’s tracks are imbued with the kind of joyfulness that helped to define house of a quarter-century ago, when producers were still decoding the wonders of the 4/4 rhythm, shaping house’s palette and exploring the emotive possibilities the genre had to offer.
A track like the breezy “Sierra” captures the Italo-house sound with precision. It’s packed full of instrumentation—piano chords, hovering strings, fluttering synths, the occasional wrong-number sound effect to remind you that you’re listening to Telephones—but it never feels cluttered, with every sound in service of the song’s euphoric feel. “Datajungel” has the low-key, spacey aura that used to permeate the catalogs of labels like Antima and Oversky; while “Untitled (The Party)” takes the opposite tack, lacing its hook-heavy keyboards over a jazzy ascending bassline and infectious hi-hats.
Like much of Vibe Telemetry, it’s saturated with melody—and while all of these tracks are closer to fully fleshed-out songs than they are DJ tool, some of the album’s best moments occur when Telephones allows the rhythm to take control. The aptly named “Tripping Beauty” lays its simple, vaguely exotic keys over tom toms and swirling synths; “Entropiklia” embeds a tribal beat beneath its soaring synths and dubbed-out organ; the interplay between the percussion, piano and percolating keys of the elegant, Detroit-ish “Mezcal Express” make it the album’s most propulsive tune.
The album ends with a beautiful two-track denouement with the angelic “Flow System” and the radiant sunrise-rave charmer “DTMF.” They’re two of Vibe Telemetry’s sweetest moments, in an album that is brimming with them.
01. 147 Stars
03. Tripping Beauty
05. Highs & Bungalows
06. Sea, Hex & Moon
07. Mezcal Eclipse
10. Untitled (The Party)
11. Flow System
Vibe Telemetry is due out October 14.