Formerly one half of The Tough Alliance and co-founder of Gothenburg, Sweden, label, Sincerely Yours (home of similarly electronic-based pop artists jj and Air France), Eric Berglund now performs solo as CEO, and this is the moniker’s second full-length. Wonderland has the paracosmic themes of Youth Lagoon’s Wondrous Bughouse and the repetitive circles of samples in the style of Panda Bear, but with additional glaring neon lights and amps dials up to eleven. Altogether, it’s some irresistible glitter-on-the dancefloor delirium.
An eccentric Svengali surfing high- and low-brow popular culture—he’s mentioned an affinity for Jennifer Lawrence, Dries van Noten, Bow Wow Wow and, obviously, Kanye West—Berglund conveys that sort of eyes-mile-wide joy in fantastical and imaginative soundscapes layered with children’s choirs and candy-coated cute sing-song pop. The drum-machine driven bounce of the busy Ultrakaos is an uproar of unadulterated happiness; and the title track is a sugar-fueled romp through Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. But where the surface is smooth as glass, troubled waters can churn below.
That Berglund has called love, physically and mentally, his vice is telling. A handful of the album’s eight tracks carry incongrously loaded titles, notably Harakiri and Whorehouse. That song, Wonderland‘s primary single, opens with the words, “I felt like I opened Pandora’s box, and now I have to close it.” (The sinister rub: the sample comes from Feathered Cocaine, a documentary about an al Qaeda-benefiting falcon trade.) Even so lushly laced with loops, samples and Brian Wilson-esque melody, how cheery can it be to be “so lost inside a whorehouse?” If love is a vice, did it come pouring from Pandora’s box the same as all the other worldly problems? Ultimately, Berglund assumes the answer, if any, lies, or shimmies, on the dancefloor.