Dance music origins came from many different places, from the grimy underground clubs of the U.K. to the black and queer discos of New York City. We often think of dance music as American and British inventions. Not many think of northern, quiet, and progressive countries as pioneers of techno music. We certainly don’t think of Scandinavian countries like Norway as vibrant dance music soundscapes.
However, the documentary film Northern Disco Lights aims to prove us wrong! Released in 2017, it details the origin stories of unique sounds and responses to American and U.K. dance music that came from the arctic nation. Ben Davis, co-founder of the British label Paper Recordings, documented the phenomenon by traveling throughout Norway. In addition to interviewing original artists, he painstakingly collected old footage from the scene itself!
The film strives to point out the conditions and players that gave birth to a unique style of sound. Ben Davis shows off what the people behind the music made and the impact it had on a generation. As can be seen throughout the film. Norwegians enjoy a good party as much as the rest of us. Here’s some of the other things we learned from watching this notable documentary:
1: There’s no shortage of artists from the old Norwegian dance scene
Throughout the film, Davis interviews 67 different people about various subjects and circumstances. He taps into DJs, their friends, and fans about the conditions of the dance music scene, and what it was like back then. Many big names from old school electronic music come up, like Mental Overdrive, DJ Strangefruit, Bjørn Torske, and Lindstrøm. These names might not mean much to you, but they’re instrumental in how Norwegian EDM started.
Ultimately, it comes together to paint a picture that shows the warmth of the arctic. The movement was a genuine one that came from the isolated Norwegian communities as a means of escape, which brings us to the next lesson we learned from this intriguing film.
2: The music came from a big, beautiful, and isolated place
The shots in the film depict a vast, beautiful landscape with snow and mountains. The country of Norway is very underpopulated, which means the communities are all spread out. The standard of living is so high, and through what seems to be a dull life, Norwegians connected to create a sincere excitement.
From sweeping wide shots of Norwegian landscapes to home video jackpots, the film tells the tale of breaking arctic isolation. The music was a way for them to escape the boring. It was about connecting with each other over a love of music. Back before the internet, connecting with the music itself was no easy task, bringing us to our next lesson on the realities of Norwegian dance origins.
3. It came from a love of music, to produce a really unique sound
Throughout the film we’re shown the eclecticism of the genre. The artists and fans sought out music they could get from their local shops, often in records or tapes. File sharing? Music promos? Social media? Forget all that, cause back then, the only way to find the music was to listen to the tape or catch it at the night club.
The filmmaker’s label released an old track titled Song for Annie, by an original Norwegian artist named Erot. He tragically passed away from a heart condition at the age of 23, but his tunes live on alongside other Norwegian artists! The film showcases how Erot left his mark on the industry. For those that are willing to search for it, they’ll be delightfully surprised by the old treasures they may find!
Interested in watching the film and learning more about the genre? You can stream it here!