From the footwork-fueled corners of Copenhagen's techno scene where those records took root, their debut album Believer takes flight, carrying the duo north to plumb the rich history of their native Norway's countryside for a shapeshifting journey that forms a new lore all their own. Touching on Northern European chamber, opera, and folk traditions as they steer through a minefield of club-ready moments, Catharina Stoltenberg and Henriette Motzfeldt have created a sonic topography that thrives on paradox - it's a disorienting pleasure to navigate. Opener "Gitarriff" is a case in point: gentle chimes shimmer for almost a minute before they're flattened by a sinister bass guitar, behind which we eventually hear a moaning chorus of strings awaken as if from a cryogenic slumber.
Norwegian duo Catharina Stoltenberg and Henriette Motzfeldt have been slowly drip-feeding tracks under the Smerz name for a few years now but the arrival of their debut album in full starkly reveals the true scale of their ambition and ability. It's an album that evades easy classification and is a uncommon example of one that benefits from a noticeable lack of flow. It wouldn't be right to call it disjointed, but the way that it blends styles and wrongfoots expectations helps push it towards a lesser-inhabited musical space.
Smerz's tightly coiled synth pop is designed to keep you on edge. Henriette Motzfeldt and Catharina Stoltenberg place their zombified vocals atop ruptured synths and murky breakbeats, creating an air of chilly menace. On Believer, the Norwegian duo's first full-length for XL, Smerz take this sound to even harsher places; as with 2018's off-kilter Have fun EP, the music works best when it glowers, throwing you off balance and getting under your skin.