Six Cups of Rebel
(Smalltown Supersound; 2012)
By P.M. Goerner | 19 January 2012
I’ve got to hand it to him: Hans-Peter Lindstrøm seems like a pretty laid-back fellow. And I mean that in the most tangible sense of the phrase, so don’t get your bottle-opener flip-flops in a tizzy if he doesn’t happen to meet your personal standard. I mean simply that he’s obviously made a career out of being more open-minded and crossover-happy than the average bear, and laid-back describes him more than it does many of his disco-fetishist contemporaries. The legends of Lindstrøm’s early development are memorably characterized by a bold, headfirst jump from a strictly traditional rock and roll upbringing straight into the glamorous, blinking world of sequenced dance music, and it amazed me personally to discover how relatively little time the producer of such gripping cosmic epics as It’s a Feedelity Affair (2006) and the sprawling, space-odyssey-worthy Where You Go I Go Too (2008) had spent behind the laptop. It was and still is a pretty solid testament to the man’s funky talents. This was also about the time I bought my first synthesizer. That’s not a coincidence.
So to draw an obvious but necessary conclusion, I must attest that the attention-deficit successes of this lanky Norwegian can only reliably be ascribed to a monumental, Miles Davis-esque cool. I’ll give him that. Though, that’s actually a convenient comparison too, as the sort of all-or-nothing attitude that undoubtedly birthed such drunken mastery as Bitches Brew (1970) and the nuts-and-bolts hypno-funk of On the Corner (1972) seems to have more or less possessed the circuits at work for H.P. Lindstrøm and his new LP, Six Cups of Rebel. The producer’s aforementioned friendliness with technical crossover is in full bloom all across the board, just like it seemed to have been for Miles, and the utterly unhinged funk that pours out of god-knows-what-is-or-isn’t-electronic is, perhaps predictably, both magnetically ecstatic and somewhat overwhelming.
Here, Lindstrøm’s songs sound more infused with the heartbeat of a live band than ever before. He draws bright lines between his own familiar disco territory and the parallel universe of ‘70s funk, and as the Isaac-Hayes-worshiping wah-wah of the title track makes undeniable, this is most certainly Lindstrøm’s funk record. The familiar laser-cutting lines of his typically bold melodies and bass lines are always within reach, but not nearly as bare-bones as in previous outings. Where the idiosyncratic producer had managed to subvert the almost precious simplicity of his earliest singles by layering and syncopating lots of competing synthesizer textures, Six Cups of Rebel finds him instead blanketing the meat of the songs with a lovably ramshackle bag of loose accoutrements. As the songs blur the lines between modern and traditional technology, I do get the feeling that I’m hearing instruments of all color and creed at work during just about any moment, but the ferocious swamp that churns every ingredient together like the memories of your most vile school lunchroom double-dare makes the discernment of any particular flavor secondary to simply taking on the whole casserole in one athletic, album-long swallow.
To put it perhaps somewhat more lucidly, about two and a half minutes into “De Javu” I realized I had suddenly made a deep spiritual connection with KC and the Sunshine Band. Such is the next-level ass-shaking power of many of the tracks on Six Cups of Rebel, but as with any party that seems to make being unselfconscious its express goal, things can and do sometimes devolve into an off-putting pointlessness. Therein, the necessary sense of humor sometimes loses focus. Thankfully, that’s a pretty rare occurrence here, mostly compressed conveniently into the questionable Jeff-Lynne-on-brown-acid sideshow of “Quiet Place to Live.” But before the shellshock really takes hold, the shimmering Lindstrøm-as-only-Lindstrøm-could-be “Call Me Anytime” picks up with maneuvering thrusters back on target, and the ambitious “Hina” closes the curtain with an engaging reemergence of everything fondly familiar about the patron saint of cosmic arpeggiations.
The new echelon of freedom on display throughout Six Cups of Rebel seems like an obvious turn of character when measured up to Lindstrøm’s well-received collaborations with the like-minded Prins Thomas, and it’s not remotely off the mark to think that he’s finally found a great way to translate the zest of that cosmic lounge act into the more adventurous realm of his solo work. The record’s understandable missteps are minor in comparison to its joyful evocations, and though Lindstrøm seems to be attempting to approach new territory, he does it in considerate measures and comes away with something that still makes perfect sense. Six Cups of Rebel recalls the most endearingly unkempt of the ‘70s funk experimentalists like Miles, Isaac, James Brown, and Parliament, while never losing sight of its creator’s unique character. If it sounds like a lot to take in one spoonful, it is, but you can bet that after the cocaine wears off and you’re done karate chopping people in bellbottoms, you’re still going to feel pretty laid-back about the whole affair. That’s Lindstrøm for ya.