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Artist
Smerz
ReleaseProduct
Believer
Label
XL Recordings
Catalogue Number
XL1153HDDS
Release Date
February 26, 2021

Genres

Copenhagen duo Smerz’ artistic gestation over the past few years has resulted in a hybridised style of R&B harmonies, full-throttle club beats and ornate orchestral flourish. All this adds up to “Believer”, one of the most original albums we heard all 2021.

The evolutionary steps which Henriette Motzfeldt and Catharina Stoltenberg have taken since their 2017 XL debut, “Half Life”, bear fruit on some of “Believer”’s harder cuts. The title track steamrolled most listeners out the gate, and with good reason: jackhammering kicks and warehouse-ready tones are present, as you’d expect from the city which gave us the the recent fast techno resurgence, but with an undercurrent of Y2K hip-hop, the duo sidestep easy tropes. Not for nothing is one song called ‘Missy’ and another, well, ‘Rap Interlude’.

When you assume “Believer” to zig, more often than not it zags. Purposeful pauses and canned applause speckle the record, rarely allowing us to get comfortable for too long. Given Smerz’s emergence from a CPH scene which prioritises speed and endurance as a virtue, this tendency toward disruption seems like a flex. The duo thumb their noses at anything straight-ahead, but not quite enough as to tarnish the album’s core joys of drily-intoned choruses and thumping low-end. The classically-trained, internet-reared Motzfeldt and Stoltenberg evidently take pleasure in the liberation of a full-length, rather than being hemmed in by its confines.

“Believer” expertly tempers these stylistic extremes, teetering into full rave-compliance on ‘I don’t talk about that much’ one moment before blistering with white hot synths on avant slow-jammer ‘Max the next’. Sultry harmonies and droll bars are an anchor to latch onto as the experimental beats judder and warp, but just when you think you’re starting to get acclimatized, Smerz throw in a curveball like ‘The Favourite’, a striking cantata with a quietly operatic power.

What keeps us coming back time and again is the way Motzfeldt and Stoltenberg find space for moments of tenderness in the writing, offering solace in the eye of an electrical storm. They walk the listener through honest retellings of rejection (‘Remember’), inadequacy (‘Flashing’) and — in Norwegian — dancing on a glass table (‘Glassbord’). It’s a reminder of how Smerz’s prominence in the world of headsy electronic music belies their relatively green status, and how much more they have to grow and give as artists. Whatever comes next off the stylistic smörgåsbord is sure to be tantalising.

Digital Track List

  1. 1 Gitarriff 2:06 Buy
  2. 2 Max 4:17 Buy
  3. 3 Believer 4:12 Buy
  4. 4 Versace Strings 2:03 Buy
  5. 5 Rain 4:14 Buy
  6. 6 4 temaer 1:53 Buy
  7. 7 Hester 4:54 Buy
  8. 8 Flashing 2:40 Buy
  9. 9 The favourite 1:43 Buy
  10. 10 Rap interlude 0:35 Buy
Show All Tracks 17

Track List

Gitarriff
Max
Believer
Versace Strings
Rain
4 temaer
Hester *
Flashing
The Favourite
Rap interlude
Sonette
Glassbord
Grand Piano
Missy
I don’t talk about that much.

*On LP this track is split across the end of side A and the start of side B

Smerz

XL Recordings

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R&B

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Experimental Pop and New Wave

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