By Conner Jensen
Electric Pop icons Bardi Johannsson (Bang Gang, Lady & Bird) and Jean-Benoit Dunckel (Air, Tomorrow’s World) have come together to form Starwalker, a duo that is bound to test the limits of their talents and the genre they fall under. The two are both well-renowned for their successes in the music scene with their various solo careers, and we can only anticipate success from their collaboration. While the two artists have been around for many years now, they released their self-titled debut album last Friday with anticipation to knock the socks off of listeners globally.
A children’s chorus opens the first song on the album, “Holidays.” A twinkling piano plays in the background of the chorus, and as the chorus fades out the percussion joins the melody. This song’s unique vocal accompaniment adds to the mysterious tone that the song maintains throughout the melody, and contrasts the uplifted singing from the chorus. The next song starts as the previous fades without skipping a beat, and with a crash “Blue Hawaii” begins. A long sustained synthesizer is the primary sound as other instruments build up from that primary sound to form a slow, dark and surprisingly calming melody. This song has a significantly slower tempo than the previous song, leading the listener to wonder what to anticipate in regards to tempo fluctuation from song to song. Near the end of the song the melody begins to reverberate in a mysterious way, almost as if the melody was being rewound. The track begins to fade out as if the song had been fully rewound and moves forward into “Losers Can Win.”
The mild-mannered strumming of a guitar and electronic piano blend together to form a melody that sets the listener into an entranced state before picking up the tempo and fully developing the melody of the song. This song maintains the overall dark feel of the work while still enforcing the nostalgia that has remained a prominent undertone. “Radio” starts out with sound effects that one would compare to a robot trying to master vowels then quickly delves into a pop-inspired rendition of their entrancing electric music. The vocals, much like the previous songs, have been re-mastered to sound more robotic. These elements blend together into a strange yet enjoyable song that you’ll have to experience for yourself. The tempo continues to gradually pick up for “Everybody’s Got Their Own Way.” The drum set quickly starts in and is accompanied by the keyboard and a slew of sci-fi sound effects, creating a psychedelic and ominous sound that maintains the overall mood of the album thus far. Instrumentals become a more dominant part of the song than they have been prior in the work, really allowing for some showcasing of talent as well for the listener to really become lost in the refreshingly unique track. The ending of this track allows for a pause before “Come and Stay” begins.
After this brief break, the duo begins with harmonizing to the slow-paced playing of the piano, which is soon accompanied by the sounds of flutes and percussion. These instruments combine together to create a campy sound with an air of mystery, with the sound effects being the driving force in maintaining the mystical tone. The tempo roller-coaster continues as “Get Me” begins, setting a faster pace than the recent songs. The melody gradually builds into the groovy, soulful yet dark work of art full of the usual blend of sound effects, guitar and keyboard. Instrumentals are used sparingly, yet when they are used they help to add variation to the overall sound of the song, which helps to keep the listener interested in what they are listening to. As “Get Me” wanes out, “Le President” wanes in very progressively. A sound effect that sounds like a zipper starts out the song, and is soon joined by the electric keyboard. The vocals and a waning violin join in on the melody, forming an unsettling blend of haunting and uplifting sounds that takes the listener to a different dimension of auditory pleasure. Instrumentals pepper this song, each one adding their own unique flair into the melting pot that is this song.
To help the listener decompress, “Bad Weather” starts with a thumping bass line, which quickly begins to develop into a cold yet calming melody. The intertwining of violin adds to the overall soothing sound that had previously established while also contrasting the cold undertone. This song includes a lengthy instrumental, bringing the listener back into that mild trance state that they have been fading in and out off throughout the album and then soon snapping them back out of it. The final song, “Demeter,” begins with sound effects and keyboard that seem to foreshadow an epic conclusion to this work. The pitch of the piano begins to rise as if building into something, then after some waiting for suspense, the drums join into the melody. The song continues without any vocals, only changing slightly in tempo for variation to match the ever-changing sound effects that complete the overall sound of the duo. This song has a fairly cyclical pattern in the melody, which has been a noticeable pattern throughout the album as it progressed.
This work is a fresh and unique spin on the electronic pop sound that some have become bored with. These two artists are both world-renowned, and it’s no secret why. Their composing talent is unparalleled, blending sounds, both instrumental and artificial, to create something that must be experienced since words cannot simply do it justice. Prepare yourself for one hell of a listen, and indulge in the most unique duo to form in quite some time.