Norwegian producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm, usually so sure-footed, has made a rare misstep with his latest long-player, the awkwardly titled It's Alright Between Us As It Is. It's a thoughtful and textured album, but it's also safe and at times even boring — and will almost certainly disappoint those weaned on the starry-eyed exuberance of 2012's Smallhans, or Windings, his outstanding EP from 2016.
That an artist's latest work differs from what preceded it certainly isn't grounds for criticism in and of itself, and this should go doubly for an artist like Lindstrøm, whose output has been so gloriously varied stylistically. But blandness isn't a style, and that's what's unexpectedly and disappointingly different about It's Alright Between Us As It Is; one waits in vain for the album to ever truly cut loose.
Lindstrøm has always excelled at dynamics, the push and pull of rising action versus eventual release. Both halves of this equation are equally important, and these tracks are heavy on build but stingy on payoff — they arrive at broad plateaus, never dizzying peaks. The long wait for the openings of "Spire" and "Tensions" to result in something worthy of the time spent ends with disappointment, and casts a retroactive pall of tedium over the tracks during repeat listens.
Lindstrøm remains a consummate producer throughout however, and there are certainly moments of greatness to be found. His subtly playful arpeggios are always a pleasure, and remain so here, and there's at least one moment of cosmic glory at the beginning of album highlight "Drift" that offers a glimpse of the powers Lindstrøm suddenly seems so intent to keep a lid on.
There are hints of that potential buried throughout It's Alright Between Us As It Is, and it's frankly still a pleasure to hear Lindstrøm masterfully keep everything in check, but there's a distinct lack of the full-throttle joyousness that he's capable of. If it was his intentional choice to temper that instinct, it was sadly misjudged. (Smalltown Supersound)