Release Date: May 22, 2012
Record label: Friends of Friends
Chances are, if you know Tomas Barfod at all, it's from his kinda-electro, kinda-disco, kinda-indie-rock band WhoMadeWho, most recently seen on Kompakt. But the Danish producer recently made a move to Los Angeles, where he found himself in contact with Friends of Friends' boss Leeor Brown. Friends of Friends have previously released the depressive hip-hop of Shlohmo and the anything-goes pastiche of Salva, but Salton Sea—also Barfod's debut solo album—is the most explicitly house thing the label has put out yet.
Tomas BarfodSalton Sea[Friends Of Friends; 2012]By Will Ryan; June 15, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetListening to Tomas Barfod's excellent full-length debut for LA-based Friends of Friends, Salton Sea, I start to wander about house music's contentious balance of songwriter and producer. Barfod is most recognizable for his role as drummer in Danish indie electro outfit WhoMadeWho, and while those indie leanings bleed through in the construction and arrangement of many of Salton Sea's tracks, it's never in fear of compromising the Dane's role as producer. Historically, populist leanings, especially from someone not born and raised in clubs, can sit as a point of contention in dance music.
Tomas Barfod is a drummer, which means that even if he never lifted a finger to hammer out a dance tune, he'd be considered a beatmaker in the most basic sense. As it turns out, he does quite a bit of both: In addition to handling kit duties for the angular electro-pop outfit WhoMadeWho, Barfod's been knob-twiddling for the past decade and change, both on his own and with fellow Danish countryman Kasper Bjørke as Filur. His new solo album, Salton Sea, finds him tightrope-walking the increasingly smaller gap between man and machine.
Producer and drummer Tomas Barfod's latest collection of organically-infused minimal techno tracks is full of unfulfilled potential. Pulsating opener "D.S.O.Y." has a relentless drive, but its arpeggiated synth lines rarely morph into new guises, while previously EP-released "Came to Party," with its repetitive android voices ("Everybody/Everybody/Everybody/Came to party," they chant) also suffers from an arduously unchanging dirty groove. As a consequence, these tracks are too limited in scope, too wallpaper thin to have any enduring impact.
This is probably going to come out sooner or later, so I might as well get it out of the way now: I haven’t seen Blade Runner. I didn’t even know what Blade Runner was about until I had listened to Tomas Barfod’s debut solo LP, Salton Sea, and after I had discovered that Barfod cites the film as a major thematic and sonic influence on the album. Since then, I have learned that Blade Runner is about hunting scary robots, it is a subgenre of film noir called “neo-noir,” and it takes place in what Netflix describes as “a smog-choked dystopian Los Angeles” (which just sounds like Los Angeles to me).
As drummer for WhoMadeWho, Tomas Barfod is responsible for giving the indie dance trio the same unique club backbeat that bands like Phoenix and Hot Chip are now known for. On his first solo LP, Salton Sea, the Copenhagen-born musician focuses on a less organic approach, as Barfod incorporates snap/crackle/pop programming, vocoded vocals, deep synth funk and wandering rhythms into 12-beat connectors. His collaborations with vocalists like Canadian-born film composer Lydia Ainsworth and WhoMadeWho-mate Jeppe Kjellberg give much of the music on Salton Sea a scholarly, somewhat refined feel.