Grouper - "Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping" (Harbour Boat Trips 01 - Copenhagen By Trentemøller)
As Denmark’s greatest gift to electronic music, Anders Trentemøller’s reputation has grown from half of acclaimed house duo Trigbag at the beginning of the decade to one of the preeminent producers in all things electro today. He’s achieved this on the strength of two albums, a couple of EPs and a slew of formidable 12” singles, and an equally deep collection of remixes for artists ranging the electronic gamut from Moby to Modeselektor. A third album is expected before the end of 2009. It would seem that his sleek aesthetic and low-key persona are set to delight critics and astound fans once more.
But the inaugural edition of new label HFN’s Harbour Boat Trips mix series begs a fundamental question both at the heart of Trentemøller’s particular installation for his native capital Copenhagen and the subsequent releases sure to follow: How are we supposed to take this, exactly? The concept seems simple enough: Take an acclaimed artist and have them put together a full-length mix inspired by the ambiance of their favorite place (in this instance, a harbor). Given the success with which Anders is able to evoke specific moods in his long form minimal house pieces, this seems like a great place to start a long line of “outstanding artists.”
The problem is that this music doesn’t bring you any closer to smelling the sea breezes blowing in off Øresund than your little brother’s latest lo-fi mix he copped from his deadbeat high school buddies. It’s not the song selections themselves – this is a fluid mix with logical progressions and a pleasant balance of sure things (Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” Caribou’s “Melody Day”) and lesser-known surprises (the mellow, acoustic-oriented opening quarter features Grouper and Beach House). The way Trentemøller paces the disc is clever in that he saves the gallop of the expected dance beat until a third of the way in, opting to segue through real drums first with the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s “Anemone” in the sixth slot before eventually transitioning to a Nic Endo remix of the Raveonettes’ “Aly, Walk With Me.” It all builds to a climactic edit of Copenhagen Collective and Soft Cell to close out the disc.
And that’s great if you’re just putting it on as background noise while you clean your room or as you finish your dissertation, but if you’re an active listener and wondering where the nautical theme is supposed to be in this, Anders leaves too much of the work to you. Is this his Copenhagen or ours? If the city and his country mean enough to dedicate a mix to, where is the native talent? The country can’t be that starved for decent musicians, yet Suicide appears as often as the Raveonettes; Copenhagen Collective is mixed with Soft Cell; there’s only one Trentemøller own song (a live edit, at that). It’s impossible not to be left with the impression that he’s more interested in showcasing his enviable taste than creating a “moment” with which to draw you to the Danish harbors supposedly at the heart of these 21 songs.
That’s where Harbour Boat Trips – Copenhagen is most deeply flawed. Removed from the theme that inspired it, Trentemøller’s opening journey is a solid (if safe) sampling of the man’s favorite music from the last four decades. Unfortunately, in context, he’s sharing this love in the wrong forum. Less a mistake than a confusingly packaged layover on the way to album No. 3, Trentemøller has christened the Harbour Boat Trips inauspiciously with a mix married not to the sea but to the personal preferences of its creator instead.