Datarock: From 1984 to 2009

By • Sep 1st, 2009 • Category: Features, Popular items

datarockGeorge Orwell didn’t think too highly of the year 1984. Published six months before the English writer’s death, Orwell’s famous novel 1984 remains a prophetic call-to-arms in the arena of modern civilization’s collective social awareness. Orwell’s anti-establishment magnum opus is a cautionary tale of blind acquiescence, with the author’s 1984 portrayed as a restrictive era — void of the intellectual liberty for artistic imagination and without the physical freedom to love, to laugh, or to dance.

Orwell’s 1984 stands in stark contrast to Fredrik “Rock Steady Freddy” Saroea’s 1984. As half of the Norwegian electronic duo Datarock, Saroea has carved out a jumpsuit-clad niche around the year in which Ronald Reagan cruised to a landslide re-election victory. Saroea and bandmate Ketil “Ket-Ill” Mosnes are two LPs into a minimalist, groove-savvy catalog that is chock full of the exact type of optimistic tongue-in-cheek charades that defined so much of new wave’s golden age. And Red, the band’s sophomore release, ups the hindsight ante with an album made entirely with pre-1984 instruments. “On our first album, we definitely were inspired by the early ’80s,” said Saroea. “Which is why I wanted to emphasize on this album that it’s more about the late ’70s.”

Compiled entirely with instruments manufactured between 1976 and 1983, Red’s infectious rock tunes are even more encapsulated than those found on Datarock’s dance-worthy 2005 debut. Although recorded primarily in the band’s hometown of Bergen, Norway, the duo utilized three studios in two countries, with five co-producers working alongside Saroea. And to generate a coherent sound amidst this locale and personnel carousel, Datarock found consistency in the equipment. In doing so, the band crafted a raucous, sarcastic rock ‘n’ roll album built upon solid dance-floor aesthetics. The 13 tracks play out like an ode to the heydays of London, Manchester and New York’s CBGB, calling upon everyone from Devo to The Fall.

It’s an endearing album aimed at lifting Datarock from a cult status they have built upon their expansive live shows, as well as their newfound gaming audience — which Datarock collected after putting their songs on 18 different video game soundtracks. “The story about ‘the difficult second album’ is true. There’s a lot going on with the tours and then using our current status to help as many other Bergen bands as we can,” said Saroea, who promotes concerts as one of the heads of the Young Aspiring Professionals record label. “Fucking up your own career is one thing, but there’s a lot of pressure when you might fuck up someone else’s.”

Saroea’s label is poised to release a singles series humorously titled Datarock’s Patriot Act, and the YAP roster continues to grow under the tutelage of its breakout figureheads. “Being an artist is very one-dimensional. If I didn’t put my spare energy into the label, I’d go crazy,” said Saroea, whose town has also been home to acts such as Royksopp and Annie. “As musicians, we become blasé because you can’t let yourself get effected by everything people say. But with the label, we get so excited to see these younger bands charting on radio or getting booked at bigger shows. It energizes us to see how excited they can get.”

That energy has kept Saroea and Mosnes sounding fresh, even as their debut spun in obscurity for almost three years before garnering international acclaim. And it’s that same vigor which injects Red with the revolutionary degree of self-awareness that Orwell’s most timeless characters also possessed…both in 1984 as well as in 2009.

Chicago Innerview, September 2009

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