At the word ‘go,’ life is a heart-shaped circle, love is the heart-shaped circle of life,” explains DATAROCK’s mastermind and frontman Fredrik Saroea. Set to a heavy synth thump, “Heart Shaped Circle ft. Nelly Moar ” shimmers in New Wave elegance, giving a first taste of their forthcoming album Media Consumption Pyramid (release date: September 29, 2023 via YAP Records). Hearkening back to familiar ’80s soundscapes and textures, “Heart Shaped Circle” is, as Fredrik explains, “a total homage to the sound of ’80s icons like DEVO, Soft Cell, Bronski Beat, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, Spandau Ballet, Pet Shop Boys, and The Smiths.”
Complemented with two videos – one that is created utilizing A.I. with Aldea – Center of Contemporary Art, Design and Technology and another that celebrating Gay Pride, “Heart Shaped Circle” is a dual embrace of new technology as well as acceptance and celebration of love. “A.I. technology played a significant role in this project, showing us how this powerful tool is changing the cultural sector,” describes Fredrik. “It’s essential for us to understand, use, and contribute to this technology as it develops.”
The second video is a response to the threats of violence that shrouded Norway’s Pride Bergen during the first week of June, effectively shutting down events and striking fear within the community. Serving as a portrait and visual homage Paulo Araya a.k.a. Penetra Schön, the self-described “horny hairy bearded artsy queen,” the video follows Paulo preparing to dazzle as Penetra, interspersed with celebratory and colorful scenes of love and Pride in Bergen, Norway. In response to the terror threats, Fredrik explains, “Those kind of threats has to be taken seriously after two were shot and killed in Oslo during Pride last year. I can’t remember anything like this kind of radicalized aggression towards the LGBTQIA+ community since my sister took part in starting up Pride Bergen all those years ago. We’ve been so happy to see all the positive change in recent years, and the growth of inclusive, all-embracing nature of celebrations such as Pride.”
DATAROCK’s new album Media Consumption Pyramid is not just a return to form for the band whose 2006 single “Fa-Fa-Fa” was ubiquitous and deliriously catchy, but also serves as a response to local horrible tragedies for the Norwegian band. Fredrick explains, “As we were rehearsing for the 15th anniversary tour of our debut album [2005’s Datarock Datarock], Covid lockdowns shut it down before it even started. So in lieu of touring, we’d kinda found back to where it all started – by getting back deep into our earliest material.”
In doing so, they also were forced to mentally and emotionally revisit tragic events that occurred throughout the band’s history. In 2011, the band performed in Utøya (an island in Norway) the night before 69 people where killed and 100 injured by a right-wing, terrorist. This took a massive toll on the band. Eventually pulling out of the shroud that enveloped them, they emerged refreshed but no less affected. “Man, that got harder and harder,” he replies. “The two last releases [2018’s Face the Brutality and 2019’s A Fool at Forty Is A Fool Indeed EP], kinda felt like an end to that chapter. With this new album, it feels like we’re starting something brand new – more based on the joyous ‘innocence’ of the early days of DATAROCK, both creatively and in regards to letting ourselves be a bit confrontational, tongue in cheek, not taking anything to seriously, and even in regards to not allowing ourselves to be terrorized by threats.”
An energetic and masterful album that combines music and message, Media Consumption Pyramid finds DATAROCK in a beat-frenzy, mixing and matching Madchester’s acid disco, synthpop’s textural soundscapes, and New Wave’s oontz-oontzes. “The first tracks I finished were ‘Tick Tock,’ ‘Digital Life‘ and ‘Video Store‘ due to our insatiable, undiscerning appetite for digital consumption – made scarily clear to me during the Covid lock-downs, and the absurd consequences easily manipulated to provoke in our day and age,” Fredrik explains. From the call to vote in “Tick Tock,” to the baggy trousers-inspired “Rabbit Hole” (which could feel comfortably at home on Happy Mondays’ epic Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches), to the jerky rhythms of the James Chance & the Contortions-inspired “DISCObedience,“to the breakbeats of “Metaverse,” the album is a refreshing and energizing splash of color in the current rather gray music world. “Media Consumption Pyramid is an eclectic collection of electronic tracks dancing to the beat of our insatiable, undiscerning appetite for digital consumption – but it’s also a celebration of the fact that we got all the seven original DATAROCKers to come back out and play again after years in hiatus ” concludes Fredrik.
Formed in Bergen, Norway in 2000, DATAROCK made a huge splash across multiple media in different formats. Their music was not only massively embraced by the dancepunk community but also widely used across multiple platforms. Their breakthrough single “Computer Camp Love” placed at #88 on Rolling Stone‘s “100 Best Songs of 2007.” Many of their singles including “Fa-Fa-Fa,” “True Stories,” and “Give it Up” were sync’ed across multiple platforms including commercials for Apple’s Nano and Coca Cola, on videogames such as The Sims 2: Free Time and FIFA 09 and 10, and on TV shows such as Chuck, Jersey Shore, and Yo Gabba Gabba. While easily recognized for their coordinated matching tracksuits (originally red, but switched over to black in 2018), Datarock did not rely on a shtick for attention. Instead, as All Music Guide lauds, “Datarock doesn’t use humor as a crutch but instead as a coat rack, so to speak, to hang their excellent productions on… they appear capable of spinning virtually any musical idea into gold.
DATAROCK is guitarist/vocalist Fredrik Saroea (Rock Steady Freddie), bassist Ketil Mosnes (Ketel One), keyboardist Thomas Larssen (T-Man), Casio-operator Stig Narve Brunstad (Stig The Mystical Casio Operator) and Kjetil Møster (Ketel Two), and drummers/percussionists Øyvind Solheim (Ike Andy) and Tarjei Strøm.
Media Consumption Pyramid was engineered by Øyvind Solheim, mixed by Steve Dub, and mastered by Mike Marsh and will be released on September 29, 2023 via YAP Records. “Heart Shaped Circle” is available on all streaming platforms now.