Beranek Sound of Danger (Vinyl Reissue Review)

Beranek is the artist name of Norwegian musician and comedian, Espen Beranek Holm. His debut single “Dra te’hælvete” released in 1981 was banned by national TV/radio channel NRK due to explicit lyrics.

Beranek is well known in Norway for his longtime contributions to the still running weekly radio satire show Hallo i uken (where he provides most of the music as well as frequent parodies of Norwegian celebrities), and for being a regular fixture on TV show Løvebakken (a version of comedy panel game show If I Ruled the World). In the early 1980’s he also hosted a pop-show on NRK radio, called “Happy Hour”.

Buoyed with six months of success with the single, Beranek followed it up with the album “Sound of Danger” (1981) on Mind Expanding Records, and later, X-Ray (1983), “Trigger” (1984), “Daylight In the Dark” (1986), “The Red File” (1988) and “Tacoma Bridge” (1994). He provided synth, guitar, bass, drums and vocal on all albums, and produced all albums himself. “Sensitive Dependence” (2013) was his first release in nearly twenty years.

Beranek has worked with such peers as JJ Burnel & Dave Greenfield from The Stranglers and noted pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole and has been a member of the bands Dei Nye Kappelanane, Langsomt Mot Nord, Spastisk Ekstase and Ung Pike Forsvunnet. He is currently the vocalist and playing guitar in the Oslo-based power trio Oslo Plektrum.

The tipsy rewrite I did of my initial review of this began with the loving verbosity of “As of the 23rd of February, this is the best thing I’ve heard this year. If it sounds like some delicious forgotten classic crafted by…it’s because it is a reissue of a partially forgotten classic.

Well, it’s not really forgotten at all, but it is a timely reissue of a slice of stone cold classic minimal synth punk pop by Dark Entries. A label that takes its name from one of my favourite Bauhaus songs and is focused on the release of out of print and unreleased music from the 80s underground.

Somewhere in the drunken slurry that was shuffling between punk, goth and anarchist bars and cafes about Europe, I heard and danced to this a bit. I have smokey memories of jive-waltzing to “Crystal Dream” in Amsterdam in the small hours on the back of wine and Dutch Javanese tobacco. “Crystal Dream” is my pick of the album, it’s a hard call, but I love this track and I’m glad to have found it again.

While press might make mention of Bowie like vocals and they are particularly evident on “How we could simply die”, there is a heavy and undeniable thread to Peter Murphy here. Like a Norwegian synth pop Bauhaus, the eponymous opening track on “Sound of Danger” is a rich musical goth-punk music-scape that is pretty consistent earworm.

With science-fiction synth ballads like “Search”, it is an eclectic album even now. In 1981, this would have slotted nicely in with the minimal synth futurism going on. There’s a lot here, even touches of other contemporaries like Vex.

The punk-goth-disco of “So Many Things” is another standout on an album that pretty much consists of gems. Or the bubbling dark Kraftwerk/Ween electro of “Doorway”.

It’s a shame this did not reach the success it deserved in 1981. From the quality of the lyrics, catchiness and deep sonic variety, you can only think that the A&R people responsible for this wheezing suffered from some sort of hubris or cocaine acquired brain injury.

“Prisoner in a Silent Way” might be the weakest track, but even then, I still find myself singing along to its weird experimental electropunk Jazz noise. This release has been lovingly remastered by George Horn who really should be recognised as the artisan he is because it is lush and unlaboured.

The rolling near nine minute goth-space-synth ode to insomnia “Can’t Go To Sleep” closes the album in a wonderful “what the actual shitting fuck is this brilliance?” way. Like good music, it leaves you remembering films that don’t exist, eating salami off the back of a carving knife and washing it down with port at 3AM somewhere in Amsterdam wondering what other vinyl he’s going to pull out and trying to remember the name of that Greek synth group he played.

This is a classic, remastered and reissued lovingly. If you like minimal synth pop, synth punk or Goth synth punk or trying to classify stuff. You’ll like this.

Housed in the original jacket featuring red, black and white lines that evoke a Richter Scale drawing measuring and earthquake designed by Monica Moltzau (who incidentally also sings backing vocals on “So Many Things”). Each copy includes a 2-sided 8x11” insert with lyrics, and an autographed press photo of Beranek. “Sound of Danger” will be dropping on the 27/02/2017 on vinyl, so get your pre-orders in fast. It is available direct from Dark Entries or at places like Midheaven or Clone.

Here’s a Todd Terje remix of the Beranek single that started it all. The 12 of this should still be available on Boomkat I think.

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