Producer and remixer of Robyn, The Knife and Røyksopp, Danish artist Trentemøller has not released an album under his own name for a long time. With the arrival of Fixion – his fourth – it’s clear that he is just as engaged with electronic music now as much as he always has been. Compared to his last album from 2013, Lost, this dalliance with different sub-genres has given way to a far more rigid aesthetic – one of concentrated electro noir. Fixion plays more like a score to an imagined film: a futuristic and bleak world where the leads are corrupted bots with the occasional human voice reaching out from the dystopia. This can be both Fixion‘s strength and its weakness. Its landscape is often too linear without the necessary energy of the various female leads that appear all too fleetingly.
Trentemøller is indebted to a sound that is lifted, pretty much intact, from 80s electronic bands such as Cocteau Twins and OMD with fluid and dominant bass lines and layers of synths and occasional guitars. It is not a flashy or particularly dynamic soundscape but instead is equal parts ethereal and doom-laden with longer instrumental tracks like ‘November’ featuring ambient sounds and looser structures. Fixion‘s easy highlight is ‘River in Me’ featuring Jehnny Beth from Savages (Trentemøller mixed last year’s Adore Life album) and is a rattling, angular blast of constantly shape- shifting brutality. Other vocal tracks like the elegant single ‘Redefine’, which has much more than a pinch of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ in its central melody, and the deadpan ‘My Conviction’ also makes for bold and engaging statements.
‘Where the Shadows Fall’, the album’s last track, opens with anonymous foggy swirls and guitars. Lisbet Fritze steps out and takes the song into a more compelling and satisfying place – with repeated lines about tall trees and blurred memories – and is reminiscent of David Lynch and Julee Cruise’s seminal work together on Twin Peaks. This is the only appearance by Fritze and it is difficult to comprehend why the artists here are used so sparingly when their presence ricochets with effectiveness through the work presented here – paranoid but determined themes of potential survival – to such superior highs. Trentemøller has proved that he is a gifted collaborative musician and artist in his own right and on Fixion he has taken a risk in going it alone for long stretches of the record, one that unfortunately doesn’t quite pay off.