Christian Karlsson & Pontus Winnberg’s New Label Showcases Their Underground Side.
The Swedish invasion of popular music is ongoing and overpowering. I’m not going to insult your intelligence and list them (if you’ve never heard of Lykke Li, I applaud your obliviousness, but seriously stop that) so suffice it to say that they are many, and they are talented.
Part of what’s overpowering is that the Nordic country’s musical invasion is on two fronts. On the indie electro tip there’s Little Dragon and her co-hort of rocking, drumkit-loving synth-heads, and on the giant EDM tip we’ve got Swedish House Mafia and their often-copied Ibiza bangers.
Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, two-thirds of dance electro pop phenom Miike Snow, are at the eye of the storm. Miike Snow songs sing because in addition to the perfectionistic tendencies of these two veteran producers (and the haunting lyrics of vocalist Andrew Wyatt), the songs superimpose EDM’s transcendent crescendos and drops on a verse-chorus-verse pop structure. Although Miike Snow is categorized squarely within electro pop, it shares a soul with underground dance DJs.
So it should come to no surprise that Christian and Pontus followed up the announcement of poppier art collective Ingrid with the release of an EP from their brand-new electronic label. Called Robotberget (Robot-BEHR-jyet), named after the studio where it seems every Swedish recording artist has passed through, it’s a way for the duo, who go by Bloodshy & Avant and more recently Karlsson & Winnberg, to keep pushing the envelope with dance music. With the co-opting of dance music into the sounds of mainstream top 40, Robotberget was founded in part to combat the homogenization of dance music, Christian told us over Skype while in Thailand.
“I definitely want to encourage people who do great electronic dance music to do what they do and not really get caught up in sounding like other people.”
Their first EP features the Swedish producers like MtheM, who contributes a driving track with dancehall voicing, as well as UK producer Alex Metric’s soul-flavored house techno, “Rave Weapon.” The star track though might be “Tank,” by Galantis, which sounds exactly like its title — with its ominous drilling beat, it’s the soundtrack to alien robots marching over the earth, while a lone hero skateboards to the rescue.
Galantis is a project of Christian, along with up-and-coming Swedish DJs Carli and Style of Eye. It’s a way to exorcise some of the harder tendencies that he can’t express through the melancholic pop of Miike Snow.
“It’s definitely for me to let out a little bit darker harder electronic music. And I don’t really worry about vocals and stuff, which has been something that I wanted to do for a long time. When you just sit in the studio creating beats and then someone’s gonna put the vocal on it and you feel like ‘Ohhh, I kinda wanted it as it was before the vocal.’ And Galantis is just pure.”
Ingrid might have the higher profile of Karlsson & Winnberg’s two new labels, but Robotberget’s electronic music project holds as strong a pull for Pontus and Christian.
“Miike Snow, Lykke Li, Peter Bjorn and John, of course [Ingrid] gets a lot of press. But Robotberget it’s not meant to be in the same way in peoples’ faces because it’s really about dance music, electronic music. It’s not as poppy.”
Christian and Pontus are very good friends with a range of dance music fiends from Swedish House Mafia to newcomers Carli and, if anything, Robotberget is an opportunity to share the work of their friends, as well as their own. And they get to do it on a schedule they set themselves. Christian is bubbling with excitement about what’s to come, which includes an ongoing party God Save the Rave that they inaugurated this March in Miami. As for new releases, they’ve got a Robotberget remix of Niki and the Dove in the works, although they don’t have a set date for the label’s second EP. But Christian says with confidence: “definitely we have a lot of new stuff that sounds amazing.”