One could argue that what many North American/European media sources classify as the 'Scandinavian sound' is due to Sweden's influence. I say this because Sweden is visciously efficient at promoting and producing music that follows up on the country's legacy of making exceptional pop music. You only have to look at the rapidly rising success of newcomers like Kate Boy or the incredible media machine powering people like Avicii (the guy even has a hotel named after him in Ibiza now) to recognize just how smoothly the whole Swedish music biz works. Thus, Swedes export a lot of music which is united by a particular pop-influenced red thread—aka the 'Scandinavian sound'. Although there's a diversity of music coming out of Sweden, a lot of it seems to come with a signature touch that is frosty, energizing and truly poppy. That palatable touch makes a lot of Swedish music massively appealing—and massively marketable.
That need for marketability infects a myriad of genres—which means you can also hear it in Swedish house and techno (Swedish House Mafia, anyone?). Hence, it comes as a refreshing surprise when you hear Swedish techno that completely and utterly lacks that polished, icy and consumable feeling. That's how I felt when I heard Patagonia's new EP, Oracle.
Patagonia is the moniker of Stockholm-based trio Fredrik Bäck, Mathias Hinds & Simon Kiisk. They describe their music as "deep and twisted techno" that takes you on "a ride through imaginary dimensions"—a statement that rings true when you listen to Oracle. Basically, the three tracks that make up the EP sound and feel much more like a crumbling warehouse in Berlin than a polished club in Stockholm. There's no veneer of light or easy listenin' here: the EP is genuinely dark and trance-like—recalling the heavy dub/techno vibe of Berlin heavyweights like Basic Channel or the pulsating smoothness of Marko Fuerstenberg.
Basically, Orcale is a very solid body of techno—but that's not what makes it the most interesting. The best part about it is that it stands in stark opposition to the construct the music industry invented about the 'Scandinavian sound'. Listening to Patagonia reminds you that there's no such thing as the 'Scandinavian sound'. If there's no such thing, then there's room for Scandinavian artists who don't fit under that limiting title to gain traction. The more that music like Patagonia makes its way online, the more that construct will lose its cred—and perhaps musicians who don't fall into the 'frosty and poppy' camp will get their deserved recognition from the Swedish music industry, too.