Erik Wollo: North Star (2021)
Updated: Sep 20
“What a wonderful, quiet and poetic album my friends!”
1 Arkipel 6:26
2 Viewpoint 6:49
3 All the Way 6:44
4 Stillness 5:04
5 Towards the Blue Horizon 8:08
6 Nightscape 5:32
7 Light Among Shadows 4:54
8 North Star 7:14
(CD/DDL 51:11) (V.F.)
(Tribal, Neo-Folk Ambient)
What a wonderful, quiet and poetic album my friends! After a 2021 that gave us two solid albums, the Norwegian bard gets back with a formula that served him so well in the early 2010' with a smooth acoustic vision. Still textured from his guitar strings that tangle and articulate that only his E-Bow technique allows, the music of Erik Wollo flows like poems put into music. Available in manufactured CD and DDL on Projekt Records, NORTH STAR takes us back to these days of Airborne and those E.P.'s suite that followed up to the Timelines album. Barely over 50 minutes long, this a bouquet of musical flowers that EW offers us with his unique texture of ambient neo-folk woven from his guitar and ancient rhythms that also flirt with the origins of Mike Oldfield's revered Ommadawn album and in more acoustic versions of those found on album Convergence, I'm thinking of The Way Ahead 1 and 2.
After a slow introduction depicting a thawing stream, the hollow breezes and torments of prismatic winds bring Arkipel out of its silence. Erik Wollo gives a glimpse of his E-Bow's possibilities with layers of guitar sustained between two firmaments as an initial melody plucked on his six-string is sequenced into a musical canon form. There is shimmer and electricity in this ambient folk. Erik uses his guitar as a synth, and even a sequencer, creating sequences of melodies that are perpetuated by varying the strength of the volume that varies the level of our emotions. After this soft meditative caress, Viewpoint offers a very catchy rhythm tied by a series of sequenced riffs. The guitar sounds like Manuel Göttsching here with beautiful attempts for short solos that drown in this soundscape filled to the brim with streaks with colors as romantic as intriguing. The rhythm turns into a tribal trance with good aboriginal hand percussions and a beautiful bass with elastic percussive chords. The moans of the six-string crisscross a sky delimited by the prismatic striations of the guitar. All the Way offers an ambient opening with a nice melody evoking melancholy sculpted into the guitar. Orchestrations add a cinematic color which is concretized with the addition of sound effects towards the finale. Stillness is a superb track with a melancholic music where the orchestrated striations make us run the hairs on our arms. They groan in an ambient tumult proposed by these layers which pile up with an overwhelming heaviness, imaging this lover wounded by the departure of his beloved whom he looks by the window without the words, lost in the tears, coming to him.
Towards the Blue Horizon features a tribal ambient structure with sequenced percussions beating a linear beat ideal for receiving a fluty chant. I have the perception that the rhythm, although I can clearly hear the percussions, is also sculpted by a series of curtly broken riffs. Imagine Ommadawn and you'll be comfortable with the idea! Without evolving, the track gives off an intensity from those screaming shadows from the E-Bow. A very nice track that gave me the taste to listen again to Ommadawn and Amarok. Nightscape proposes an ambient rhythm structured by guitar chords sequenced in a minimalist rhythm. The waves of sounds from the E-Bow travel with a sibylline hue while other notes from an acoustic six-string shape a nostalgic romance. A soft, pleasant, sequenced melody serves the semi-rhythmic structure of Light Among Shadows. I like the two layers of guitar in the opening, including the slightly more subdued bass notes that give us an intimate rendezvous with our memories even further away. A bass adds a series of static pulses to this ambient neo-folk whose shadows navigate quite well with the rhythm base. A melodious and playful track that fits quite well with the meaning of the title. The title-track is a monument of music for tenebrous ambiences with waves of sounds accumulating in austere layers with this tone of a Mephistophelian organ that gradually increases its curve of intensity. Being inspired by this north star that serves like a compass wherever we are, we let ourselves be sucked in by this black wave and its parapsychic assets until it brings us to the foot of where it all began, Arkipel…
Lacking the raw energy of Recurrence, NORTH STAR takes us down the paths of the Norwegian bard's quiet musical poetry. There's a dimension to this new Erik Wollo album that favors a bit more folk than ambient tribal, though the paths between the two genres are wisely inserted. From track to track, the listener can discover the acoustic side of an album built in such a way as to rally the fans of the first hour to those who have just discovered Erik Wollo with Convergence.
Sylvain Lupari (June 14th, 2021) *****
Available at Projekt Records Bandcamp