Published Mar 21, 2018With an EP and some buzz-generating singles and remixes under his belt, Swedish producer Carl Garsbo (aka Kasbo) has released his debut full-length, the glistening and eminently marketable Places We Don't Know, a pleasant and inoffensive affair with decent hooks and definitely a few standout tracks. However, for all its professional slickness, it fails to make a lasting impression, and its desperation to please mainstream ears becomes suffocating by album's end.
From the first few seconds of solid opener "Bara Du," it's abundantly clear that Garsbo is aiming for a very specific kind of starry-eyed, mid-tempo electronica along the lines of Porter Robinson or Jai Wolf (or for that matter ODESZA, who had a hand in the album's release via their Foreign Family Collective label). Fans of these acts will likely enjoy Places We Don't Know, although even they might find its vaguely mystical/aspirational tone a bit cloying after a while; much of it sounds tailor-made for movie trailers and personal-growth montages on network TV shows.
Influences and intent aside, Garsbo does bring to his work an appealingly icy, very Swedish production style similar to contemporaries Club 8 and Azure Blue. It gives the album a unified sound that nicely complements the various vocalists he's recruited for the project, all of whom acquit themselves well. Indeed, it's hard not to get swept up in the stylish hooks of "Lay It On Me" or the shimmering bounce of "Over You," both of which make a compelling case for Garsbo's pop sensibilities. When he nails it, he nails it.
For every standout track however, there are two more that aim for the exact same thing and fall short. In addition, almost everything is saturated with pitch-bent or otherwise manipulated vocal snippets, a tiresomely ubiquitous technique that sounds very dated. This kind of mainstream sign-posting suffuses the album and ultimately detracts from its distinctiveness and artistry, giving it the sharp whiff of musical product. Garsbo is a talented producer who certainly knows how to achieve his vision; he just needs to set his aims higher than mere marketability. (Foreign Family Collective)